Part 1. Rocking the job or being burned out? [Confessions of tired recruiters].

Once, while attending Smart Recruiters Conference, I was present during the panel discussion, connected to the recruiter’s job and efficiency. Recruiters and well-known professionals were discussing ways to be successful in this profession. There was a moment when the audience could ask anonymous questions to the panel via an app. I tapped the question, “Have you ever felt burnout, and how did you handle it”?

When the question was read, the room got quieter, and I remember someone even shouted: “who asked this question and why?”, with the judging tone of the voice, like it was inappropriate. Luckily, my good friend and great professional Eva stood up and shared her thoughts and experiences honestly. (She also will raise the problems and challenges on this topic in her blog and Linkedin, follow her thoughts).

But I had an aftertaste, which was thought-provoking: why people in that room were embarrassed by this question and why it is not okay to talk about it out loud?

Burnout is a rising curse of the 21st century, last year, The World Health Organization has recognized exhaustion and added it to the International Classification of Diseases. Now the danger of it finally identified as equally harmful as all the physiological or psychiatric diseases. Studies also show, professions connected to “human-human” interactions, are more sensitive to get it. And this not only brings harm to our lives but also affects work efficiency.

So, today, I want to speak up and talk about burnout. And notably — in the recruiter’s life.

We are trapped in the so-called “success culture,” empowered by social media impact and dominance of the extraverts-oriented world. We always need to be out there with our achievements and self-developments. We share knowledge and success stories at professional events, talking about our victories as speakers during the conferences. We share our great experiences with food, vacations, parties — we push “fake it until you make it,” as we often think that failing, making a pause, being not that great — is unacceptable.

This reality looks perfect only from Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. And, as an outcome, humankind facing significant challenges withing mental well-being. Just look into the numbers of burned our Millenials — and this number is only growing.

No story starts without a personal story. I’m in recruitment for 8,5 years; I started my career when I was 21, combined full-day office work with full-day studying; I went up from being Tech Recruiter with zero experience to leading a team of 4. Moreover, after this, I moved to another country and had to start from a zero point. I had to adjust to the different cultures, workplace environments, learn a new language, show how good am I at what I do. I need to continually prove myself. Then I switched to freelancing — which brought even more possible insecurities connected with the stability of my position.

And my experience is typical for this job. The recruitment industry requires resilience and mental toughness in particular because it has so many “moving parts” and variables that can’t be controlled, creating a considerable variation in emotions.

Why is it easy to get a burnout for Recruiters?

  • Your work is result-driven — no hire means no endorsements;
  • Lost of responsibility control — your role is to be a facilitator — but in the end, top decisions are made by others — candidates to accept the offer, hiring managers to confirm the ranges, founders to give a “green light” for a new marketing campaign, etc;
  • You’re always a step behind — even if you hired this remarkable architect, why didn’t you employ that front-end engineer, the role of which has been opened for months?
  • Your daily routine is consists of administrative, often repetitive, high-volume and operational tasks which are crucial to your results but not always creative;
  • No investment in your growth — as of high speed working, your personal growth is often not a focus to your manager
  • You always multitasking (which is proven as non-existent and ineffective) — you need to switch from the different messaging platform, ATSes, always be in touch with the candidates and following-up with hiring managers;
  • with all the different people, with their priorities, and all likely to change their minds in ways;
  • you have never done enough — you always could have contacted more people, sourced more, interview more…

Pfff…… feels overwhelming just while reading it, right? Increased business competition, and a focus on speed and responsiveness, coupled with distractions presented by mobile devices and social media, are all worsening mental health among recruitment professionals, which is essential not only for the individuals who might suffer from it but also affects the business.

What does it mean, and why is that important for business?

So, now we know it’s serious.

It’s a truth we can’t deny and we need to deal with it. But we also need to care about ourselves, in order not to wake up one day and be unable to get up from the bed or push ourselves to go to work day by day, to try harder, but to feel exhaustion and the lack of sense during all the battle.

So, what are the signs of burnout which you can experience?

“Burnout is when somebody just feels depleted from doing the task at hand,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health. It happens when the demands being put upon you exceed the resources you have. The tank is empty. Burnout is more than a bad day or a tough week — after all, every job has those.

“Burnout tends to be when you just don’t have any good days, and it goes on for a long period of time”

If you want to check — whether are you having a bad day or it’s moving towards burnout — check this link .

Burnout can occur even when external demands on people aren’t overwhelming. In these cases, burnout results from the gap between the expectations a person sets internally and the results they feel they’ve achieved. Here what comes with the strive to perfectionism and imposter syndrome —

If the gap between expectations and perceived results grows too large, the tension that a person typically uses to drive himself or herself forward snaps like a rubber band, and the individual soon begins experiencing symptoms of burning out.

Burnout development stages

The lies we tell ourselves

Some employees who have recovered from burnout shared what they called “the lies we told ourselves” related to denying the signs of burnout, even when loved ones pointed it out to them.

These included:

  • I am fine, it’s just a period
  • It is your nagging at me that is stressful
  • I love my job
  • I am happy to take more on
  • I am just tired
  • You don’t understand, no one else can do this
  • People are depending on me
  • I really want to be helpful
  • I will be fine once this is done
  • This too will pass
  • I need to get back to the top of my game
  • I’ll take a vacation and then be okay
  • If people just let me do my job, I would be fine
  • It’s not me, it is everyone and everything else

Well, if you are ticking some of these boxes….

Most actually believed these statements to be true and to a certain extent, many of them were. The “lie” was in denying that their current situation was damaging their health and well-being and that changes were necessary. This denial eventually led to burnout.

Burnout prevention starts with identifying it in yourself. If you can identify it early on, you can work wonders to avoid it. By the time you’re in deep burnout, it can take up to a year to get your groove back. And at that step, you will most likely need the help of professionals.

So, for checking the possible symptoms, you can look into a classical (but basic) test, which you can pass here — check this link 🔗.

Looking at my own past experience and reflecting on it, I think I had an early stage of burnout a few years ago. Going through it by myself and taking it as a topic I’m working with as a career coach, I researched a lot of literature, spoke with a specialist in this field and tried on practice a lot of “tips to be cured”.

Therefore, I’d like to share those tested on myself, proven by research and happened to help in real life. Disclaimer: every person is different and

  1. Focus on Yourself.

To stop comparing yourself with others, first, you need to understand who you are and what are you standing for. Reflect on your goals and think about your personal values. What drives you in life? What principles are you promoting by your decisions? Define your values and remember them. Each time you are doubting what to do and whom to listen, go back and use them as your compass.

Together with this, make it a practice to praise yourself for the things you did every day. It should be huge — it can be a great intake meeting you had with the hiring manager or a nice response from a candidate — anything that gives you a little hint that you’re doing well — even by just going in the right direction.

2. Practice Digital Detox

An average person in the US spends up to 11 hours on social media per day. This leads to sleep deprivation, fear of missing out, social comparison, constant stress, we are on the dopamine

Overall, our brain consumes information but is not able to process it all. I know, reducing phone use for the few days completely sounds scary, but you can start from the small steps. Leave 30 minutes before bed and during the wakeup device-free. Set notifications off when you are out of the office. Do not look for the work-related stuff during the weekends. Be a real digital Robinson Crouse 🙃.

3. Prioritize work

As we know now, multitasking doesn’t exist, so think ahead of how to structure your day in the office. Determine your priorities for the week, month, and year — make them reasonable — and write them down and review them regularly to keep yourself focused on what matters to you.

Important: tell your manager you want to be successful at your job and ask them how they would measure that

4. Set boundaries.

It’s important that you also recognize those moments when you find yourself saying “yes” to any obligation — when you know you should really turn them down. Catch this tendency to overload yourself, and you’ll (hopefully) kick that bad habit to the curb and prevent this same situation in the future. When you tell your hiring manager that hiring 5 Senior Developers and having them started within 2 weeks is unrealistic to plan — you are not only taking care of yourself — you’re showing the maturity, as being a great professional also means setting up expectations realistically.

5. Switch off.

It is very hygienic to be engaged at work when you are working, but also being able to let go when you are in the other place. We all wear different hats and being mentally healthy means having a few of them — having different roles to self-realize. For this, I’d suggest you have a hobby which is completely disconnected from your work-related activities. It can be anything — starting from sailing to board games, or furniture fix, or video shooting. Just find yourself “a thing” which really excites you. For me, everything connected with motoric activities, where I need to operate my hands works perfectly: I enjoy cooking and playing squash. I also recently trying myself in dancing. Overall, sports activities are really handy here as they actually help you to produce dopamine and reduce cortisol — the stress hormone.

5. Give a (f*cking) damn

It’s not about a positive psychology approach, but: sometimes, being in a crappy place can be the perfect opportunity to make some new choices. Each situation has 2 perspectives, sometimes the second one is just too blurred. What if being burnt out is an opportunity to take a stand in your life?

Burnout can be the shot in the arm you need to start pursuing your dreams, or new occupation, or shift to priorities which really matters to you. Maybe now’s the perfect time to switch into a different role. Maybe you need more autonomy, or maybe you want to create something that truly matters.

In my case, being a project-based recruiter helps me to have more spare time for the other activities which I’m interested in life & take brakes. It allowed me to spend more time on things I’m passionate about — career coaching, learning a new language, preparing for the speaker's gigs, mastering my cooking skills 😋. Not being constantly overwhelmed about the work also made me like it more, and look rather on a brighter side.

Remember, we are human, and no human is perfect . And no-one supposes to be happy every second of their life. Being vulnerable is making us alive, but also makes us stronger, as we stay authentic and honest with ourselves and the people around us. It’s okay to be not okay. It’s not forever, it will pass. The discomfort we are feeling usually is a signal from our body that something has to be changed. For better. It’s easier said then make an everyday practice, but here is a principle I’d like to pitch. Especially for us, as HR professionals, who are constantly dealing with people and helping them with finding the job or feeling happy at their companies.

Fleabag

This is a Part 1 of Burnout Series articles. The next one will be dedicated to the organizations — and how toxic culture causing employees burnout & what they should focus on to fix it.

International Tech Recruiter | Sourcer | Career Coach | Cultural Differences Specialist