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Me

I'm having a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning and going to work. When I started, I would show up 15-20 minutes early and be really excited. When I had my midyear review, they told me I was a "superstar". This really concerned me because I'm of the mindset that you should be challenged by other people on your team. Our team has been together for about a year and I'm finding that many of the people who started with me are quitting and getting new jobs for more money, etc.

The Company

There's been a few strange things that have happened. A new manager was hired and he selected one of our peers as the mini-manager. This is kind of an unusual relationship because neither of them are able to directly manage me due to a preexisting agreement with our client. There was a period of about 2 1/2 months where no one from the company included me in any meetings. I work with the client in their office (different location from everyone else), it's a contracted position.

The Client

The client, this is an academic research setting, has continued to try and persuade me to get a PhD in things that I find irrelevant to data science such as public policy. The clients work environment is stressful for me because I find that we're continually trying to solve problems that have generally well established solutions. We are then forced to try and implement these solutions from scratch, it's in a secure environment, in things like Visual Basic using Microsoft Excel. This reality has made me question my life choices.

Burnout and Change

Today I took the day off from work because I couldn't bring myself to get out of bed this morning. Last night, I went directly to bed too. My burnout is becoming evident to my coworkers so it looks like a discussion needs to happen.

I've switched jobs about once a year since I left school (3 years ago). I really don't want to get into another situation where I feel burnt out. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks!

  • You say that "Last night, I went directly to bed too." So you came home from work and went straight to bed? How many hours are you working? – David K Oct 6 '15 at 15:12
  • Work is 8hrs a day but then I'll usually study at night and on the weekends – Tyler Oct 6 '15 at 15:15
  • "it looks like a discussion needs to happen" That can be an energy drain, but I would not immediately conclude that it is a burnout. – Jan Doggen Oct 6 '15 at 15:35
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    You should talk with your doctor about possible reasons for these feelings. It could be depression, or it could be something else. Don't be afraid if it's something scary sounding like bi-polar (period of manic highs, and deep lows). You can channel these things. – Bill Leeper Oct 6 '15 at 15:46
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    Personally I think a PhD in public policy would be very useful for a data scientist who works in the public arena. Understanding why they want what they want helps you to better provide it. – HLGEM Oct 6 '15 at 17:18
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I know this isn't answering your question, or rather it's answering it in a way you specifically asked us not to answer... but have you considered a new job?

I know, I know, you said without looking for a new job - and it does have inherent risks if you're switching jobs too often, but it sounds like you're switching between jobs you don't really care about, doing things you're not really interested in.

Perhaps start looking for a job you actually enjoy, have an interest in, and can take some value from yourself. Don't rush it, don't set a deadline, but look out for something you actually want to do. Work stops feeling as much like work if you roll out of bed, drive 5 minutes to a job nearby, do something fulfilling, then go home on time... I've literally just made this change, and it's much more enjoyable, even though there was nothing particularly wrong with the old job.

In the meantime, talk to your manager - carefully. Explain (calmly and objectively) what your problems are. Make sure you understand beforehand exactly what your problems are and what you'd like to happen. It's a slightly tricky conversation to have, as you'll want to avoid coming across as a flight risk, but in general it's better to have an open discussion. Perhaps you want to work flexible hours, work from home occasionally, be extracted from your current embedded assignment with the client, or just have some time on other projects doing more interesting things.

The important thing is not to let it remain an issue: the last thing you want is to hang on with the situation getting worse and worse, missing time off work and risking disciplinary issues. Losing a job after 15 months is worse than voluntarily leaving one after 12! Especially if it gives you a negative reputation in your industry.

You may also want to consider some counselling, as it sounds like you're feeling isolated and perhaps a little depressed. That's not necessarily a big deal, but sometimes it helps to work out whether work is affecting your personal life, or your personal life is affecting work.

  • +1 for "start looking for a job you actually enjoy" - you'd be surprised how many people out there don't grasp that work can be enjoyable (obviously, there will always be some frustration from time to time, but then the same can be said of any enjoyable activity like gaming and sports). 3 years of 3 similar jobs yielding similar outcomes indicate a new career path is needed. – HorusKol Oct 7 '15 at 1:21
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If you are burned out on a third job in three years, something else is wrong. Above all else you need to find out what it is and fix it because you are on the cusp of being considered a job hopper and that will limit your future prospects.

First, get immediately to a doctor as what you describe sounds a good deal like depression instead of burnout. Also consider taking a vacation and getting completely away from studying and work.

If you a having trouble with feeling burned out, then drop the studying as well. You should be working (including studying) no more than the normal 40 hours until you recover. You need to do something with your off time that is in no way related to work. Try exercise as well. Feeling better physically will make it easier to keep going at work.

Next, you need to give some thought as to exactly what you expect out of the work world. Having picked 3 bad jobs in a row says a lot about your judgement and by now you should have learned to do a better job at picking a company that has what you want.

Next, you need to learn how to live in the work world where everything is not exciting or interesting every single day. That should not be stressing you out. It is ordinary and expected. This is not to say that there shouldn't be interesting work but that no job sustains that level day in and day out. All jobs have irritating and uninteresting things that need to be done.

As far as implementing solutions that already have been solved, well honestly in the business world, most things have already been solved in a basic form, it is the nuances that differ from place to place. Using old tech is something that should not have been a surprise to you if you asked the right questions in the interview.

But really in data science, the tech is almost irrelevant, what is important is the mindset of understanding the underlying meaning behind the data. It's like a novelist and a typewriter. Sure the typewriter is necessary but is is the imagination of the writer that is the critical factor. So stop stressing over the unimportant and start looking for the positive.

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    I burned out on 2 jobs in 3 years: when young and starting your career it's quite easy to do. You're not usually being paid enough, for a start, so you tend to struggle with your personal life and it makes work seem like...well...work. You're also more likely to be given the fairly basic tasks to complete, and it can get relatively dull compared to roles later on. Especially for someone just out of education (where there's something new every week). – Jon Story Oct 6 '15 at 19:32
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    I wish I could highlight this part in bright yellow background: you need to learn how to live in the work world where everything is not exciting or interesting every single day. That should not be stressing you out. It is ordinary and expected. I wonder if part of the problem is that the OP is ~25 and therefore has grown up with electronic amusement available at arm's reach 24/7. – shoover Oct 19 '15 at 22:57
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Watch out that you don't get too caught up in your own expertise.

Understanding business needs is a very important aspect to the work of a data scientist. What are you modeling for and why, which business expectations generally arise in your market and how do you best confirm or deny them. If you know the general assumptions, it's easier to find the right emphasis in the things you want to share.

I would strongly suggest you take up the suggested course, and try to make the best of it. It will prove to be valuable and might give you a chance to clear your head. The last thing you need right now is a fourth company and a corresponding burnout.

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