That Other Big Green Monster: Burnout

by Kate Kosturski, Head Editor, INALJ NYC

That Other Big Green Monster: Burnout

katekosturskiThis has not been a good past few weeks. Since my last blog post, my other team member left our company to go back to school, which means I had been covering both her territory and mine through the end of summer and start of fall (right when the academic year starts, our peak period). This lasted for about three weeks until her replacement came on board. Needless to say, all the extra work left me not wanting to do much else – professional development, hobbies, exercise. In fact, for the first time ever, I was two weeks late with an article I was due to review for Reference and User Services Quarterly (I’m on the editorial board). In the madness of my work life, and despite the due date being on my calendar, I just forgot. That has never happened.   I had one foot in the trap of the Other Big Green Monster (and I’m not talking about jealousy or Fenway Park here): burnout.

Now that this most recent craziness has passed, I began to reflect on burnout and the past few times it has happened to me. In 2010, when I was in the midst of a job search right after library school, my family received very serious health news. In the space of six months (from graduation to the end of the year), I had two ill relatives, and a niece diagnosed with autism. (For the record, everyone’s doing very well now.) Job searching was the farthest thing from my mind – my family took over. Two years later, even though I had a steady job, I moved from NJ to CT in March, and then six months later, dealt with my partner losing his job.  Professional development – writing, speaking – was the farthest thing from my mind.

In both cases, I felt guilty about not sinking as much time into my fledgling career as I should have. I had friends that were out hitting the presentation and journal circuit, and I was just trying to keep my head above water. When life came back to a somewhat normal state, the lesson I learned was this: it’s okay to put a pause on career planning when the rest of your life takes over. Your physical and mental health will suffer, along with your career (and probably relationships too).

If I continued with the status quo of career development while my life spun past me like a whirling dervish, the results would not have been pretty. Distraction in one area of your life leads to distraction elsewhere. There would have been many sub-par (and perhaps embarrassing) journal articles, job applications, and proposals living somewhere in Library Land. The only good that would have come would be humorous fodder for a conference happy hour. So I pressed the pause button. And in the end, I turned out okay. I had a job, healthy family members, a place to live, and comfortable finances. At the risk of flaunting my ego, I’m still as well known (dare I say “rockstar”) today as I was in library school.

My advice to you, INALJ friends and fans, is not to let burnout get to you. If you need to press the pause button on librarianship, that’s okay. In the short term, you may miss out on things, but in the long term, you’ll be a better professional and person.