By Alexandra Blanc
You read that right.
A year into my career at a Big Four consulting firm, I went through a bad burnout. Shocker. While the competitive and fast paced nature of my job pushed me to work harder, faster, better every day, that wasn’t the only factor that led me to burnout. I did. Again, shocker. Like most folks my age entering a competitive job market, I was excited, eager even, to start my career, give it all I had, but most importantly, prove to myself I deserved to be there.
A key fact to keep in mind: however stressful, grueling, or exhausting your job is, if you employer offers vacation days (spoiler: they all do), they’re meant to be taken. If anyone ever says anything about your taking them, tell them you’ll think about it while sipping coconut water somewhere on a beach in Mexico.
Employers don’t just offer vacation days because they are legally obligated to. They realize that without them, or without your taking them, you become effectively useless.
Now you may be sitting here, reading this, thinking to yourself proudly that you’ve never, or barely, ever taken vacation days and you’re doing just fine. Maybe the reason you have never, or don’t think you should, is because you are a critical asset to your team, and without you everything will likely fall apart. You may very well be.
However, that won’t stop your team from surviving without you.
After my first year and a bad burnout, I returned to work after the holidays. As I picked up where I left off, I realized I had mostly lost any sort of motivation or envy to do my best work. I was mentally drained. I went to my supervisor and, (mostly) unafraid, announced I was taking two weeks off the following month. His response? “No, you can’t. I need you here.”
As flattering as that was, that wasn’t going to change the fact I reached the end of the rope and needed time off. I realized something important: I was like a kidney. Yes. Just like a kidney, I was important but not critical to the survival of the team. They would be fine without me. It would be harder, maybe a bit more painful, but ultimately, they would be fine. It was an important realization. My ego took a backseat to let my mental health take center stage.
I packed up and took off the following month, conveniently leaving work laptop and cell phone in the United States. I came back two weeks later, rested, and re-centered. I made my way to the office the following Monday and guess what happened next? Everything was fine. Groundbreaking. I picked up right where I left off. I felt re-energized, ready to get back to work, and deliver the quality work I once delivered. I now take a couple days off every so often to make sure I operated at my highest potential.
If you want to be invaluable to your company, take your vacation days. The hard truth I learned during this experiment is that we are very replaceable. The minute you burn out there’s a fresh new analyst waiting to take your spot.
No one will ever look at you and say “oh, you look tired, you should take your vacation days”. That’s not to say your company doesn’t care about you, but it’s hard to keep track of all your employees and know who is taking care of themselves and who isn’t.
If you learn to preserve yourself, rest, recalibrate, balance work and life, you will become the strongest asset your firm has. By learning to take care of yourself first, you are taking care of their most important asset: you. Firms invest in us. They recruit us, train us, make sure we are client ready and fully operational. Your job is to bring 100% of your capacities every work day. You can only do that if you take care of yourself.
If some days you need to come in at 9 and leave at 5, then do it. If some days you need to work from home because the thought of putting on pants that morning gives you a small panic attack, do it. No one will ever blame you for taking care of yourself.
About the author:
Alexandra Blanc completed her undergraduate degree in Business Administration at the George Washington University in the Fall of 2015, as well as her Graduate degree in Information Systems Technology Management in the Spring of 2016. Upon graduation, Alexandra started her career in IT Consulting at Deloitte to acquire the tools and experience to then create a Tech Startup oriented towards social entrepreneurship.
Alexandra has had the opportunity to grow up in Sao Paulo, New York, Paris and Brasilia. Through the years her interest in computers and technology has grown stronger, leading her to pursuing a career in Technology. She has a special interest in new and emerging technologies and how they affect and aid development in emerging economies.
Enjoy this article? You can learn more about Alexandra and her work here.