It happens to the best of us.
We set our sights on our version of career success. Perhaps branching into a particularly demanding field. Or fighting tooth and nail for that amazing promotion. Or finally being in charge of the department that so desperately needs your smarts and your guidance. Or maybe you’re just getting started, and you busted ass to land a job at your dream company straight out of college.
You fought hard. And you WON.
The only problem is, you hate it.
You’re not happy. You’re stressed. Burned out. Tired. So, so tired.
Work drains you, before you even walk into your office. Sometimes, just the thought of work makes you jittery. It sucks you dry. This is not what you expected. If you’re being completely honest with yourself, you’re painfully disappointed. But, you put in so much time to get here. If not this, then what?
You think you’re coping JUST FINE. You’re handling it - not letting many people know. Struggling through the day to day, but putting on a good show. You THINK you’re keeping your stress at work. Leaving it at the office when it’s finally time to go home.
But this time of year is particularly hard.
You finally get to come up for air and take a few days off for the holidays. Sure, you’ll probably still need to check your email four times per day, but the intensity of a normal day has subsided. There’s room for quiet in your mind and your heart.
When all the noise fades away, what are you left with?
When you’re sitting around the table with your extended family, passing the dinner rolls and catching up, how to you respond to the inevitable, “how’s that job of yours?” Are you tensing up just thinking about it?
You have a few options here, depending on your level of desire to engage on the topic or potentially invite the opinions of others. And of course, family dynamics.
If the idea of even talking about your job in front of your family makes you feel upset (or brings up other feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, remorse, sadness, regret, etc.) to the point of overwhelm, you may want to consider taking this approach. When asked about your job, you can say something to the effect of “it’s been busy and tiring lately. In fact, it’s helped me realize how happy I am to have a few days off to reconnect with you all. What’s new in your world these days?”
You’re not entirely dodging the question, and you are hinting that this topic isn’t something you really want to dig into. If the other person doesn’t read between the lines and prods for more information (“Oh no, dear, what’s going on at work?”) you can respond with a clearer message that still shifts the conversation to another topic. For example, “things have been pretty demanding at the office lately, and our team is feeling pretty drained. I’m really grateful to have a break from it right now, and I’d rather not spend anymore time talking about it. Tell me something exciting you have going on, I’d much rather talk about that.”
If having some of your extended family around as a sounding board feels helpful to you, then certainly consider sharing more. Let people know how your job makes you feel (e.g., “My job has been causing me a lot of stress lately. I know it’s keeping me from being at my best, both at work and at home. I’m [insert your feeling here] about this, but really unsure what to do next.” Then, you could ask a question back that would help you get valuable perspective from others. For example, “Have you ever had a boss that seemed to take everything out on you? How did you handle it?” or “how do you keep work at work so you are able to be more present with your family at home? I don’t want to come home from work all stressed and then snap at the kids…and yet I do. How do you do it?”
This approach allows you to divulge a level of detail that’s comfortable for you, AND provides the added benefit of gaining wisdom from others. You may find you’re not alone in your experience, or learn some helpful tips that will make your day-to-day back at the office a little more bearable.
If this topic really hit home with you, then you may want to consider enrolling in my group coaching program that begins in late-January. We’ll be tackling job stress and career disappointment head-on, giving you tools to thrive and a community that will always have your back.