Recruiters: The secret to spotting ‘Burnout’ and ways to combat it

A Recruiter’s work is never done.

Whether you’re working in Search, Contingency, Internal or any other specialism there’s always something more you can be doing.

Just made a placement? Brilliant, on to the next. Record week? Fantastic, what about next week? Oh you’re top biller this year? Awesome, but that’s not going to help you next year.

A saying many will have heard and even taken on board as a mantra is “you’re only as good as your last placement.”

The reality is you’re only as good as your next placement.

If you’re working at a frenetic pace for hours on end and rarely pause for breath you’re much more likely to be stressed. And with little sight of let-up in your job, the pressure can pile on top of you.

Against this backdrop, burnout is a worry for even the most organised and placid of consultants. And it won’t take long for you to feel it.

A great Recruiter could be likened to a duck swimming on a lake. On the surface (to clients and candidates) they remain composed, calm and collected. Under the surface the legs are moving at a hundred miles an hour.

Duck Swimming

Spotting Burnout

Spotting burnout is often harder than abating it. Chances are if you’ve felt a lack of enthusiasm, heightened levels of stress and a general lowering of effectiveness, you may be heading straight for it.

You may think the signs are representative of disdain for your job. You might think the stress is part and parcel of working in the industry. Or perhaps you’re unnecessarily taking it out on those closest to you.

As with a lot of things, realising the problem is the first step to solving it.

So here’s how you spot it:

1. Sunday dread

This can be a familiar feeling. Just as you settle into your Sunday evening and start thinking about the week ahead you glance at the clock. 6pm rolls around, and with it the onset of dread. Terrible, foreboding, sinking dread.

As a little life tip, dread is not an emotion you should be familiar with. Worry doesn’t do anything but increase negative and irrelevant emotion.

2. Negativity

Even the most discerning Recruiter should be positive. It’s a career that will chew up and spit out the best of us at times – normally just when you think everything’s coming up roses.

Don’t let negativity creep in as your pre-set outlook on life. The days will become longer and enjoyment will be sapped from even your favourite tasks.

3. Exhaustion

All of us will feel tired at some point in our working lives. Probably every week at one stage or another. If this feeling sets in after a weekend’s full rest (note weekend rest) then you’re not just tired, and exhaustion may be taking over.

If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, then it could be exhaustion, but for different reasons and not just because of work. The solution in this case is easier to implement.

4. No Motivation

Every Recruiter should be motivated to get that next placement. It’s such a meritocratic job that if you can’t see the value of a placement, and therefore money in your bank account, something’s probably awry. 

Whether your motivation is that bulging bank balance, a better life for yourself or simply the warm fuzzy feeling you get knowing you’ve helped a candidate get hired, if yours is hard to find, you need to fix something quickly.

5. Clock Watching

You check your watch, it’s 15:04, a few hours pass… you check again, it’s 15:05.

There’s only one problem if this is you, and it’s nothing to do with the clock. When you’re working in a great company and you’re enjoying life, you’ll be left wondering where the time has gone.

If you’re in this industry and find yourself clock watching, your days are going to be very long.

6. Lack of Concentration

Sometimes a response to overt stress means a narrowing of attention, if this stress becomes overpowering it can seriously affect the ability to concentrate.

What with the buzz of a typical office sales floor, colleagues throwing things at you, phones ringing constantly and email demanding your attention if you’re unable to stay on track, you won’t be getting much accomplished.

7. Self-destructiveness

Whether this is being more argumentative, more disruptive, letting standards slip or not caring as much about negative consequences, you’ll notice a shift in your own attitude.

It’s a tell-tale sign you could be facing burnout. Whilst hard to spot on yourself, those closest to you will undoubtedly let you know. Try to take their comments on board and seek out an answer. They’re only telling you because they care.

Now for the easy part… Doing something about it

There are so many ways of either preventing or combating burnout. The likelihood is, you’ll be reactive to it, rather than proactive.

Spotting you’re burnt out can be tough, but seeing you’re about to be burnt out is even harder. Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle with a good work-life balance can help, but even the most zen of individuals will suffer occasionally.

Woman Kickboxing

Try these 9 tips at the first signs:

1. Be Healthy

This goes beyond not drinking as much. We could probably all be healthier. Working long hours tends to increase the penchant for skipping the gym, or physical exercise. Along with not preparing healthy meals. Exercise and eating healthier helps you feel good.

No matter what your end goal, raising your heart rate from exercise will leave you feeling better. And the positive effects start instantly.

2. Holiday – long enough to relax

There was a time when recruitment and holidays seemed like a paradox. If you’re working for a company who you dread asking for time off, you’re working at the wrong company.

Short breaks are perfect to help break up your month. To really relax though you need long enough to not think about work and acclimatise to rest. Don’t answer work emails, work phone calls or think about work. If you can take a holiday for over a week at a time, do.

I guarantee you won’t lie on your deathbed thinking about that one placement. You may well remember that epic trip you once went on.

3. Regular breaks

Taking a break from your desk is something that’s paramount to your everyday life.  Go for a coffee (or cup of tea if past 14:00), take in some air, go and talk with a colleague about a new idea. Whatever it is, get away from your desk.

They say sitting down all day is the new smoking.

4. Ask for assistance

Perhaps an obvious one, but as you grow in seniority it’s something you’ll do less and less.

If you’re under pressure, asking for help will alleviate it. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Sometimes just vocalising an issue will help you think it through. If you’ve got a great Manager then they should be the first port of call.

Otherwise, try talking to a close friend or family member. Someone outside of the confines of your office may be able to see things more clearly than someone within it.

5. Regular release

This could be knocking seven shades out of a punch bag in the gym, going for a surf, playing an instrument or perhaps meditation? Whatever your release is, make sure you have one.

Its absolutely crucial to have an outlet when your job has a tendency for sometimes being stressful.

6. Realism and Positivity

You can’t win everything. You already know that. But being in recruitment can sometimes feel like you need to. You work so many roles that don’t come to fruition it’s easy to let things get to you. Stay positive. But more importantly be a realist.

Know the things you can change and know the things you can’t!

7. Take control

For the things you can change, do it. Take control of your own destiny wherever possible and be as proactive as possible. It’s amazing how much can be changed with a proactive mindset.

8. Time management

We do a series on Hunted detailing Recruiter hacks and the varying products, apps and technology you can use to save time and make money. We’re not doing this for a marketing exercise.

If you can manage your time more effectively, you’ll seem to have more of it. This means you can fill your spare time with more activities, even if that’s doing nothing. As somebody more wise than I once quipped “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”.

9. Love your job

If you don’t like the company you’re currently in, change it. Working in recruitment offers you a world of possibility. You could explore the world. You could change sector. Look here for live jobs all over the world. You’re in demand from all corners of the globe right now.

You’ll be amazed at the destinations available and different cultures open to you, even if you stay in the same city.