Job burnout

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m an Air Force veteran…separated from service in ’95 honorably. Since ’95,I’ve been through 14 jobs all told(9 welding,1 maintenance and 4 odd jobs for cash).I liked the Air Force(welding/machinist)job and a Mining Machinery job the best…I’ve been released from probation during the maintenance job and fired from a welding job two years ago over a dispute with the boss about timliness/quality of my work(which he was becoming more critical about). Most jobs I’ve been laid off from;however three weeks ago I was laid off from my last job after an anger episode I displayed after a project I was working on needed rework when I made a mistake due to not understanding what was to be done.

My last boss and most of my supervisors agreed that I do good work overall(I hold a welding certificate from the state of Illinois and Missouri),but I’ feeling increasingly resentful towards my career field due to lack of work,layoffs,minimal pay/benefits when I’m working,ill equipped shops,a**hole type coworkers/supers at some jobs,etc.

My wife is going through stressful times trying to help/care for her mother,who has some form of dementia and is incooperative and combative in some instances….and our 16 year old son is having trouble in/with school. All of this adds up to some hard times emotionally/mentally for me and all of us. I myself have noticed I’m getting a “shorter fuse” so to speak with my job issues..and I don’t like it.I’m afraid I may already be unemployable since I’ve sent out over two dozen resumes/applications earlier this year and have attended six interviews with no results. Any and all words of wisdom,advice,recommendations,etc. will be much appreciated.Thanks for your help.

A: Sometimes life truly is very unfair. You’ve had a lot heaped on your plate at once. The economy stinks. You wife is probably less able to be supportive right now because she is also trying to care for her mother. And you must both be very worried about how best to help your son.

Part of the problem with jobs may well be the economy. But you also have the integrity to see that you have issues that are contributing to your unsteady employment. I certainly respect that kind of honesty. You can hardly be blamed for being frustrated. But as you well know, how you handle that frustration can either help or hinder your employability.

You enjoy your work. You’re good at it. It’s a testament to your abilities in your trade and your positive social skills that you’ve been hired by so many places. That’s an amazing track record during these hard times. It says to me that you will find more work if you keep at it. You will keep the work if you also do what you need to do now to learn to manage your frustration and retool so you stay competitive.

I wonder if you are taking full advantage of the help available from the VA. You may qualify for educational benefits so that you can add some specialized skills to your resume. Do also check out www.vetjobs.com/ if you haven’t already. Meanwhile, look into whether there is a counseling center (either through the VA or a community clinic) near you where you could get some coaching on how to handle your frustration more productively.

Meeting with your son’s teachers and the school guidance department may give you some direction for how to help your son. Most important of all is to stay involved with your son’s life — both by supporting him in his schoolwork and by making it a point to spend time doing things with him. That lets him know you are in his corner. It might be helpful for you and your son to be more involved in his grandmother’s care. If the family works as a team, no one will feel like their needs are always taking second place to grandmother’s illness and your wife won’t feel like it’s all on her. Finally, many local senior centers have support groups for those who are caregivers of people suffering from dementia. Helping the helper is key to preventing burn out.

As daunting as this whole situation may be, your best bet is to stay active. You have several fronts to manage at once. Take a big step back and make a list of the things you need to do to keep yourself and your family in balance during this difficult time. A plan of action will focus your efforts. Use the period that you’re on unemployment to hone your skills or get some additional training. Show your son that when the going gets tough, the tough get going by using every resource they can find.

I do wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Jan 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Job burnout. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/01/16/job-burnout/