By Barbara Mitchell
Q: I'm burned out in my current job, and what I really want is a job with less stress. What can I do to convince prospective employers that I am a hard worker and will give a job 100 percent but am hoping to work at a different pace?
A: It's good that you're aware that you're burned out. Too many people keep going until they get sick or injured on the job before they understand they're no longer at their best.
Before you make the decision to look for a new job—and assuming that, other than the stress level, you still like your current position—explore whether your job can be restructured to fit your needs. If that's not possible, then it's time to think about finding a new position that will allow you to be productive at a less demanding pace.
Start by listing what causes stress in your current job. Is it unrealistic deadlines? Is it a manager who expects you to be available 24/7? Is it the commute that's getting you down? What about the job itself—has it lost its appeal for you? Next, make a list or write a description of what you want in your next job. Finally, make a list of your skills and abilities. Write down what you know you're good at and what you enjoy most about work and working relationships.
Ask your prospective manager to describe how he or she manages the team and how expectations are set and managed.
Fast-forward to the job search: In an interview, you don't have to tell the prospective employer that your last job stressed you out. Focus on selling your skills and how they are a great fit for the open position.
Remember that you will also be evaluating your potential new employer. Ask good questions and observe the culture while you are visiting the office for the interview. Ask your prospective manager to describe how he or she manages the team and how expectations are set and managed. Do you get a sense that this person values employees? Do you think he or she sets clear expectations?
If you think an organization might be the right place for you, use your LinkedIn connections to do some additional research on the culture. Connect with people who either currently work there or who have worked there to ask about the working atmosphere.
Be sure you're comfortable with how you will answer the question, "Why are you in the job market?" A perfectly acceptable answer is that you're looking for a growth opportunity that didn't exist at your previous employer, and most interviewers will leave it there.
Good luck finding a new place where you can be productive but not stressed. Keep in mind that there is no shame in looking for a less stressful job. You'll still work hard and be committed to the organization—you'll just be able to do it with less stress!
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]