Before becoming a designer I worked for a bank for four years. I had an amazing job with fantastic people around me who I’m lucky to be still friend with. I started in a teller, and after only two years I got an opportunity to move up on the corporate ladder with relocating into the capital from the countryside. I was excited, motivated more than ever.
I loved my job, I couldn’t imagine to do anything else maybe because I was good at it. I got up at 6AM every day because I started 7.30AM in the office finishing up around 6-7PM. I quickly grabbed lunch so I was back at my desk in 20 minutes. I was working towards some crazy KPIs in each month while managing people, dealing with customers, complains, working with internal banking systems (terrible designed softwares - now the designer talking) and giving always my 100% attention because there was no room for error. I don’t think I ever complained about it because it was all absolutely normal to me. For years I was working my ass off and I didn’t even notice. Then after three and a half year, something happened…
My mood changed a lot and not for the better. I stopped smiling, I lost sleep, I was always tired, I didn’t want to go for a run anymore, I lost my motivation, I started to hate going to work every day, I felt isolated in my work. I was annoyed by everything and everyone trying my best to hide that feeling. I just got my third promotion around that time, moved into the new team with even worst KPIs so these changes didn’t help me at all. You know how it is when you are in a new team and in a new role. Even if you have a great respected position within a company, but your nuclear team doesn’t know you yet or the team keeps changing, you still need to prove yourself for them and for yourself first. I felt like I wasn’t my old self anymore. I felt stressed all the time, I felt helpless, trapped and I didn’t know what to do about it so I kept working for half year with that mindset and attitude.
After suffering for half year like this, from all the sudden I got sick and that made me stop working and stay at home for 6 weeks while getting daily infusion therapy. It was a real weak-up-call and finally I got some time to think. Well, actually I wasn’t thinking at all, I felt so empty. I remember spending hours thinking about…nothing. It was so surreal. I thank a lot for my amazing boyfriend and those two nurses who gave me my daily infusion dosage that really cheered me up. I still don’t know what was in it but surely it was some really good stuff :)
I read a lot and I found lots of interesting articles. Reading more and more it became clear to me I was experiencing a job burnout. I got nearly all the symptoms, even I wasn’t even 30 at that time. These were my warning signs:
- Frustration or decreased level of patience
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling of being overwhelmed, trapped, helplessness
- Losing sleep
- Getting sick from all the sudden
- Going to your previously beloved workplace because you have to, not because you want to
After spending a few weeks away from work catching up with movies, I started feeling better. Once I got my thoughts back, I decided to quit. By that time I didn’t like my job at all, I couldn’t imagine going back not even for a day. If I knew it was a burnout at that time, and if I got help in time, I might have been still at the bank working as a branch manager :)
I’ve been blessed to be able to join the IT/design industry so easily - thanks for my above mentioned boyfriend. I love being a product designer, I love every aspect of it but despite my love of design there were already number of times when I felt I was just a production line to meet deadlines so I started feeling unhappy again. It’s a creative job, so having these feelings might be more common in designers than in other professionals. When I feel I have excessive workload, too little recognition, not being clear about my role in the team for a long time, combining with my personal characteristics such as perfectionism and excessive conscientiousness…well, it doesn’t mean any good. When I get these thoughts and feelings I know that I need to change something, usually it means I take a break with a complete switch off from work and colleagues, because as I said I love being a designer and I still would like to be one.
My advise for you is don’t wait until something goes wrong or until your health begins to suffer to pay attention. Take it seriously and have a break if you can afford it, if not then make adjustments in your life in order to avoid burnout.
Update: comments on Hacker News