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Let boredom be your inspiration to develop new skills

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve got burnout. I’ve been doing the same job for 10 years. The company is great. My co-workers are great. My boss is great. Everything is great. I should be grateful, but instead, I’m bored and starting to get an attitude. Thoughts on how to get myself back to my happy place? – Todd

DALE: Let’s start with this principle: Boredom is your friend. It means adventure is knocking on the door and you are wise to embrace the opportunities on the other side.

J.T.: It’s true – burnout usually comes from a lack of taking risks. We get comfortable. Too comfortable. We don’t want to stress, struggle or put ourselves in a position of hard work. Your burnout is a case of plateauing in your career. I think you should try to identify a new skill set you want to learn. I’d go to your managers and let them know you are feeling a plateau and need to shake things up to get your edge back. Your management team will likely have some ideas of areas you could focus on. They might even be willing to invest in some education, especially if the new skill level can help the business. You are wise to address this now. Not doing anything about it can be costly. I’ve seen lots of people end up in my program after getting laid off or fired. They admit to having been bored/burnt out for years and realize that ignoring the issue caused them to end up unemployed. So, imagine you lost your job tomorrow. What would you do? That’s a great place to start figuring out what skill to focus on!

DALE: That’s all good, but it assumes enlightened management. However, Todd, if you had a great boss, a 10 percenter, then you wouldn’t be bored because that boss would be finding new, daunting challenges for you, perhaps saying things like, “I have more faith in you than you have in yourself.” Two solutions: One, you can seek out a gifted boss. Two, you can define your own challenges and, in effect, promote yourself, finding projects to experiment with. In other words, identify that new skill set that J.T. was describing by looking for new endeavors at work and see which ones give you a tingle. Then follow the energy.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I just accepted an internship for the summer. Then my dream employer called me for an interview for an internship with them. If I got this internship, what would be the damage to my career if I back out of the other one? – Maddie

J.T.: Backing out of the internship for a different one will essentially blacklist you from ever working at that company in the future. I would be certain the experience and future opportunities are truly there, and if so, then call the company where you were accepted and let them know you need to back out for personal reasons. You don’t have to explain what. Just apologize and say if there is anything you can do to help them backfill your position, you’d be willing to help. You might even want to suggest a few peers from college who you think would do a good job and offer to pass their info along. By showing that you understand the impact of your decision, you show your empathy and character. And, if they are angry and don’t respond, then at least you know you tried to assist. Work and business don’t always have the perfect answer or a happy ending – a good lesson to learn early in your career!

DALE: Yes, you need to nail down the offer for that other internship and then grab it. We would give you the same advice if this were a career job. However, given that it’s an internship, and that J.T. is suggesting a graceful exit, I don’t believe you’ll be permanently frozen out of the first company. When you encounter the folks from that company at professional events, don’t cringe or grovel – they probably won’t even remember the internship issue.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab. Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Fl, New York, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.