Before I became a career coach, I pursued what I thought was my dream career working in the entertainment industry. Since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was be a part of making movies and TV in any way that I could.
I was fortunate enough to pursue the career that was my “passion” and had amazing opportunities following a path I thought was everything I wanted. After a number of years of working hard and building momentum towards a successful career, I woke up one day asking, “Is this all there is?”
I felt stressed out, overworked and bored with my work, and I struggled to identify why a career path I thought I would love so much felt so unfulfilling. I became increasingly frustrated, lost and stuck with where I was in my career.
I was burned out.
Burnout can strike at any point in your career and for any number of reasons. So what happens when you’re not just burned out at your current job, but the fire for the dream career you are currently in goes out? You may have entered into a particular career for idealistic motivations and worked hard to move ahead and achieve a level of success, but what do you do when the career path you thought was everything you wanted becomes completely unfulfilling?
I’ve seen many people who have experienced this scenario in their careers. Teachers who start to dread another school year in the classroom. Lawyers who have lost the desire to practice law. Entrepreneurs who no longer love building the business they sacrificed so much to create.
Experiencing this type of career burnout can hit the hardest because it can create strong feelings of disillusionment, frustration and depression. It’s difficult when the career you’ve dreamed of pursuing for so long and worked so hard at doesn’t bring you the joy that it once did. If you’re in this place in your career, it might be a sign that you need a change so you can get the fire going again.
When you’ve found yourself burned out in your dream career, here is what you can do to reignite the spark:
1. Acknowledge the desire for change. If you’ve put your heart and soul into a career that you once loved and is no longer fulfilling, it’s normal to feel frustrated and wonder what may have gone wrong. You might question the decisions you’ve made in your career, which can make you feel ashamed, regretful and discouraged. You may also feel pressure to stay in your current unfulfilling job out of fear of what others may think if you pursue a new path. As your career progresses, your values, ambitions and desires for what you want in your life and work will change. The sooner you acknowledge that this shift is normal, the easier it will be to identify what you want to change in your career.
2. Identify your current career and life priorities. Throughout your career, new life experiences will expand your passions and interests beyond your work. If you’re not as excited about your current career, it might be that there is something else in your life that has drawn your attention. It could be growing a family, new hobbies or exposure to another career entirely. Any of these could be signs that you need to explore how to adjust your job and career path to give more focus to these priorities. It may not be that you’ve lost all passion for your current career, but that the passion simply lies in another important area of your life at the moment that requires attention.
3. Develop your passions outside of work. If you’re feeling unmotivated and burned out, it might be a clue that you need to step back from your work and discover what can bring you more fulfillment and joy outside of your job. If your career isn’t motivating you the way it once did, take time to discover something that does. Take up a hobby or a project that’s been sitting on the shelf, enroll in a continuing education class or join a new gym. Put more focus on areas of your life like your health, social life or fun and enjoyment that are currently lacking. Not only will you feel more engaged and energized about accomplishing new goals, but you may discover new possibilities for your next career move.
4. Explore new options in your career. When you’ve devoted significant time and effort in your career to “following your passion” and you’ve decided it’s time for a change, it can feel overwhelming when you’re unsure of the next direction in your career. You don’t need to abandon your career passions entirely, but get curious about how else you can pursue them professionally. Explore alternative jobs and career paths in the same industry, schedule informational conversations with people you’re curious to meet or work with a coach to identify a new and exciting career path that aligns with your strengths, skills and interests.
If your current job or career is not bringing you the fulfillment you hoped it would, don’t despair. Experiencing burnout, particularly in a career that was your “passion,” doesn’t mean that you have failed in any way, but means that you’re ready for something new, better and more well-suited to where you currently are in your life and career path.