Burnout symptoms: signs your work is making you sick

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” said Confucius once.

But if that job entails working for someone else, career advancement could seem like a rollercoaster at times. There will be plenty of moments you could feel lost, frustrated, and stressed. Having to deal with colleagues and bosses, a stagnant career, and constant work pressures, and keeping your spirits high when things look bleak could all seem too much to handle.

The employees who progress in their careers not only work hard but have also mastered the unspoken rules of the workplace. These are almost like the immutable laws of nature. They are there to protect you and to help you survive and thrive.

Yet many individuals go through their careers completely unaware of their existence. And failing to note them could severely dampen your prospects for professional advancement.

Here are 10 important such workplace tenets that can help determine your career trajectory. And they all have one thing in common — they demand reframing your lifelong work habits.

1. You’re there to make your boss’s life easier, NOT the other way round.

You’re hired not just to do a job, but also to ease your boss’s life. But, if you’re in the habit of constantly asking for help, whether it’s to seek guidance on work tasks or to resolve workplace issues, then it’s likely that you’re making their life difficult instead.

Besides, regularly using up their time is not only disruptive but could also signal that you’re incapable of working independently. And over time, this one habit could end up stalling your career.

So, learn to resolve your own work issues. Prepare ahead and get organized so you can clarify all your questions in one go. And use meetings to provide updates, not to complain or to discuss challenges.

2. Companies look for output, not the number of hours you’ve put.

I’ve seen employees complain about regularly putting in long hours and then losing a promotion to someone that worked nine-to-five. But progressing in your career has more to do with showing results than clocking in time.

Overworking doesn’t necessarily represent a higher output. Managers can hardly find a difference in outcome between employees who worked 80 hours per week and those who pretended to do so.

Besides, working long hours isn’t always a sign of a heavy workload. Sometimes, it could signal inefficiency or a lack of skills.

So, if you’re constantly working late, re-evaluate your level of productivity and output. Benchmark against a top performer and identify improvements in skills or work practices that could help cut down on time invested in each task. Shift your focus to what you deliver instead of how you deliver.

3. No one’s holding you at gunpoint.

If you’re unhappy with your salary, work hours, lack of appreciation, or dwindling opportunities, then take action to achieve what you want. Your career is your responsibility and criticizing your company or vexing at the watercooler will not serve you in any way. In fact, your employer and work colleagues could view your discontent as negative, annoying, disruptive, and unprofessional.

Remember, you’re perfectly free to make your own choices. So, have a conversation with your employer about your concerns or find work elsewhere. And if you’re struggling to find a better opportunity, then maybe it’s a sign that you should appreciate what you already have.

This is not to say that employers have no responsibility towards looking after their teams. Remember, they have much to lose from high attrition and have just as much to gain by retaining talent. Either way, it should not hold you back from taking charge of your career.

4. A higher salary comes with higher expectations.

If you were hailed a superstar in your previous company, don’t expect the same treatment just as you join your new one.

When a new company offers you a higher salary and job title, they will naturally have higher expectations of you. So, don’t expect to wow them by performing at the same level as you did at your previous workplace.

If you’re planning on taking up more responsibilities in exchange for a higher paycheck, be prepared to deliver at a higher level than you did before. This may mean learning new skills, sacrificing more time, and proving yourself all over again.

5. Stop searching for perfection.

The search for perfection in your career can often lead to disappointment. Those are the moments when frustration builds up and dissatisfaction takes over. It’s when you stop appreciating what you already have and start taking things for granted.

No company is perfect. And what matters are your priorities — what’s important to you in a given moment. If you’re looking for job security and if your employer can provide that, then learn to accept its other flaws. If a high salary is what you’re after, then be prepared to sacrifice your work-life balance.

If there ever was a perfect company, they will likely never hire us. Because none of us are perfect.

No-Nonsense Career Advice Many People Learn Too Late in Their Careers
Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

6. Don’t expect to be passionate about everything at work.

For many people, it’s important to be passionate about what they do. According to a Kforce survey, it ranks among the top three factors employees value most in the workplace. It’s also why some even quit their day jobs and pursue their dreams.

But whether you’re working for yourself or for someone else, remember that not everything about your work will always tickle your fancy. That’s just how life is.

And sometimes, being overly passionate could be counter-productive. It could prevent you from being receptive to different ideas and make you lose sight of what’s best for the business. It could also hold you back from learning and embracing change.

7. There will always be office politics. Deal with it.

Many people despise office politics — it’s disruptive, unproductive, and could be the source of much frustration. It’s now the number one cause of work-related stress.

But every company has backstabbers, suck-ups, and watercooler gossips. You can’t avoid them at work or in life. And resisting them or fighting back could make your life difficult in the long run and could hold back your career progression.

Instead, learn to navigate them — keep your emotions in check, know your priorities, and build a circle of influence. And sometimes, keeping your enemies closer might actually help.

You can also try to understand what’s driving their disruptive behavior — is it fear, jealousy, or insecurities? Different people have different ways of responding to life’s challenges. So, empathize and try to support them where possible.

8. Be the solution, not the problem.

Some people are constantly in the habit of discussing work issues, drawing attention to challenges, or prophesying bottlenecks. Others bring up solutions, make suggestions, and offer help. And the path you choose could be a deciding factor in your career trajectory.

Frequently highlighting issues could be a great way to draw attention to yourself, but it could also be a sign of pessimism, excessive caution, lack of confidence, or even incompetence. On the other hand, those who offer solutions are seen as being resourceful, positive, self-assured, competent, and helpful. They are the ones everyone consults for opinion and advice.

So, always be the solution, not the problem. In other words, learn to be an asset, not a liability.

9. Put things in perspective. It’s not always about discrimination.

No-Nonsense Career Advice Many People Learn Too Late in Their Careers
Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

If you’ve delivered all your work on time, exactly how it’s meant to be, and yet wondering why your colleague is still the blue-eyed boy, then there’s a high possibility that he’s over-delivering. So, before you conclude there’s unfair treatment, go the extra mile to see how things could change.

Remember, some things are not what they seem at first glance. And drawing wrong conclusions could lead to undue frustration and demotivation. It could prevent you from making course corrections and achieving your career goals.

So, put things in perspective before you react. Think like a boss — you’ll begin to see things differently.

10. Everything you do at work is an investment in your career.

There will be many moments that you could feel disheartened at work. But don’t let that affect how you deliver your responsibilities, build relationships, learn, and develop skills. Because all these are investments in your career.

Don’t allow a lack of appreciation to hold you back from doing your best or going the extra mile. Don’t let a shortage of opportunities for career advancement keep you from asking for more responsibilities. And if your company is not sending you for any training, stop grumbling and sign up for a workshop by yourself.

These are all micro-moments presenting you with opportunities to invest in your career.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” — Henry Ford

Nothing in life comes easy. Building a career, in particular, requires a high dose of tact, empathy, and social awareness to propel your career progression. And every time you feel stagnant, frustrated, or on the verge of quitting, be prepared to occasionally reframe your workplace habits.

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