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When You Don’t ‘Have Enough in the Tank'
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the latest leader to succumb to burnout.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she was stepping down Thursday, telling members of her party that she "no longer had enough in the tank" for the job.
I can’t stop thinking about that sentence.
When Ardern took office in 2017, at age 37, she became the world's youngest female head of government. She also became the world's second elected head of government to give birth while in office (after Benazir Bhutto), when her daughter was born the following year. Ardern quickly became a folk hero for working parents, taking six weeks of maternity leave and bringing her baby with her to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. ‘Jacindimania’ spread well beyond the island country, across the globe.
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As her country struggled to emerge from the pandemic, her popularity took a plunge at home. Her resignation means she won’t face a tough reelection. Yet I wonder if her decision was prompted by the same condition that’s plagued so many workers, and especially women leaders, in the past few years: burnout.
After shepherding her country through the coronavirus crisis, while raising a toddler, perhaps she simply needed a break. Perhaps we all do.
Or, perhaps we need a new direction.
Women aren’t just quitting. We’re leaving jobs to negotiate raises to launch start-ups. Meanwhile, men are spending more time with their kids and family, and many aren’t interested in resuming their pre-pandemic workaholic tendencies.
So how do you know if it’s time to finally pursue that passion project, apply for that dream job or train for that marathon? How do you know when your proverbial tank is dry at your current gig? Or if it’s just completely depleted altogether? Here are some hints:
If you feel like you’ve plateaued, there’s nothing left to learn and no potential for growth in your current gig, it’s time to pursue new challenges. This is a bit trickier for working parents. It’s tough to give up a reliable day job (particularly if it’s flexible) for the thrill of a new endeavor. If you’re not quite ready to jump with both feet, try dipping your toes into whatever adventurous waters you’d like to try next. If you’re aiming for a promotion, then sign up for projects outside of the office (e.g. volunteering on a board) that will burnish your resume and give you leadership experience.
If you constantly wait until the last minute to tackle projects, it’s a good sign that you’re no longer inspired by your work. That’s especially true if you used to reliably plan ahead. Fight procrastination by using a checklist—it feels good to check an item off your list, even one you don’t particularly enjoy. Then, start planning your next move.
It’s normal to wonder if the grass is greener in another pasture. But if you constantly find yourself perusing job boards, or dreaming up ways to expand your side hustle, then it’s time to take the leap from dream to reality. Ask yourself: If you were unemployed and your current job was offered to you, would you take it or keep looking?
You’re burned out.
Burnout is caused by chronic stress, but it’s more than that. According to the World Health Organization, occupational burnout has three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one's job, and feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to seek help and to identify what’s prompting these emotions. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change jobs—but it’s definitely a sign you need a break.
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States are tackling the child care crisis. Missouri Governor Mike Parson unveiled a plan to improve the cost and availability of child care, proposing $78.5 million to increase child care subsidy rates and three new child care tax credits. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a plan that would expand access to child care subsidies and tax credits, reducing the cost of care for 100,000 households. He also proposed expanding public pre-K to make it available to nearly 25,000 families. Hawaii has put forward a plan to make preschool available to all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2032.
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Layoffs continue in the tech sector. Microsoft announced plans to lay off 10,000 employees. Amazon is set to begin a new round of layoffs affecting more than 18,000 people. That’s in addition to at least 154,000 layoffs at more than 1,000 tech companies last year, a trend that’s likely to continue, USA Today reports.