The 7 Industries Where People Experience Burnout the Fastest

The 7 Industries Where People Experience Burnout the Fastest

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Burnout isn’t the same for everyone, but there are a few conditions in common that can contribute to it.

As a career coach, I talk about burnout a lot with my clients, most of whom are decision-makers with lots of responsibility in their role. So I like to make sure I have all the latest information about the phenomenon.

Randstad USA, a national recruiting company, surveyed over 2,000 professionals in an annual employee engagement study. The data they gathered indicates the following points can lead to burnout at work:

  • Pressure to be “always on,” and therefore check work emails late at night or on weekends.
  • Expectations to get more done than is possible in the workday.
  • Not making progress in your career.
  • Your boss not appreciating what you do.
  • A lack of staff to do the work.
  • Inadequate pay and benefits.
  • A lack of work-life balance.

Through my work as a career coach, I also know that ambiguous performance expectations, a lousy manager, and even a long commute (especially for moms) are significant stressors at work too.

When you combine these pain points with an already demanding career, you’ll find above-average levels of employee burnout. The following industries are the most likely to be impacted by additional pressure at the workplace.

7 Demanding Career Paths With High Burnout Rates

1. Social work

Social workers typically operate in emotionally stressful environments and often experience secondary traumatic stress. Most are responsible for listening and responding to other people’s traumatic experiences for several hours every day. Some research shows roughly 75% of social workers experience burnout during at least one point in their career.

2. Emergency response

Long hours, a disrupted circadian rhythm, and lack of sleep are the norm for emergency and first responders. Burnout among nurses is also common: One-third of nurses in the U.S. report an emotional score that’s categorized as burnout. Firefighters and police officers face similar long hours and sleep disturbances.

3. Design

Research by Comparably shows that 51% of people in design jobs say they feel burned out. When I’ve worked with professionals in this industry, they tell me it’s sometimes due to unrealistic expectations, changing priorities, and not receiving clear feedback.

4. Business development and sales

The same study by Comparably also reveals that 44% of workers in business development say they’re expected to work while they’re on vacation. That’s a high percentage of professionals with work-life conflicts! Sales-related jobs also require a lot of travel—sometimes up to 75% of their work takes place off-site.

5. Retail

Low compensation is one of the biggest factors that contributes to burnout, especially if it means the staff need to work longer than 40 hours or piece together two or more part-time jobs. Many people who work in retail struggle to make a livable wage and feel undervalued at work. There are also limited opportunities for upward mobility, and getting promoted into a management position often means working a lot of overtime. All these conditions perpetuate a high turnover rate and burnout culture in the retail industry.

6. Medicine

The American Medical Association says almost 50% of physicians experience signs of burnout. However, not all physicians experience burnout at the same rate. Specialists, like cardiologists and oncologists, aren’t as likely to burn out as emergency medical professionals and family physicians.

7. Law and other careers with large workloads

Public accounting and law are also industries where burnout is common because employees are given high workloads and asked to perform complex tasks. Add to the equation a senior position and the risk for burnout increases.

A Final Word of Caution

If you work in one of these industries, make it a priority to build time into your schedule for self-care. Ask for affirmation if you feel like you need more encouragement or guidance from your manager. Let them know if you’re approaching burnout and need their help.

You can also ask a friend or partner to be your accountability partner: Start by making choices that support your overall wellness and work-life balance. Your accountability partner can help you develop momentum and make lasting changes. As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so you need to take care of yourself before you can address any professional obligations.

Here’s the key takeaway: Burnout can happen in any industry. You won’t necessarily prevent it by avoiding certain high-risk sectors. It’s possible to have a friendly organization in any industry, and employees deserve to be energized and connected to their work.

If you’re unhappy in your career, I feel for you. Find a work culture that values your personal time! No matter what industry you choose, you’ll find opportunities that can make your career more fulfilling and meaningful to you.

Written by Rachel Montanez  for Fairygodboss.

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About the Author

Fairygodboss is the largest career community for women, dedicated to helping them achieve their career goals. Fairygodboss is obsessed with improving the workplace for women with crowdsourced reviews, career advice, interview tips and job search strategies.

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