Australian Millennials Are Sharing Their Stories Of Burnout — This Is Their Advice To Those Who Feel The Same And Need A Change Of Career
"My dad came from a third world country and stressed the importance of education. I took his advice, but it ended up being the wrong decision. I don't blame him because he couldn't predict how oversaturated degrees would be."
Burnout is a state of extreme mental and physical exhaustion that can often occur in relation to one's job. You might have felt it — that overwhelming exhaustion, that detachment from your work and the sense that you're no longer accomplishing things.
It's something that a lot of millennials have felt, particularly since COVID-19 forced many of us to revaluate our jobs, passions and what we really want to do — which isn't an easy question to answer.
Compounded by the general doom and gloom we've been experiencing for the better part of two years, as well as the huge shakeup of the job market, it's left many young Australians feeling lost and confused when it comes to their career aspirations.
Take Reddit user u/1yuan — a 28-year-old Australian who is exhausted by the last four years. They've worked three different jobs and have come to the realisation that they have no idea what they're doing.
"I don't have transferable skills or any motivation at all to study or whatnot. I'm just existing and it's not really doing much for me anymore."
Feeling "totally fucking lost" with their job search, they asked people who had been in a similar situation to share their stories and their plans for what to do next. Here are some of the top-voted responses — some are filled with hope and advice, while others are bleak, but honest.
Content warning: This post discusses mental health issues, suicidal thoughts and sexual harassment.
1. "Everyone told me how important education is and how great engineering is for the world, so I studied chemical engineering. I graduated with honours a few years ago and thought everything was going to be great, but the only thing it left me was a big HECS debt."
"I've never, ever been considered for any engineering roles in Australia despite my degree. This is after having done a year of a graduate program in Singapore before coming back because honestly, I loved the lifestyle in Australia more and thought I wouldn't have any problems finding a job after some experience.
I applied to thousands of engineering graduate and entry levels, but never ever heard anything back. A few years after I graduated, they told me I am too old for any graduate roles.
For the first time in my career, I got a bit of luck. I just started my role as a sales engineer for a small company last week. The pay is standard, but I finally got a little bit of something for me in my life."
2. "I'm 24, have a diploma, but I'm stuck in a dead end job that isn’t intellectually stimulating. I got a promotion to do a managerial role a few days a week for a little bit, but it’s basically more stress for only a few extra dollars an hour."
"I want to go to uni next year and I won't graduate until I'm in my late 20s, which makes me feel as if I've wasted some of my years by just working and not studying. I want a career, not a job. I was going to go into social work, but the emotional toll it takes is real after doing related industry work for a few years."
3. "I'm 34 and just got rejected on another job. I normally run my own business, but COVID-19 has killed all the work for the foreseeable future, so I'm trying to find other jobs and I need a change."
"No matter what I do, I keep getting rejected. I impress during the interview, become the interviewer's best mate for five minutes, then never hear a word back. People can say 'there is plenty of work out there if you're willing' and carry on about how companies are desperate for good workers. But here I am, ready and willing....yet not even a single reply.
I honestly feel hopeless at this point."
4. "I'm 27. I had a bunch of casual jobs and tried university, but really struggled with it. Then there was three and a half years of being unemployed and struggling to find any work. Then, when I did find work I could sustain, I was still hating it. I kind of hit a wall with the amount of hours I worked, had a bunch of health problems I couldn't afford to get diagnosed and didn't really have any career progression opportunities."
"Last year, because of the COVID-19 supplement, I was finally able to afford to see a psychiatrist. It turns out I've had ADHD my whole life and after starting medication for that, I was able to work longer shifts and pick up some more responsibilities at work, but definitely still had major barriers.
Now, a year and a half later and after grinding on with that same cleaning job all throughout COVID-19, I hit a wall with financial and work stress, physical fatigue, and just insurmountable depression. Being medicated for ADHD at least helped me not lose the job, which had happened at similar points in the past, and also kept me focused enough to realise this was a pretty cyclical experience.
I'm not expecting that my bipolar diagnosis and therapy is going to magically fix everything, but it's another piece of the puzzle. I'm trying new things with the few passions I've clung on to and just staying open to the possibilities there. I might be able to turn something into a career there, or just have a more consistent side gig. I'm trying to push for changes in my job to at least reduce burnout and develop new skills. I don't know where I'm going, but at least figuring yourself out is a good goal. Even if I'm stuck at a similar level of income for the rest of my life, I'll at least know what to prioritise outside of that or be able to work on getting a job I get more out of."
5. "I have a Bachelor's Degree backing me, but I don't really see a future for myself in this industry. I'm just existing like you are. I'm too scared to step out of my comfort zone and I have no passion for the job."
"I'm tossing up between moving into the construction industry or just redoing my career and moving into medicine. It’ll be a long road ahead and being as burnt out as I am, I'm honestly pretty lost.
On another note, my partner was stuck in a rut in retail for years and landed a job in quality assurance and he is absolutely flourishing. He's made assistant manager in the eight months he’s been there and I cannot be more proud.
It might be just be a stroke of luck that you find a job that you'll enjoy and grow in. Or maybe you just need to do more research in what career direction you want to take and make the steps to get the qualifications that will get you there. But I can tell you that having a degree behind you isn’t an end all and I'm pretty unhappy even with the degree."
6. "In 2019, I was progressing really nicely and relatively quickly in my career and I was enjoying it. After these past two years though, I don't even know if I want to do this job anymore and I have no desire to get a higher position with significantly more pay because I simply don't want the responsibility."
7. "I came from a very small town, worked a trade there that was so nasty it lead me to have massive, ongoing issues with depression. I vowed never to work in that industry again and then went and worked in a BWS bottle-shop. Due to the very insular nature of that place and the lack of opportunities, I languished there for 10 years. Some of it was related to...being too depressed, burnt out and dare I say it, bitter for the circumstances I'd landed myself in."
"At the beginning of the year, I put out my resume and applied to work in my old trade — just to get a feel for what was out there and if there was a possibility of full-time work or maybe a career. I was skeptical because of the 10 year gap I had in my trade. I submitted by resume with the encouragement of my partner on Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, I was receiving dozens of calls and emails.
I looked around at a few different options and chose to work for a larger company, to be a smaller cog in the wheel for awhile as I found my feet. After eight months, I've been promoted and now have a team of people behind me. They rely on me, I do a really good job and I work fucking hard — but it's noticed, seen and appreciated for the first time in my life. I honestly love going to work and doing what I do.
A few years earlier, I nearly ended my life on multiple occasions, feeling so trapped by my circumstances and past. I never would have imagined that I'd feel like this. Take the chance I did and put yourself out there."
8. "Been a driller, builder, scaffolder, dump truck driver and currently, I'm a garbo. I'm 28 and can see myself progressing in this field more so than other. I always dreamt of becoming a psychologist or a counsellor, but that might just be a daydream."
"I also hate working and would love nothing more than to live in the middle of nowhere in a cob house, growing my own fruit and veg and never having to see another cunt ever again. Hope you are happy, mate. That's all we can really strive for."
9. "I'm 22 and an absolute flop when it comes to figuring out what I want to do with my future. I always thought I wanted to be an academic, but I ended up flunking my end of year exams (I smoked way too much pot and never studied). From then, I had the choice of getting into a shit university, getting an apprenticeship and working my ass off or smoking pot for awhile longer (can you guess what I did?)."
"After being in a dead end job for four years (Bunnings), I had a chat with some of my apprentice mates and they said the only people getting jobs are the ones that have gotten through their pre-apprenticeship. I decided to eat my own pride and go to class for six months. I got recommended to a company through the pre-app lecturers, applied and got in after my first interview."
10. "27 here. After finishing high school, I pretty much bummed around for 10 years (I had part-time jobs here and there and tried going back to university, but it didn't work out)."
"Fast forward to the start of this year, I got myself an apprenticeship which I really enjoy and now I feel like my life is actually going in the right direction. I live with my parents at the moment, so my next plan is to buy my own place."
11. "I'm about two months away from being 30. I tried to do everything the traditional way. My dad came from a third world country and stressed the importance of education. I took his advice but it ended up being the wrong decision. I don't blame him because he couldn't predict how oversaturated degrees would be."
"Anyway, I have a $40K HECS debt and I never got a job in my field. I became a lab tech, but was treated like shit everyday by the operations manager. I went to a retail job and that was tolerable for a few years until COVID-19 cooked it.
At this point, I'm so disillusioned when it comes to working under people. Two failed long-term relationships (amicable), constantly saving for a house I could never afford, working for and dealing with terrible people — I'm pretty done with it all.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know I will not be growing up. I spent my entire 20s doing that (combined with a couple years I had to deal with some pretty bad depression) and still lost out. Here is to acting how I should have in my 20s through my 30s. Let's enjoy the ride, mate, and hopefully the world will tear itself apart around us."
12. "I was kicked out of school because I had a disability. The local newspaper took me on and promised me a cadetship, but they got bought out so that fell through. The 2010s happened — web 2.0 tore the industry apart. Outlets decided that instead of training new reporters, their people now had to learn journalism at university."
"I spent three years studying something I already knew how to do and passed with flying colours. I ragequit media and went into marketing around the time they started actually charging kids upwards of $2000 for an unpaid internship with no job at the end of it. Anyway, that quickly became just as predatory. I talked my way into a salaried editing job that underpaid and bullied me, then quit when they started badmouthing me to people in the industry. This was when COVID-19 happened.
So now, I'm applying for literally everything in reasonable distance from my place (I do have a disability and commuting is tough). This year, I've gotten qualifications in disability care, first aid and forklift driving because I heard they were desperate for people. Then, when I started signing up, it turned out everyone had enough people."
13. "26 and not entirely sure what I want to do in the future, but during lockdown I sort of came to an epiphany that I needed some skills that will allow me to move outside of government work. So, I enrolled in a uni course that will help me develop some transferable skills and also somehow managed to get a job that will allow me to build on those skills over the next year."
"But my dream has always been to live overseas for a few years before I'm 30, so late next year that's what I'm gonna do. I can put all my effort into a career during my 30s, but during my 20s, I want some good experiences (and we've basically had two years of that taken away during COVID-19). I'm happy to work in a hostel or a bar, I don't really care at this point."
14. "No need to compare yourself or say 'I need to be here because I'm at X age'. Just do whatever — if you find an interest, go do it. If you get bored in a month, a year, etc. — that's fine. Just keep doing things! This is my number one advice to everyone who feels like shit in their 20s."
"The comparison game is a mental health black hole. Just don't do it. It's fucking hard, but just don't. Don't have expectations for yourself. Maybe some dickheads continue to compare who’s 'ahead' past that age, but the rest of us have seen people older, smarter and better than us having a major career or life change for no reason other than 'that’s life' and it becomes totally normal.
I was diagnosed with a chronic illness at 18 and was at uni twice as long as all my friends. My first full-time job was around 28 (when I also returned back to live with my parents for two years). My friends from uni were several promotions into their careers and I was entry-level everything. I’m still 'behind' on paper, I guess, but people's lives start to diverge from the basic track from 30s onwards and it becomes harder to compare due to life experiences and people caring less.
Just keep trying stuff until you find something that you’re not dragging your feet to every morning. Good luck, it will happen!"
15. "I'm 24 and worked my ass off in high school to get accepted into my dream degree. During university, I was burnt out and socially isolated. My mental health plummeted and eventually, I started hating said degree. All this was happening while I was living in poverty on Youth Allowance. I ended up dropping out before my final year and moving home."
"After 18 months of unemployment, I’m now working in a lower band admin job (having come from limited Christmas casual retail experience). On my CV, I just explained I was looking for a career change and was interested in admin work. Thankfully (as someone with social anxiety), there was no formal interview and it was just a meet/greet before the formal offer.
It's not what I thought I'd be doing with my life or an overly 'fun' job. But it is easy, pays pretty good and I don’t have to think about/stress over work when I’m not there."
16. "I'll weigh in, even though I'm 34. I'm exactly like you, just aimlessly existing with no direction — stuck between wanting 'more' for my career and thinking that’s a waste of time because life is for living. Work should just pay the bills, not be your entire identity. But I still want to feel kind of fulfilled by work and not feel like it’s completely meaningless."
"I have a Masters in Teaching, but right now I clean toilets for a living. I never want to work in teaching again — I still have lingering depression and anxiety from that job, which holds me back from even considering working in a related field. Since then, I’ve worked a string of hospitality jobs, did a stint working at the front desk at a museum, back to hospitality, now I’m a housekeeper at a caravan park.
My partner and I decided to travel the country because we realised we'd never afford a house and we are happier being out in the bush with no expectations from society. We went from Melbourne to Fremantle, spent three years working there, then took three months off to travel. We worked a few months in Karratha, had a cunt of a boss and decided to come to Port Hedland. After cyclone season, we'll head to Broome or Darwin and try our luck.
Life is full of uncertainty and I'm anxious wherever I go, so I may as well be somewhere pretty."
17. "I was pressured to go to university right out of high school by my family. I didn't really think about what I wanted to be or what career path I wanted. At the time, I just wanted to play video games and get over being dumped by my first major girlfriend. I graduated university with a BSC double major, but it took me an extra year because massive depression struck my second year and I failed three courses."
"At that point, I didn't know what I wanted to do — except I didn't want to work in mining/fossil fuels (the only things my BSC really set me up for). I realise now that I could have gone into banking with my mathematics, but I had no guidance. Coupled with my lack of motivation and residual depression, I just fell into an honours project with a lecturer I hated.
I had no one else who was around and able to guide me, ended up in hospital from stress-related illness and anxiety attacks. This ended up with me having to drop out of honours.
It took me nine months of self-reflection and therapy to be ready to think about finishing it. I went back, talked with the overall supervisor and explained my situation. He was very understanding and said he'd find another supervisor for me in a few weeks. He died of cancer two weeks later. I un-enrolled myself.
I was 24 by now and decided to just randomly apply for jobs anywhere. I ended up getting a job working in Solar Farm development and construction. Within nine months, 15 of the 20 amazing, driven, wonderful people who welcomed my gawky, uncouth ass into their workplace had all quit because the overseas management fired a few key people and the rest left in protest.
I didn't know it then, but I should have quit. I was scared shitless, that if I quit in my first year at my first job, I would be unemployable. So, I stuck it out. I didn't want to be in my particular field, but management kept promising to make me permanent and help me develop those skills.
So by now, we're in mid-2020 and I hate my job, I hate my career (I didn't want that anyway) and I hate myself for landing there. I managed to save the company from being closed by working 20 hour days, 7 day weeks (no paid overtime, no time in lieu) and I don't even get the permanent position I've been promised for years.
At this point, I felt basically worthless and basically useless, so I clung onto this job, crying every day from stress because I needed to pay bills and I needed to save money for a house one day. What caused me to quit was seeing a senior director harass a female employee in public by taking her phone and rubbing it on his crotch.
I started studying again [and my motivation was] that 'If I don't find something that interests me, I'll probably kill myself'. So who cares if it's high earning, or whatever. If you have a passion, follow it. If it leads to a job, great. If it doesn't, at least you've followed your passion. And at least you won't feel like I did, if you're doing something that makes you happy.
When I quit, I was ready to stack shelves at Coles to make ends meet. Sometimes, the best thing to do is something different."
Note: Some Reddit responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.