Banker burnout is an all-too-real phenomenon. Sure, employees in other industries face intense pressures, but likely not the same physical, mental and emotional burden as bankers, particularly at such an early point in their careers.
The problem for the current generation is that they can’t burnout in style, not like you could years ago. People in their mid-30s used to be able to walk away from the industry with enough cash to retire, or at least enough to take a few years off. With compensation waning, those who entered the industry over the last decade simply don’t have the savings needed to walk away and travel South America. They need to extinguish the flame as best they can and keep working. Here are a few ways to try and do just that.
Make your long-term plans a daily focus: Regret is rarely an immediate feeling. It usually kicks in when tomorrow’s problems become today’s. Visualize your “down-the-road” and make it your purpose and motivation, says Jane Cranston, a New York-based career coach.
“Remind yourself why you are staying – saving for the down payment, paying off student loans, helping your partner finish grad school and so on,” she said. “It gives a purpose to the work that is greater than the next item on a to-do list.”
Improve your health: It’s the easiest and most effective way to combat stress. Exchange amphetamines and anti-anxiety pills for exercise and healthy eating. You don’t need to become a personal trainer. Get 20 minutes of exercise a day, do some deep breathing and cut out the high-sugar foods, says Dr. Laura Chan, a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. This will help you normalize your cortisol levels – or stress hormones – and can reduce the physical symptoms that can lead people down a path toward burning out.
Volunteer for a special project: It may sound counterintuitive, but adding more to your plate can make work more palatable if it’s something you’re passionate about. There are dozens of organizations within banks aimed at giving back (and yes, also aimed at improving their image). When “it feels like you are on an important mission, that passion is often enough to neutralize feelings of burnout, job fatigue, or boredom,” said Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.
Moreover, participating in internal initiatives can help improve your visibility within the firm and, eventually, your career prospects. One banker we spoke with who co-heads his firm’s LGBT network largely credited his career trajectory with the visibility gained from joining the group.
Avoid your doppelgangers: Commiserating is overrated. If you want to avoid burning out, stop spending all your time with other bankers in similar situations, said Cranston. “A whining fest is the last thing you need. Seek out people who are interested in things outside of work,” she said.
Take a vacation: It sounds obvious, and it is. But vacation paranoia is a legitimate problem that many who face constant pressure fail to overcome, said Cohen. “If you work hard and are really good at your job you will be missed not replaced,” he said. Plenty of respect can be gained when people recognize your importance. Not being there is the first step.
Dumb down your personal life: Free time is a commodity. Be selfish and don’t waste it on things that aren’t important to you, said Cranston. “Eliminate everything but the essentials,” she said. “Decide ‘good enough’ is generally good enough then take the found time for fun and relaxation.”
Plan ahead: If nothing works, stop complaining and start planning. You can look into internal mobility options and different educational programs, whether that’s an MBA or a certificate program, Cohen suggests. “Many companies reimburse for educational programs or sponsor employees for leadership and development seminars,” he said. “It is far less expensive to retain than to recruit and train.”
And if all else fails, create a legitimate Plan B – a different career path – and begin putting in the work to execute it, said Liz Colodny, president of Synergy HR Partners, Inc. “Tack up reminders that this is just a moment in time and you are really headed to something better,” Cranston added.