How to Know if You’re Burned Out or Need a New Job (There's a Difference)

Are you getting the Sunday Scaries every Sunday?

It could be that you’re burned out and need a vacation.

Or, it could be that you’re at a job that’s just not right for you. But, how do you know if those #MondayBlues can be resolved with some beach time and a drink (or two)—or if you’ll feel just as miserable when you go back to work?

To help you decide, consider these four factors:

1. Participation

It’s Burnout if You’re Sick of Meetings

If you get a sinking feeling when you look at your schedule, it could be meeting fatigue. And while some are sadly unavoidable, there are often ways to minimize the number that are just a time suck.

For example, you can rate your meetings from zero to two and look for trends in what makes them more or less valuable. From there, you can ask to bump less efficient meetings to email, or stop scheduling them for the time you prefer to dig into your to-do list each day.

These simple shifts will help you feel like you’re spending your day more effectively, which can cure your burnout.

But, It’s the Wrong Job if Every Meeting Bores You to Tears

It’s a bad sign if you can’t remember the last time you found a meeting interesting. Have you stopped speaking up, because you’re routinely ignored? Are you not that invested in what you’re team’s working on? Why not look for a job where you’re excited to contribute—and people listen to what you have to say? (They exist!)

2. Pessimism

It’s Burnout if The Smallest Things Annoy You

The printer’s jammed—again.

The break room’s out of k-cups.

You just got bumped from your preferred conference room.

Do these (minor) annoyances send you into a tailspin? You could be having a bad day, but if it’s every day, you’re burnt out.

This often warrants bigger shifts to find work-life balance, like making sure you leave at quitting time, and don’t spend your off hours checking email and obsessing about work. (And if you need to do something tangible right this second, check out these three ways to stop burnout in its tracks.)

It’s the Wrong Job if Your Negative Outlook’s Warranted

Being pessimistic is one thing. It’s another thing to feel totally negative about the goals of the organization (e.g., you don’t believe in the mission). If you don’t believe in the work you’re doing, these bad feelings are unlikely just a phase.

3. Performance

It’s Burnout if Your Performance Is Starting to Slip

One sign of burnout is that you just don’t care as much as you used to. Even the term “burnout” suggests that you no longer had the energy you once did.

But before you chalk it up to that, make sure it’s not that you’re struggling to learn a new skill or master a certain aspect of your job. In that case, classic stepping away and recharging advice might backfire, because what you need is additional training or guidance.

So, if you got poor feedback on your last project, be honest with yourself if you were coasting or disengaged—or if you felt totally blindsided because you tried really hard.

It’s the Wrong Job if Your Hard Work’s Being Overlooked

When you self-assess, you may decide you’re as engaged and hardworking as ever. Not just that, but you fundamentally disagree with your boss and think he doesn’t appreciate your work, or plays favorites. If that’s the case, it’s worth setting a meeting to discuss how you can better meet expectations—but if you can’t get on the same page, poor reviews (and low motivation) may keep coming.

4. Personality

It’s Burnout if You Don’t Take the Time to Make Small Talk

When you’re feeling drained by your work, it can be hard to muster the energy to ask people how their was weekend was and chat about your college roommate coming to town. So, if you notice it’s been more than a few days since you’ve said anything other than “When will your part of the project be done?” ask a teammate to grab a cup of coffee or have lunch together.

Then, challenge yourself not to pass the time like a meeting, but to have a conversation. (Here are 48 small talk starters to kick things off.)

This will break you out the habit of being 100% focused on work all the time, which isn’t what’s draining you anyhow. It’ll force you to step away from your computer for a few minutes and socialize.

Bonus: Having friends at work is proven to help you succeed!

It’s the Wrong Job if You Feel Like You Can’t Be Yourself at the Office

Of course, it’s a different story if you don’t make small talk because you feel certain you’ll be judged for everything from the TV shows you watch to the religious beliefs you hold. That’s not OK, and it’s a sign you start looking for a company that’ll accept you ASAP.

Looking for a new job isn’t easy. That’s why people are often tempted to say, “All I need is a vacation!” And while recharging is great, that buzzkill you get when you go back a job you dread isn’t. So, be honest with yourself about whether you need a break or a new job: It can lead you to a role you’re excited not only to break from, but to come back to as well.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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