How to cope with burnout
In the best of times, it’s easy to get frustrated with work -- and with all the ways work and life have changed since COVID, burnout is all the more persistent. Even if your office is one of the few that got everything right, a lot has happened that may have changed your professional outlook. Maybe all the headlines about the hot job market and/or the swell of job resignations has got you thinking you should just throw in the towel. And maybe that's the right path for you! But you may not be able to quit just yet, whether it's because your dream company doesn't have any openings, you don't have the financial security, your professional network isn't built up yet, or any other perfectly valid reason. If you have to pay the bills, you’re going to have to stick it out for some unknown period of time.
This point in your life is going to be tough -- we're not going to pretend otherwise. It may be beneficial to lean into self-care, including consulting a mental health professional if appropriate. But there are a few practical ways you can alleviate burnout right now -- things like making your company work for you, not the other way around. As long as you’re going to be stuck at a company, you should be doing things that will benefit you while you’re there! Here are a few strategies to help you approach your day and stay afloat when you’re totally over it.
Create new relationships. It's cliché because it's true: Relationships are everything in Hollywood. The more people you know, the more successful you’ll be. At the same time, every company depends on various partnerships to keep its business running -- finding a distributor for a movie, hiring a director to bring a script to life, utilizing a new advertising platform…the list goes on. This is great news for you, as it gives you an excuse to network while being a huge value-add to your team! In the short term, you might bring in a partner that helps your current company, and that can lead to internal boosts like a promotion or more interesting projects. More importantly, these connections will also be part of your network down the line. They may help you find a job, and they could be key players in your success at future companies. For example, if you’re a development executive, and you take a bunch of general meetings with writers, you’re adding to your roster, and you’ll be able to contact these writers when you’re at your next gig and have an opportunity for them. Even better, your new boss will be impressed by the breadth of your network. You can also create new relationships within your office -- most employers love it when their employees work with other departments to create synergy, and these co-workers will likely become your friends over time. Prioritize relationships above all. There’s usually something on your to-do list that will require meeting someone new -- check that one off first.
Focus on your professional development. If you’re burned out at work, you probably feel like you’re wasting time. A great way to combat that feeling is to learn something new! Volunteer to lead a new research project. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities your company offers or enroll in a course. Watch YouTube videos to learn the ins and outs of PowerPoint and Excel and wow your team with your improved skills. Read and watch content that interests you as potential source material. Attend (or volunteer to speak at) a conference. The key is to identify an area you've always wanted to learn more about and go for it! Not only will this help curb your boredom, but you'll likely develop expertise that will benefit you in your career long-term.
Do the job you were hired to do. Think about the job you were hired to do -- literally, the job description you’re getting paid for. Is that the job you’ve been doing, or are you completing assignments above your pay grade? Most of us operate with an “I need to earn a promotion” mentality -- we want to impress our supervisors in hopes that it will pay off in the long run. But if you’re in a dead-end job, the extra work is not going to pay off, and even if you think a promotion could be your ticket out of burnout-land, the relationships and skills you cultivate from the first two tips have you covered in that area! Don’t stress yourself out trying to be an overachiever for someone else. Your boss can’t fault you for getting what’s expected of you done. Do the job you signed up for, nothing less, nothing more. You’ll have more mental energy (and potentially after-hours time) for other things. Which brings us to our last point...
Lean in to your personal life. If you’re unhappy at work, try to balance that with happiness in other areas of your life. Spend time with friends and family. Keep up with your favorite hobbies. Volunteer for a cause that's meaningful to you. Give yourself something to look forward to after work each day -- if you're really deep into your burnout, it might be helpful to keep a written list of something you do each day that brings you personal joy or to have an accountability buddy you can swap "happy thoughts" with (we've done this!). When someone asks you what’s new, answer them with something that has nothing to do with work. It's easy to get wrapped up in our careers when we're pursuing Hollywood dreams, but at the end of the day, you only get one life, and your work should support it, not detract from it. Plus, you won't have any great stories to share with the world if your life experience consists of work emails, Zoom meetings, and a mile-high pile of scripts. As much as you can, avoid checking work emails after hours, on weekends, or on vacation. Your team isn't your family. No one's life is on the line if you respond to an email at 9am instead of 2am. Any company that can burn you out is a company that will put their bottom line above your well-being -- so if it would be a "business decision" for them to lay you off in a restructure, you don't owe them your personal time. Plus, studies continually show that people perform better at work when they're happier -- so your boss is benefitting from that trip you take to Cabo!
We're not suggesting that you should ditch all your responsibilities (you don’t want to get fired for cause!). But there are plenty of ways you can reframe your job to be mutually beneficial, and you should channel your energy into those endeavors. And always remember that your own mental health should come first. Your work situation will eventually change, and in the meantime, there’s a lot you can do to make life a little more pleasant.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Now that remote work is the new norm, it might be tempting to expand your job search beyond your geographic location -- especially if you've been searching for a while to no avail. What would happen, you wonder, if you apply for a job somewhere else?
If the posting is clear that the company is open to remote work, go for it! Similarly, if you know the company has a hybrid schedule and isn't based too far away for you to make it into the office from time to time (think: you're willing to fly to San Jose from LA a couple of times a month, or commute from NYC to Philly twice a week), there's no harm in applying!
However, if the posting doesn't mention remote work or flex schedules -- and especially if the nature of the job would make remote work nearly impossible (i.e. facilities manager) -- you have to consider whether you're willing to relocate for the role. If you are, make it clear in your application that that's the case. If you can clarify for employers that you have a connection to the area -- returning to your hometown, for example. If you’re planning a move regardless of getting a job, even better.
But if you’re not actually considering relocating, it's most likely a waste of time to apply for an in-person job that’s outside of your city! All too often, we see cover letters that say something along the lines of, “Your company sounds interesting, and if you ever have openings in my city, please keep me in mind." But hiring managers have a job to do -- fill the current opening. They aren’t going to remember you down the line if an opportunity does come up in your area. And if they don’t have an office in your area, it’s really unlikely they’re going to have an opportunity for you! They're also probably not going to reconfigure the role for you to be remote, unless they're actively recruiting you, or you know someone at the company who can champion you. Applying blindly and expecting the position to change because your resume is just. so. awesome. is only going to lead to disappointment.
You’re much better off focusing your job search on actionable opportunities. Meet as many people as you can in your area who are hiring in your field -- consider joining the local chapter of a professional association or networking group. Set informational interviews with local companies. If you’re looking for production roles in a smaller market, try to join Facebook groups for people who hire crews and make your location known. Call your local film permit office to see what productions are filming in your area and cold call those production offices. If you spend your time networking and pounding the pavement in a directed way, you’ll have much more success than if you send off a resume to a job you absolutely can’t get.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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