Category Archives: Decision-making

Work is not fun every day. At least for me it is not. Not even after I left the world of financial services for a cooler tech-company, with a better mission. The other day, however, these feelings were exacerbated as I experienced some serious professional fatigue.

What is professional fatigue?

Professional fatigue is that name I attribute to a feeling that you have hit your peak of your accomplishments at work. I require a lot to feel professionally (and personally) stimulated. I need to feel busy. I need to be solving problems. I need to be revolutionizing the way that things work. When those things are not happening, I feel professionally fatigued. When this last happened, I immediately began to plot a way out. I acted like a quintessential Gen Y’er, wanting immediate gratification…and wanting it now.

I called up someone close and basically said that I needed help, serious help, thinking through my exit strategy from the job.

Thankfully, that someone helped me internalize the few things that I want to share with you:

  1. Revert to my opening line. It is completely unrealistic that you will be as excited every day as in the first month – first year of a job in an industry that you have no background in. Having such expectations are pretty much guaranteed to make you miserable. I’ll even take it a step further. Staying challenged at work is YOUR responsibility. It is not something that will passively come to you, especially as time goes on. However, you can let your manager know that you are hungry. Bring ideas to the table. Show some initiative. And when you do come to him/her, show up with concrete ways to improve operations, cash flow, net revenue, or whatever other metrics you know are important to the organization.
  2. Start/Keep a Brag Book. You might be asking, “What is a Brag Book?” Exactly what it sounds like. A Brag Book is a self-created portfolio of your work product and positive feedback that you receive on this work. This should include any emails where folks have complimented your work, any positive feedback from outside clients or stakeholders, and any nice thoughts that your manager(s) have shared with you. If the thoughts were shared verbally, don’t be shy about drafting an email with those thoughts to yourself, or to the individual who complimented you, thanking him/her, so that the spoken words become written. A Brag Book serves a dual purpose – use in good times and use in bad times. By good times, I mean this: occasionally looking through my work accomplishments helps me feel reinvigorated about the bigger picture and my purpose in it. Knowing that something I worked on has made someone’s day to day life easier at work keeps me going. A Brag Book is a powerful remedy for professional fatigue. As for use in bad times – should someone question whether you are deserving of the next step or a big opportunity at work, you can always refer to accomplishments in the Brag Book. This brings me to my last point: where should the Brag Book live? Copying and pasting emails from work to a Google Drive, or another system outside of work, makes sense. Should something ever happen at work and you were to lose access to your work systems, you do not want to find yourself in a helpless position. Printing a physical copy of the correspondence and storing in a manila folder at home also works well.
  3. Sit still. I can’t say it any better so I will say it exactly how someone close said it to me: “Sometimes there is a lot of value in JUST SITTING STILL.” This notion is useful in both your personal and professional sphere. Instead of looking for a way out at the first sight of professional fatigue, it makes sense to slow down, assess the direction of the company, and see where the cards appear to be falling. I will give you an example from my own life. I had the aforementioned conversation about trying to leave literally one month before my company was sold for $215M. Though it is impossible to rewrite history, I may have acted on impulse and left the upside of the buyout on the table without proper guidance. It is important to know when restlessness, youth, and a thirst for something better should be acted on and when it should not. Having the self-awareness to know the difference can, at times, be challenging. As such, it is important to put forth the energy to find quality mentors that can help you discern the difference (see my post on networking). Oh and by the way, I am not implying that you NEVER leave a situation if you don’t like it. I would, however, argue that in most industries, staying for 2-3 years shows commitment, continuity, and gives you enough information to make a solid decision rather than hastily jumping ship after a year and a half. Image

Dealing with Professional Fatigue

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Grad School: To go or not to go?

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On the eve of ‘back to school’ season, that is the question. This post seeks to address the question because, lately, I’ve heard far too many bad reasons for why folks are going to grad school (especially women, which hurts!). The reality is that most grad schools are laborious to get into, expensive, lead to foregone income, and don’t guarantee jobs. As such, the decision of whether or not to go to grad school should be approached with thoughtfulness.*

In the spirit of good decision making, below are what I consider some bad and good reasons to go to grad school. I hope that they help you make the call.

Bad reasons to go to grad school

1.       You’re having a tough time finding a job or are scared of the job hunt. I’ll give it to you. The job hunt, especially in today’s economy, can be daunting. However, especially if you’re straight out of undergrad, you’re better off taking a job that is not ideal than rushing off to grad school. Most jobs help you learn what you like and don’t like to do, which is a better experience than spending $200k to go to grad school only to have to do the same soul searching (but with no prior work experience to lean on in your resume). In fact, grad schools often look for prior work experience because they understand that you get more out of the degree when you bring more to the table. If you currently have a job, don’t like it, and are hitting a wall trying to make a move, keep on grinding (and see my blog on networking). In most cases, the opportunity cost of powering through the networking is lower than that of applying to and attending grad school.

 2.       You need a slightly different skillset to make a move. I underlined ‘slightly’ because this is an important nuance. Example: If you’re on the accounting side of a business but you want to move to the deal-making side of the business, skill-wise, you are not far away enough to warrant going back to business school. In fact you, you’re likely very close and simply need exposure to the business. Again, this likely requires that you network and use your resources wisely, not run off to school. If you’re in this position, strongly consider spending time with mentor(s) and mapping out a path to your desired job that does not include grad school.

 3.       You have always wanted to live in a certain place. Getting the opportunity to live in another city can certainly be a rewarding experience but it should come as a consequence of your decision to go to grad school, not be the driving factor thereof. There are many ways of relocating. Finding a job in the new city of your choice is one, transferring through your current company is another, and exploring a ‘work from home’ option if your current position allows for it are but several ways. Using grad school as a reason for the move, however, is expensive and pretty impractical.

Good reasons to go to grad school

1.       Major career jump. There are several examples of major career jumps. The one that comes to mind first is making a leap from engineering (as in you’re the person who is going in and handling the quality assurance machine for Bounty) to a corporate consulting position. I say that this is major jump because in your work/industry as an engineer, you likely don’t interact with many corporate business folks who may help you transition into a corporate job. In this case, grad school (likely business school) is an effective way to expand one’s network and to jump careers.

 2.       Increasing your options and broadening your skillset. It is possible that gaining an additional set of skills may broaden your career opportunities enough to warrant grad school, depending on the case scenario. If, for example, grad school will give you robust skills as a project manager and that is going to amount to a substantial pay raise, then it may make sense. Grad school can also drastically broaden your network because it may expose you to new circle of motivated and passionate peers with some good ideas. If you’re looking to start a business of your own and you absolutely don’t think you have the resources/connections to do so in your current position, grad school may be a good move because it might introduce you to channels of potential funding (many business schools now have entrepreneurial contests for money), colleagues for your business, and provide a stimulating environment to sharpen your ideas.

On a final note, here is a visual representation that you can use to guide your decision-making:

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*Please note that the below blog does not include serious consideration of graduate schools for medical professions and for teaching. While I feel that the decision to go to medical school, for example, should be approached with the same high level of seriousness that I mentioned above, I omitted it in the blog because it is a necessity, not a nice-to-have, to practice the profession.