Read an article the other day on Forbes about Millennial women (my generation!) burning out by the time they hit the age of 30.
…..ambitious [women] go-getters are working as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and advertising executives, blessed with great salaries, health benefits, and paid vacation.
…these women understand the protestors’ frustration and unhappiness over the fact that their lives aren’t supposed to turn out this way. This is why a growing number of young professional women who seem to “have it all” are burning out at work before they reach 30.
One reason that women are burning out early in their careers is that they have simply reached their breaking point after spending their childhoods developing well-rounded resumes.
I am definitely classed as a “Millennial” (still a few years before I hit 30), but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be burning out any time soon, much less by the time I hit 30.
The major reason for that is probably because I’m very laissez-faire, and while others might scoff and call me ‘lazy’, I like to think of it as ‘calculated laziness’, or “working hard only where it really counts”, or simply “knowing your priorities”.
Well to start, I did spend my childhood developing a well-rounded resume, so to speak. I started a few businesses for instance, but never bothered spending time on extracurricular activities, except for playing a few musical instruments.
I was never a Girl Scout, I never tried to be the president or head of any association/club, and I didn’t volunteer my weekends away at the soup kitchen, or rescuing animals.
In school, I was never the go-getting academic either, to the chagrin to my professors.
I loathed the idea of spending hours on homework just to get it perfect, and during exam periods, I never freaked out and drank any coffee (the sheer amount of caffeine makes me throw up) to stay up all night for a month straight, studying like a maniac. I studied, just not obsessively.
As a result, my GPA wasn’t in the gutter, but it wasn’t a 4.0 by any means, but I didn’t really see it as such a big deal.
Everything for me was very cool, easy-going, and I was a girl who works-hard-only-where-it-really-counts.
I could pull out all the stops when I wanted to, but I knew if I kept on a treadmill of perfection, I’d burn out in no time (hence why I avoided applying to any investment banking jobs).
I had a good intuition that NO ONE would ask for my GPA after I landed my first job, and so far no one has ever brought up what I got as my final mark in Economics 101.
(It was a very dismal 62/100, if any of you were wondering)
What I lacked in academic and lifestyle perfection, I’d like to think I made up for in diverse, curious interests, an entrepreneurial spirit (read: businesses I’ve owned) and sheer tenacity, which I think seemed to be more interesting to employers than a cookie cutter perfect 4.0 GPA graduate with the bleach-white smile.
I was probably just lucky, but ‘calculated laziness’ may be part of the reason why I haven’t burned out yet, nor am I reaching any kind of burnout stage (far from it!).
OVERACHIEVING, PERFECTION-DRIVEN BURNOUTS
In contrast, I think the women they are mentioning above, were probably the presidents of their sororities who were also captains of their field hockey teams, in addition to maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Oh, and they probably mentored Girl Scouts, led summer camps every year, all while trying to help fundraise to find a cure for cancer (bless their hearts!).
Did I mention that they are probably also drop dead gorgeous?
These women scare me in a good way……in a very “wow.. when do you find time to sleep and eat!?” way.
They’re admirable, fierce and formidable, but perhaps as the article mentions above, their Amazonian lifestyle is not sustainable.
You simply cannot have it all as well as a life.
Like with money management, you have to make sacrifices/decisions (whatever you want to call it!), and decide what is important for you.
This, I think is what is missing from these inspiring and exhausting women of my generation. They need to realize that there’s more to life than becoming the youngest advertising executive in the history of the company, and to find a balance in their lives.
Interestingly enough, most of my business school friends (who are these Amazonians I mention above) have reached the same sort of burnout conclusion as above — they’ve all quit their jobs and started trying to find themselves, or to restart their careers in directions that don’t involve working for someone else.
They hate the jobs they once coveted in business school, and are going back to get their MBAs at Insead, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford in hordes! I think in the past 3 years alone, 25% of my class has gone to get an MBA and/or quit and started their own company (myself included for the latter).
SO WHAT ABOUT THE GUYS?
Yes, what ABOUT the guys? Don’t they burn out too? (as asked by @financialuproar, fellow Canadian who writes a witty blog of the same name that doesn’t put me to sleep or make me want to tear my hair out)
Aside from the stats thrown in from the article above:
Men are 25% more likely to take breaks throughout the day for personal activities, 7% more likely to take a walk, 5% more likely to go out to lunch, and 35% more likely to take breaks “just to relax.”
This, I can understand.
As a woman, I would probably be less likely to go out for a walk or take a break, for a few reasons:
- Not wanting to come off as lazy and unproductive to other co-workers
- Feeling guilty
- Wanting to get the impossible done by the end of the day (a futile task)
- Feeling the need to prove myself as a woman
- Feeling unproductive
As I later mentioned to Nelson, I think that men don’t feel the same way about their jobs as women do.
Disclaimer: This is all speculation without any studies or research. Just my own ramblings, traveling from my brain through my fingertips onto a blog post.
I feel like men thrive on the stress, pressure, adrenaline and general competitiveness of having to fight, negotiate, be confident and basically push to get their way to the top.
Women, are less likely to be confident in their abilities and accomplishments (and therefore less likely to want to talk about them, in fear of coming off as boastful or arrogant).
Women are also less likely to thrive on any kind of pressure or competitiveness, and will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid conflicts (myself included!).
Women are just concerned about their public image — of what people think of them, who will talk about them, who will be disappointed in them, and so on. They get to the point where they psych themselves out and don’t do anything at all.
Men are just as concerned… but less so. They may have fleeting doubts of what they’re doing, then they just brush it off with: “Well if I fail I fail, but I’ll try my best to make sure I succeed before I give up.”
Men see their careers as something they have to grab by the reins and take for themselves. If they don’t do it, they won’t get it — that’s what they’ve been taught, and they are taught to give off an air of confidence even if they aren’t feeling it.
Women see their careers and promotions as a gifts bestowed upon them as soon as the other people gradually recognize how brilliant they are without having to actually point it out to them and come off as boastful or a show-off.
The difference between being arrogant and confident, is that confidence has to be backed by actual ability and skill.
If you are arrogant, it means you are saying you can do all these things without actually knowing how to do them (or if you actually can!).
If you are confident, it means you are simply stating what you can do because you’ve done it before and/or you are confident in your abilities to do it.
It seems to me that men seem to grasp this difference in being arrogant versus confident a lot more naturally than women do.
SO WHAT DOES CONFIDENCE HAVE TO DO WITH BURNING OUT?
Women who burn out, do too much so that they gain a sense of security from having overachieved in every aspect of their lives.
It’s kind of like a career security blanket — do more than what any human can do, so that you are assured of the position.
- Say yes to every job that comes your way.
- Never say no.
- Grit your teeth and smile graciously if someone stomps on you unfairly.
- Never brag or show off.
They do everything they can to be the best at the youngest age possible, so that they can avoid talking about themselves or marketing how fabulous they are — their accomplishments should say it all.
Men may not burn out as much, because they don’t go crazy and go above what they think is possible for any human, because they are better at marketing themselves with less ammunition (so to speak), and they are not afraid to fight for anything they want.
They take more risks with having LESS on their resumes (not being a Boy Scout leader for instance), whereas women take less risks by having MORE on their resumes to secure positions.
Buy you know what? Sometimes, a little fight for your salary and some creative marketing can make your employer see you in a different light.
Just read about what happened to Fabulously Frugirl:
People remember you for negotiating. The principal who hired me is currently my manager.
2 years later, when we were discussing my performance he reminded me that I negotiated for my salary and that stood out to him.
It took him aback since he thought that as a new grad, I should have been “grateful” for a job offer, but it also made him think that I was going to be able to interact well with clients since I was able to stand up for myself.
So in short, women seem to work harder beyond what is capable for any human for the same results as a man because of a lack of confidence, not so much of a lack of ability or talent. It’s all mental.
BF has always maintained the belief that women tend to work harder than men in workplaces, something he’s seen in France as a manager. He thinks women have a need to prove themselves whereas men feel less of the push of what others will think of them.
This may be one of the reasons why WOMEN burn out by the age of 30, and not men. (Who knows, we need a study made on men too!)
Men, work just as hard but they realize there’s a balance and are more likely to say “screw it, I’m OUT OF HERE”, even without a Plan B or an Exit Strategy. They also have the gift of risk, confidence and marketing on their side which helps show their accomplishments in the best light, and they aren’t afraid to tell you about them to get a leg up over the other guys in the workplace.