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What Your Vacation is Telling You About Your Job

Summer is vacation season. Though the lines between work and the rest of life have blurred for many, summer is a time for a break, a rest, a sabbatical.

The end of summer, however, often brings about new realizations about our relationship with work. For many, the end of summer is the “Oh no, my job sucks” season.

As we spend time away in a new setting, we may return and see our work differently. In this post we ask: “What is your vacation telling you about your job?”

Reflecting on my own vacations, here are four possible answers to that question:

potential answers

  1. "Nothing": Sometimes, we learn nothing about our jobs on vacation because we never left our jobs on vacation. A few summers ago, we had a crisis at our firm and I spent the better part of our summer trip working to get out ahead of it. It wasn’t a vacation–I was just working from a different place.

  2. "You Can't Wait to Go Back": There have been years when I could not wait to get back to work. Right before the trip, I could not wait to get away. But a good vacation–with fun, connection, learning, and rest, gets me to a point of restlessness about getting back to work. I want to return and tackle the next season. Leaving a vacation with this clear enthusiasm is generally a sign I am confidently in the right role and place in terms of my work and career.

  3. "You're Not Ready to Go Back": A third reaction is, “I’m not ready to go back.” There were several causes of this feeling for me. 1) A truncated break. I did not budget enough time away. The root cause: I had failed to engineer enough of a true respite from my daily responsibilities and tasks. The rush back to work was caused by a lack of delegation and planning. 2) An exhausting vacation. For our family this is characterized by spending so much time with others socially. The net result is not enough hours where we felt like we were truly “off.” What’s the job-related message in this reaction? It’s not that I hate my job. It’s that actually did a poor job preparing for and or planning my vacation.

  4. "You Dread Going Back": A final reaction is dreading going back. Toward the end of vacation, the anxiety rises, the sleep disappears, and the grumpy comes out. This is a tell tale sign that something is off. It doesn’t always mean we need to change jobs or careers, but it is an indicator that something needs to change. Possibilities include:

    • The “why” that is driving us at work. Is the work a means to an end? Do you work just for the paycheck? Is work your source of self-gratification? Why do you work?

    • The way we approach our work–how we organize it, the relationships we try to manage, and the assignments we agree to. Do you approach it with a mindset of service? Do you think about how your role is a chance for you to solve a problem for someone else?

    • The place we work. Sometimes we need to move on but are afraid to move on.

wisdom for the back to work blues

Every September, clients that can’t imagine going back to business as usual after vacation reach out to us for coaching.

With each, we carefully walk through a process to help them closely understand what’s causing their discontent, and their options for action. Whether it’s making meaningful changes to their current situation or looking for a new role, we assist clients in finding the right solution for them.

If you’re experiencing the Back to Work Blues and are feeling distracted, dissatisfied, or your productivity is dropping, you aren’t alone. Sometimes, it takes the time away to recognize the realities of work life that need to change.

What is your vacation telling you about your job? How are you going to respond?


Need help working through the Back to Work Blues? Realizing that it might be time to look for something new, but don't know where to start? Start your journey towards securing better work today with a free consultation call with a VOCA certified coach.

For more, listen to "Dilemma 3: Should I Quit My Job?" on the Resilient Faith at Work podcast. Listen now on: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify


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