“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius
I used to believe in the quote above until I graduated from college and struggled to find a job in my field of study. I had it all planned out in my head as follows: graduate from college, obtain a job in my chosen field, start saving for continued studies and enjoy my job, because I’m going to be doing what I loved. What an oversight this was in my journey. Firstly, I spent quite a lot of money to obtain certification to teach in New York City. Then I sent out lots of resumes and attended several interviews for teaching positions, only to hear the same phrase over and over again, “you need experience.” I was so disappointed and discouraged that I started applying elsewhere. Eventually, I was able to secure a teaching job and even though my ego was so deflated, I anticipated a great turn of events from this opportunity. I embraced this job, worked long hours, wrote lesson plans excellently, and organized occasional field trips for my classes because I believed that teaching should not be unilateral. I loved my job and seeing the children learn encouraged me to work even harder and longer hours. Unfortunately my dedication went unnoticed and I began to feel unappreciated. My paycheck remained the same for months with no consideration for increase. I felt extremely stressed from the increasing class sessions. Indeed, my new beginning ended faster than I envisioned for after a few years I decided to quit teaching because of burnout feelings. At this point, I reflected on the following:
“My life is bitter as wormwood; the very life is burning out of me. I’m a poor, miserable, forlorn drudge…. What’s the use of trying to do anything, trying to know anything, trying to be anything? What’s the use of living? I wish I was dead!”
(Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin).
Nauratil (2001) gives several definitions of burnout as seen by psychiatrists and researchers in “The Alienated Librarian” but the one that resonates with me the most states that “ other researchers focus on burnout as a process rather than an end state, viewing it as ‘a progressive loss of idealism, energy and purpose experienced by people in the helping professions as a result of their conditions of work” (p. 2). Thus, reading this definition really gave me a clearer picture of my burnout feelings. I realized that I had my own ideas about being a teacher and when I was given the opportunity to teach my enthusiasm and energy was driven by my purpose to impart knowledge and educate young minds. I soon lost my passion and desire to teach, all because of the horrible conditions of my work environment. I had chosen a job that I loved and enjoyed working diligently every day, sometimes without lunch breaks. Yet, I was never recognized nor given any recognition for my efforts inside and outside of the classroom. This undisputable treatment made me feel resentful with a dwindling passion for teaching. Feelings of being overwhelmed and confused resulted in my frequent experiences of headaches, colds and chronic fatigue. Many individuals in the work force can share these same experiences, but not many persons can identify or recognize “burnout.” I had no idea of what I was experiencing at that time, for it was only after I left teaching that I learned of the “burnout phenomenon”.
My recent reading of Graham Greene’s 1961 novel, titled “A Burnt-out Case” describes the main character Querry who quits his job and withdraws into the African jungle because of his being psychologically and spiritually disillusioned. First of all this novel shows just how long burnout has been an issue in society; and secondly it gives the reader an insight into one of the many reasons why many professionals choose to use fear so as to “cope” with burnout. However, it is this fear of circumstances like poverty that keeps many professionals in their vocations. Also, the fear of failure that makes them continue to work harder; fear of loss that makes them accept emotional pressures and end up with depression. This statement expresses a very familiar feeling that is experienced and uttered by many professionals in society today, Graham Greene points out that“ A vocation is an act of love: it is not a professional career. When desire is dead one cannot continue to make love. I’ve come to the end of desire and the end of a vocation” (p. 57).
Many professionals complain daily about their jobs ranging from compulsion to prove oneself, to depersonalization, and to withdrawal. Librarians, teachers, customer service representatives, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and many other human services professionals tend to become tired of their “calling” or urge to follow a specific career and eventually end their careers even though work and survival are interrelated. It is known that one needs to work in order to survive, sustain and grow, while making a meaningful contribution to society. However, it can also be said that when this codependence breaks down, individuals tend to compensate by accepting their situations in order to remain employable. At the same time it is motivation that keeps them focussed on achieving their goals. Findings of the Society for Human Resource Management show that they believe employers are able to get the best possible talent if they follow what motivates employees. They state that being able to use personal skills was ranked highly in what creates job satisfaction. Therefore, employers should make this a priority so that their employees are able to use their skills and abilities to the fullest. (2009 “Employee Job Satisfaction”). This will give the employees the opportunity to feel that they are valued, as well as being used to their fullest potential and will motivate them to do their best since they are working in their professional area.
“2009 Employee Job Satisfaction: Understanding the Factors That Make Work Gratifying.” Society for Human Resource Management (2009): 6-17. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.
Greene, G. (1961), A Burnt-out Case, Penguin Group, New York.
Maslach, C., Schauteil, W.B & Leiter, M.P. (2001), Job Burnout, Annual Review Psychology pp. 52. 397-422.
Nauratil, M. J. (1989), The Alienated Librarian, Greenwood Press Inc. New York.