Demetria is a textbook case of a high performer, and dealing with burnout has been a steep learning curve for her. Having double-majored in the humanities with honours while also teaching part-time at her university, she graduated with the sense that she had to find a job that she loved and that outdid her teaching gig. By the time she had graduated, social media marketing had become a viable profession, and it was a field that she wanted to explore.
“I really wanted to get out of teaching and get into [social media]. That situation created a sense of urgency in that I felt like I didn’t really have any career options,” she says. “As a result, I decided I would take every opportunity that came my way. I think when a lot of people first get out of school and don’t find a job that’s perfect, they overload themselves with side-projects, volunteering, and all sorts of stuff like that.”
She talked her way into a public relations position with a technology startup while running events for the community on the side. Being a humanities graduate, she lacked familiarity with the industry even though she was passionate about her vocation. She says her employers seemed confident in her abilities to do the job, but her lack of confidence in herself drove her to take on any task she could. On top of her job, she began studying web development to gain a better understanding of her company’s work.
Then, the startup shut down, leaving her looking for a job once more. Demetria quickly filled the void it left in her schedule. She kept running the community event she had started. On top of that, she would go on to work in a music company, doing social media and hosting concerts and events late into the night. She also picked up freelance blogging gigs.
“As a result of that company closing down, I fell back into that same panic of wanting to stay relevant,” she says.
This is when Demetria began to feel her burnout. Her job was taking up every hour of her day, and because of the nature of social media, she always had to be plugged in. She says this was when she began to feel exhausted.
Despite the fact that her job went beyond the typical 9–5 in addition to side projects—and the fact that she was physically beginning to feel the burnout—she says she would feel guilty when she wasn’t working or producing, as though that was time being wasted.
“If you’ve ever worked in a situation where you’re busy all the time, as much as you might feel you need a break or you’re deserving of a break, once you actually have it, you start to feel really guilty,” she says. “And, it’s really hard to turn down the speed.”
Demetria says what matters in the world of marketing is that you keep up the illusion that everything is going smoothly. Getting things done on deadlines takes priority over personal health and development.
“Marketing, I think more than any other industry that I’ve seen, is really starting to value crunch. They have such a low tolerance for people complaining, people putting themselves first … But there really is this value that being worked to your max is the best way to be. Marketing seems to really fetishize people who can do that and look awake, be presentable, and dress well. If you can keep the whole illusion going, you’re considered a really clever, good worker, and that’s a dangerous thing.”
Demetria now works at an independent video game developer with an entirely different workplace culture. Part of the learning curve for her is giving herself permission to relax and enjoy time while she is not working. She says that is something she is practising and getting used to.