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Are you in Burnout? 10 Important Questions and Answers

Bored? Have no work to do? Fear you’re going to be fired?

The title of this blog post won’t make any sense to people who lived outside of Calgary.

But if you live in Calgary, even if you don’t work in the oil industry, you get it. If it’s not you that has no work to do, then someone you talked to earlier today is in this situation. There is little to no work for people to do in the oil industry. Things look pretty bleak here at the moment.   

Someone explained the irony of the situation to me the other day. People who haven’t been laid off yet, but know that their companies are hurting, haven’t received a severance package. Instead, they’re continuing to go to work every day. When you think about it, the reward for continuing to have a job is that your company hasn’t paid you out.

One fellow said that he expects his company to go under. He said he won’t receive a severance package because he’ll be one of the last people out the door. His reward for working until the final days of the firm will be to not receive any severance.

So what can you do if you have no work on your desk to do and don’t see any coming down the pipe? Your lack of work is real. Your boss has said that there’s no work for you to do and has asked you to just “Wait.”

To begin, I will suggest that you accept the situation as it is. Let go of your anxiety about not performing. There’s nothing you can do about the company having nothing for you to do at the moment.

If you have no work to do, you’re likely considered quitting, just to make the situation end. You might want to do this if you have the travel bug. Now is the time, in fact. Go for it. Buy that one-way ticket and have the experience of a life time.

For the rest of the people in this situation, however, continuing to go to work every day makes a lot of sense. If you anticipate being fired, pare down your expenses if you need to and stock pile as much money as you can. You’ll appreciate being the ant, rather than the grasshopper, if the day arrives and you are let go.

It likely won’t surprise you that I suggest you also get your resume ready. I expect the majority of people in the oil industry have already done this. But is your resume ready to be shopped around outside the oil industry? Will it be attractive to other industries?

Writing a resume that removes most or all references to the oil industry is a skill that requires substantial effort. I anticipate you’re in for about 50 hours or work if you’re going to do a good job of it. It’s also going to take a fair amount of time spread over weeks and possibly months, because about 30 of those hours will be required to (slowly) find “just the right sentence” and then “just the right word” as you finesse your resume.

And once you have your resume ready? Start doing what everyone else is doing. Go for coffee with people outside of the oil industry so that you can get the lay of the land. Don’t take my word for this because what I’m about to say hasn’t been confirmed, but I heard a woman today say that her daughter is interviewing for a government job in Victoria after having moved there only two weeks ago. The woman said, “There’s jobs in Victoria.”

Now, I don’t know if there are jobs in Victoria or not, but I do believe there are more jobs outside of Calgary than there are in this city right now. So consider leaving the city. Seriously. You have the time on your hands right now at work, so really think what it would take to make you leave the city. For a significant number of people, that time may be here, if only for a few years, until the oil industry recovers.

Getting a handle on your financial situation is another good idea. Take a good look at all the financial demands that are going to hit you over the next five years. Does your house need a new roof? A new furnace? Will your children head off to university?

Creating a longer-term financial plan is a great idea because it will allow you to be firmly grounded in reality, rather than swirling around in your brain with fears that may – or may not – be real. Even if the fears turn out to be real, you’ll be a much better situation if you can anticipate what’s coming before it happens.

What next? Well, it’s not a bad idea to look at the very worst scenario you can imagine and to plan for it. A situation like both you and your spouse simultaneously losing your jobs. What will you do? Where will you live? Will you have to change cities? What cities will make the short list? What will you do with your house? With your mortgage?

Why would I suggest that you go into the worst case scenario? Because if you can imagine the worst case possible, and have planned for it, then you can let go of your anxiety. With a plan for the worst case in place you will know you will be okay. The plan might not be pretty. You might have to work past the age that you expected to retire, for example, but you’ll be okay.

And once you’ve done all the things I’ve suggested, it if makes sense, then come up with a satisfying project to do and execute it at your desk. Always wanted to start an MBA? Now’s a good time to start taking courses because you have plenty of time to read, and to write term papers, at your desk. If an MBA is too ambitious, you might want to take a finance course so that you will be able to read financial statements with more understanding when things pick up again.

Also, see if you can turn this period in your professional life into a time that you can enjoy. This might sound strange, but I promise you that you will likely find yourself employed, with more demands on your time than you can meet, in the not too distant future. And if you’re not careful, you may find yourself wishing that you had played more while you had the chance.

Have banked vacation time? Consider taking it. Have no money to spend on a vacation? They consider staying home and plan fun things to do in the city.

Dr. Patricia Turner, PhD, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta

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Are you in Burnout? 10 Important Questions and Answers
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