For a long time, I had a job I loved. My boss was the best. He left me to do my job but gave assistance whenever I requested it. He always understood when I had to leave early or show up late to attend a function at my children’s school or care for them when they were sick. He was genuinely complimentary about the work I did and the programs we funded through grants. Seriously, best boss ever.
I adored my coworkers. Most grant professionals complain that the hardest part about their job was getting the information they needed from coworkers. Not me. Certainly, I had to occasionally hound a person or two, but for the most part I had an incredible team. In fact, many of them have become lifelong friends.
If you had asked me if burnout was part of my decision to leave that job, I would have said no way. But it’s amazing what time and perspective will do. In my experience, burnout was not caused by one major factor or experience, which is why I didn’t recognize it. Instead, it was a series of small things (in both my home and work life) that wore me down over time. And because I loved my job and the people I worked with, I did not think burnout could happen to me. But it did.
The good news is that burnout does not have to end badly. The trick is to recognize you need help, a change, or maybe a listening ear. It is something my podcast cohost Kimberly and I talk about often. We have both experienced burnout in our careers, for varying reasons. It is one of the reasons we started Fundraising HayDay, to give ourselves a creative outlet that reminds us why we love this profession.
It also gives us the opportunity to help our peers. In Season 4, Episode 4 we had a fantastic conversation with our friends Trish Bachman, Bethany Planton, and Johna Rodgers. This trio of grant professionals have taken it upon themselves to study the effects of burnout in grant professionals. They conducted a survey and shared their findings in a recent GPA Journal article, which you can read here on page 1: 2020.gpajournal.final.pdf (ymaws.com).
One of the things that surprised the Burnout Trio (as we’ve come to call them), was the finding that 50% of their survey respondents didn’t think they could recognize burnout in a peer. Clearly, that’s a problem. In my experience, grant professionals are givers. We care about the people and communities we serve, and we understand that many services rely on the grant funding we bring to our organizations. It is why so many of us are willing to overlook the negative aspects of our job, willing to work longer hours, willing to put up with so many things. But we need to take the time to care for ourselves and our fellow professionals. We need to set boundaries at work, look out for our peers, and stand up for ourselves. We need to recognize burnout and figure out how to successfully handle the stressors in our lives.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but between the five of us on our latest podcast episode, we cover a lot of ground. Take a listen here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-uaux2-fa79a1. What I have learned over the years from my friends and colleagues is that burnout can be recognized and handled. It does not mean our profession is a bad one, just that honesty, communication, and sometimes ice cream are needed to handle it all.
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