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Actionable Strategies to Find Career Happiness

Posted November 3, 2021
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Why Do So Many of Us Burnout?

As marketers, many of us have found ourselves forced to choose between burnout and adaptation. At the onset of our chat, Deanna talked about her own experiences peering over the edge of burnout.
“I know working in marketing operations and demand generation, burnout is something that we’ve all experienced at one point in our professional lives. I had a pivotal moment in my career where I felt so stuck and wasn’t sure why. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to quit anything easily. I have such a high threshold for quitting things, which can be a blessing or a curse. I don’t give up on things easily, but some things probably should be given up on quickly. I’ve had to learn to be able to make those tough decisions and move through life with a little bit more agility.” Deanna noticed a pattern of approaching burnout. “I realized I felt stuck in multiple businesses that I was working for. I wanted it to stop. But how?” Likewise, Ben had the same experience when he was a marketing leader at Linkedin, working in Australia. “We kept being asked to evaluate our internal values. I would pay lip service to it and grudgingly go through the process. After three years, I realized the exercise was key to understanding what makes me happy. It helped guide how I made decisions about the future of my career. It turns out that understanding internal values and why they are important is critical for the right kind of career development.” Ben Quote 1 Another factor that contributes to burnout in marketing ops is people-pleasing. There is a sense of loyalty, especially when we are newer in our careers or getting hired for the first time. It’s exciting that somebody took a chance on us, but how do we balance that with what’s best for our careers? Deanna offered some. “I love to jump in and help. I work with people in a strategic way, but I also think there’s a lot of value in rolling up your sleeves and actually executing. If you enjoy tactical execution, you can get funneled into roles where you end up being an order-taker working in a ticket system. All of a sudden, you don’t have autonomy. You don’t feel like you’re aligned with your values. People-pleasing is a recipe for burnout.” Ben also shared his opinion on people-pleasing. “I can’t talk from the perspective of a marketing ops professional, but I can talk from the point of view of someone who has marketing ops professionals reporting to him. The best marketing ops people I’ve worked with very much want to jump on every single task, to please and display their loyalty. It’s something I have to think about very actively to ensure they feel empowered to speak up and ask more questions.”

Strategies to Avoid Burnout

There are some effective strategies that marketing ops professionals can use to avoid burnout, and Deanna shared some that have worked well for her. “For me, one of the things I felt was the most beneficial was taking a step back and thinking strategically about what makes me happy at work. I wondered if I could design my life, how would I want it to look? Working in tech is really a great fit for me because I don’t like monotony. I like to be constantly on my feet and changing things. However, part of my personality is a bit of a people-pleaser.” Deanna Quote 1 For Deanna, her top priority was maintaining autonomy. “I want to be able to impact people positively, but I want to make decisions myself. I don’t want to get to a point where I feel I’m taking orders, feeling like a cog in a wheel with no control. “When it comes to people-pleasing, one of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s helpful to pause before making decisions. I find it helpful to take a second and think about how I’ll respond to someone who needs help with something. I first listen to them talk about what they need and understand what they actually need help with. At that point, I think it through. Does it make sense that I’m the person to help them with this? Is it something where I’m working with this person, and can I show them how to self-serve? It’s important to teach people how to be more independent. “Before engaging in people-pleasing behavior, I have this urge to help, and I can sense it right away. So instead of jumping into the task, I ask myself, ‘Why do I want to do this? Is this person capable of doing it on their own? Do they need someone to guide them and show them how to do the task?’ “A lot of times, we get pulled into these one-off tasks. Take the time to step back and look at what the ask is impacting and if it’s worth your time. I had to learn to be more patient and intentional about when and why I feel the urge to help someone.” Ben also offered strategies for avoiding burnout. “Understanding internal values and why they are important is critical. I’ve now found it so much easier to make decisions about my future career. Once I understood what drives me and what are the things that fire me up, it helped me so much. It went beyond impacting the role I wanted and what I needed to do to get there. It also helped me understand the company profile I want to work for. “It comes down to understanding what your bigger goals are. That way, you can start prioritizing your time on the actions that will have the most significant impact. If you’re kept out of the loop regarding major business goals, you won’t know the initiatives that can achieve those goals. There’s no way you can ever make those decisions because you won’t know what will have the greatest impact. I find it essential for ops leaders to ensure their team understands how initiatives are connected to the business goals. That empowers them to be able to feel like they’re part of something bigger. Ben Quote 2 “Also, it’s important to coach people to communicate not to be heard, but to be understood. Everyone can communicate to be heard. On the flip side, communicating to be understood is about switching the perspective and understanding what the person you’re dealing with needs. What’s the goal behind the tasks they want completed? When you understand their goal, you can then ensure you’re communicating and framing your response in a way that’s directly related to the ultimate outcome. “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” Lastly, another concept used to help avoid burnout is stretching versus chasing. As Deanna explained, this psychological concept encourages doing more with less by stretching your available resources rather than chasing more resources. “Finding that balance, especially when it comes to knowing when you need to advocate for more resources versus making sure you’re getting the most out of what you have, is crucial. I think stretching versus chasing is such a beautiful way to describe these two kinds of leaders and the types of cultures that come from them, particularly in B2B tech.”

It’s All About Having Good Boundaries

Both Ben and Deanna agreed that having clear boundaries is essential to avoid burnout. Deanna has found setting boundaries to be very effective. “Working in tech is great, but you have to learn how to set boundaries. You have to learn how to manage your time properly and make sure you don’t have a constant influx of meetings all day. You need to refrain from being too responsive or available, whether it’s on email or slack. I got to a point where I started to design my workday and ask if each activity was aligned with what I designed. “It’s challenging to set boundaries, especially when people keep putting meetings on my calendar. What I’ve done in the past is review every meeting I attended. Was it worth 30 minutes of my time? Was it productive? Then, I’d flag meetings set by the individuals I wasn’t achieving meaningful progress with and decline them. I let them know we could handle the issue over email instead of meeting face-to-face (or over Zoom). “Tally how many meetings are scheduled in a week to ensure you’re managing your time properly.”
For more finding happiness in the workplace, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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