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“Burn·out (bûrn-out): exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration b : a person suffering from burnout”

That’s according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, but we tend to describe job burnout differently. “I hate going to work everyday, my co-workers tick me off, and I do all this crap for a skimpy paycheck,” just about sums it up. Sound familiar? The dictionary basically names stress as the root cause, but when job burnout occurs, it actually means that your work is no longer meaningful to you. But what really causes you to dread heading to your job everyday, and what can you do about it? Check out these common problems and you might soon be on your way to time clock bliss.


Self-worth You feel that you are worth more than what your paycheck says you are, or you believe you are overqualified and underpaid.

Pam Sackenheim, professor of human relations at Miami University, says to “evaluate where you are in your career and be realistic.” If you are just starting off in your field, keep in mind you are a beginner. Also, think about where you are in your career life cycle. As you climb up the company ladder, your pay will climb also. Remember, we like to think highly of ourselves, and confidence is important, but if you were meant to be paid like Bill Gates, you would have invented Windows®.
Comparison to co-workers/friends Friends and co-workers talk, but problems can arise when salaries are brought up.
It’s taboo to talk about how much you earn with your buddies, and often a company “no-no” to discuss pay rates with other employees. Save yourself (and everyone else) the stress and just don’t talk about it.
Local job market In comparison to other jobs, you think your compensation seems a little on the low side. If you feel that you aren’t being paid a fair wage, Sackenheim suggests checking the local job market. Job hunting sites usually offer comparisons for what others are earning in your area, and the Census Bureau offers information as well. Be sure to check all factors – compensation is just not your hourly pay. It also includes health benefits, 401Ks, vacation time, disability and much more. Weigh out the differences – you might be surprised to see you’re still on top.


Lack of praise from superiors We like to hear, “Good job on that project,” but when our boss doesn’t seem to notice, it can make us think we really didn’t do a good job.
“Ask your superior how you are doing,” says Sackenheim. A lot of companies offer the “open-door” policy, so utilize it. You will feel better about where you are in the company, and it can even improve your relationship with your supervisor.
Personal need Simply just that – we feel an overpowering need to be praised for a job well done.
To this, Sackenheim simply says to have self-confidence. How does that old saying go? “You must first love yourself…”


When your job becomes meaningless, so does your attitude.
Try to stay positive and kick those negative habits. You’ll find yourself in a happier place and others will find you a joy to be around.
Problems outside the workplace Issues with family, spouses, and friends can all affect your life at work. As hard as it seems, Sackenheim tells us to leave them at the front door. Avoid making and receiving problematic phone calls, or only allow work related emails to be sent to you. Keeping that added stress out of your work life can help you be more productive.
Lack of inclusion You seem to be the odd-ball out, or you don’t know anyone. Sackenheim suggests trying being a “joiner” or planning an event to do with co-workers. If you don’t really know anyone, make small steps to get to know people. After a while, you’ll feel right at home.
Being green with envy has got you seeing red.
“Be satisfied with yourself,” advises Sackenheim. Jealousy gets you nowhere, especially in the workplace. Focus on how to be a better you, not on how someone thinks they are better than you. You will feel more confident about the work you do, and in the long run be happier about it.


Lack of Challenge
Your job has become so habitual that you can do it in your sleep.
Sackenheim says to “ask for other work that can be done.” If you find yourself in a routine that becomes tedious, see if you can swap duties. Or, if you are finding yourself with time on your hands, as for something new to do. A new task can get you out of that rut, plus it shows initiative.


Not making good time decisions You can’t seem to get things finished by the time you thought would, or you just try to help someone and take on some of their work. According to Sackenheim, don’t take on other’s work unless you have the extra time. It can be hard to decline when someone asks for help, but you have a job to finish. If you are having problems getting your own tasks completed, get rid of distractions, or try making “mini” deadlines for yourself. You’ll be able to keep that pile of work from rising, as well as your stress level.
Lack of personnel Somehow you have enough work for 10 people, but only five are in the office. Sackenheim suggests seeing if workloads can be delegated. If there is more work than actual workers, assign jobs to those who can get them done faster. Plus side to this – you will feel more like part of a team.


If your problems on the job aren’t that serious, but you want a pick-me-up to put a little excitement back into your day, give these a try:

  1. Take a vacation or personal day: It always helps to take some R&R time off for yourself.
  2. Move seats: New surrounding puts a little spice in your life, so check it there is an open desk elsewhere.
  3. Look into a shift change: Switching up your schedule can open up a ton of opportunity, and possibly open up your social life.
  4. Dress to impress: Look professional is to feel professional. Hair, make-up, outfit – it all makes a difference.
  5. Clean or re-arrange your desk/workspace: Feel good about your work area and have a new outlook of your surroundings just by moving things around.

If you want to divorce your job, think about what it is that is making you feel that way. Recognizing that you could just have job burnout can save you a lot of time, stress and money. To keep your career flame from blowing out, Sackenheim suggests to “be confident, work hard, be empowered and keep home and work balanced. Don’t lose sight of those your care about, and take time for yourself.” So go now and renew your vows, take a second honeymoon and relish in your new found love for your job!

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Jessica Selasky, president of Confidence Builders International, Inc. (, offers tips on how to reinvent yourself at work in this exclusive Cincy Chic Q&A.

Cincy Chic: If someone is unhappy with their current position – feeling like they have untapped potential – should their first inclination be to leave their company? Why or why not?

Selasky: No, absolutely not! People job-hop too fast these days. They’d be better off exploring opportunities within the company first. Here are some questions they should ask: Why did I go to work for the company in the first place?; Have I talked to anyone at the company about my unhappiness? (You can’t expect the bosses to be mind-readers).; Was I unhappy in my last job?; Have I contributed what I promised when I was hired?

I left my job at FACS to pursue a dream, which is different than leaving because I was unhappy. However, if you are unhappy, and you have a dream you can make happen, go ahead and do it.

Cincy Chic: What are some steps that people can take to tap into their talents within the same company?

Selasky: Show interest. Years ago, my mom was hired by the American Management Association as an administrative coordinator. She was so interested in the programs, etc. She kept asking questions and volunteering to do more and more. Guess what? She became the first female program directors for the Presidents Association, a division of AMA.

Ask lots of questions. Start a Toastmaster’s club, social club or non-profit project. Talk to people in the company that have been successful. Surround yourself with the “positive” people in the company. They do exist.

Cincy Chic: Is it looked down upon to expand one’s role at a company or transition into a new position (possibly in a different department)?

Selasky: There are so many stories about people starting at the lowest level and becoming senior management, possibly even the president of his/her company. As long as you feel you are growing, learning and having fun – keep moving on up or around.

Cincy Chic: Any other morsels of advice?

Selasky: Be true to yourself. You know if it’s the company or if it’s really you not putting forth your best effort. One of the favorite pastimes at work is complaining. It’s fun, easy and everyone joins in. For example, “Can you believe we have to work tonight?,” “Why don’t they…?”, “Why do I have to do everything?,” “Can you believe so-and-so got that promotion?” Just stop it. Quit whining. Think for yourself. Don’t be one of the complainers. Think before you join in all of the grumbling. Be positive, be authentic and you’ll find your true professional calling.

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Marissa  with Baby .jpgMarissa Woodly, 26, is the kind of person that makes you seriously contemplate what the heck you did with the first 26 years of your life. Woodly earned her B.A. in Communication at the University of Cincinnati and is currently the development manager for SmartMoney Community Services, an agency providing financial services and economic education to underserved individuals in Over-the-Rhine and Greater Cincinnati communities.

But this do-gooder position at SmartMoney isn’t her only one. Since 2005, she’s been globetrotting to Africa with the Cincinnati-based Village Life Outreach Project, (VLOP), a non-profit, non-government organization that sends American volunteers to areas in east Africa to promote ideas of health, humanitarianism, service and social responsibility to the local villagers. Learn more about it at, and learn more about Woodly in this exclusive Cincy Chic Q&A.

Cincy Chic: How did you get involved with VLOP?

Woodly: I became involved with VLOP in 2005, when my friend, Christopher Lewis, MD, recruited me to chair a marketing and development committee for his grassroots non-profit. Given my career background in non-profit fundraising – and general enthusiasm about their important mission – I have been volunteering ever since.

I’ve also and had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Africa on the third annual Tanzania Outreach Brigade in October 2006. I planned several fundraisers and am currently working on the 2007 letter campaign for VLOP. While in Africa, I produced and assisted filming a documentary about the work of each team (water, health and education) that will hopefully spur support and excitement around Village Life’s worthy cause.

The VLOP’s mission is to unite communities to promote life, health and education. The organization’s current focus involves providing health and educational improvement measures to the people of the Tarime District of Tanzania, in east Africa. In these efforts, VLOP aims to not simply provide handouts, but rather to empower poor villagers to address the issues that affect their communities. By illuminating and joining the struggle against poverty in Africa, VLOP hopes to also strengthen the local community by promoting ideas of humanitarianism, service and social responsibility.

How people treat others can be the most accurate sign of how they feel about themselves. Without love for people, love for oneself is incomplete. Village Life Outreach Project was born from a vision to encourage the spread of love. Success hinged on the ability to unite communities and provide service to poor people, to treat disease with knowledge and care and to teach people about themselves and each other. The plan is succeeding because the grace and the power of a concerted effort by a group of people that have worked hard for the benefit of others.

Village Life has successfully visited Tanzania and the three villages of Roche, Nyambogo and Burere three years in a row. During these brigades, VLOP volunteers doctors and nurses saw thousands of patients who have no access to healthcare. The brigades also saw the completion and utilization of home-based water filters made with local materials to help prevent the spread and infection of Malaria-the regions #1 health risk.

Cincy Chic: What has been your greatest accomplishment?

Woodly: Our most recent brigade trip was a huge success for a number of reasons. First, we were able to further cultivate and nurture our relationships with the village leaders of Roche, Nyambogo and Burere, which is key to our overall mission. One of VLOP’s long-term goals is to establish a permanent medical and educational facilities in each village, run and staffed by Tanzanian professionals. Community support and involvement is crucial for success in these endeavors.

Lewis spent countless hours listening and offering insight into the specific needs of each village, while the hard work of the group at large, demonstrated our ongoing commitment to each and every patient, student and villager. Strengthening these relationships will strengthen the services and education we are able to provide in the region.

Secondly, the 2006 Brigade saw our first and monumental success of the Mosquito Net Project! The Mosquito Net Project (MNP) is the most preventative VLOP program to date. The MNP provides mosquito nets to village families to prevent the spread of malaria and other tropical diseases. Jennifer Ernst, MD, a fourth-year pediatric resident, coordinates the project for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and longtime VLOP volunteer. Through sales of the VLOP publication Room to Love, a coffee table book of pictures and journal entries set to Tanzania proverbs, we raised enough funds in 2006 to purchase and distribute Mosquito Nets to nearly 4, 200 Tanzanian Families! Most villagers in the region do not have access to or cannot afford nets for their homes, while the simplicity of mosquito nets provides over 70 percent protection from the regions number one deadly disease: malaria. We hope to continue distributing nets throughout the year through our project coordinator based in Shirati, Tanzania.

Cincy Chic: What would you say to other women out there wondering how they can make a difference?

Woodly: My Lord, you can! If there was one thing that I hold in my heart from my recent experience in Africa, is that I am one person who can make a big difference in the lives of thousands. To think we traveled across the world with a team of only 32 volunteers, and we affected the lives of over 4,000 individuals is awe-inspiring! Could you imagine if we all made an active effort to reach out to our fellow man? You do the math. I will remember some of the friends I made while Africa, but I will never forget or let go of how powerful I felt in my endeavor to “truly” make a difference. From simple acts of charity, to traveling to Africa, it all adds up.

Cincy Chic: How long have you lived in Cincinnati?

Woodly: All my life. I went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and then to UC. I just couldn’t get away! And now, I’m content to stay, we have a lot of work to do here in the community. If everyone who cares keeps leaving, who will be left to make a difference?

Cincy Chic: When you’re not out saving the world, where’s your favorite local "free time" spot?

Woodly: I used to love Simones, but alas, it’s gone. Now I find myself at Mr.Pitiful’s down on Main Street. I love the bartenders and the owner, Bob. If you’ve never been, you should definitely check it out!

Cincy Chic: Who is your biggest inspiration?

Woodly: Oprah and Lewis, who is not only the founder of VLOP, but also my close friend. I have known Lewis for close to 10 years and I have yet to meet anyone who can inspire love and humanity in others the way he can. I’ve experienced it countless times, in myself my friends and family. Maybe it’s the mission of VLOP that brings out the best in us, but Lewis never stops. He sees 30+ patients a day, volunteers his time teaching medical students and residents and dreams about how he can make this world a better place for us all – every night. I aspire for his passion, commitment and social responsibility to his fellow man.

And Oprah – come on – she’s Oprah! What more can I say?

Cincy Chic: Any other words of wisdom for local women?

Woodly: Repeat after me: “It’s not that serious.” When you’re running late, remember back to when you went to that cheap restaurant and they served you “tap water.” Seeing as how that restaurant was in America, you didn’t think twice about drinking that water, but it would be a grave risk in many other countries. All over the world, people are impoverished, or dealing with sectarian war (i.e., Iraq) in their front yards. So, really, whatever it is that’s is frustrating you at any moment – It’s not that serious. Count your blessings, and I bet you will feel much better.

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"Welcome back, we missed you!”

Although these sincere words were nice to hear, they brought little comfort to me upon returning to work from bereavement leave two years ago.

I lost my husband, Kenny, in the fall of 2004 due to complications of renal failure. He was a loving husband and devoted father to our then nine-month-old daughter, Kennedy.

I could go on for days about this wonderful man, but I must first preface my story. As a student, from the moment I stepped foot on the campus of Tennessee State University, I knew I wanted a career in communications. I had always excelled in expressing messages to various audiences.

I graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Mass Communications in 1997. After graduating, I returned to my hometown, Lexington, Kentucky to find little if any work in my field.

Kenny was one of my biggest career advocates and suggested that I move to Cincinnati, his hometown, for better employment opportunities. I took an entry-level sales job at a prominent telecommunications company in the hopes of eventually acquiring a position in the corporate communications department.

Although, I excelled in my sales position, I longed for the opportunity to shine in my chosen field. Human Resources emailed employment opportunities to all employees weekly. I would check them regularly for any opening in the communications department, but to no avail. The few times that a position did become available, I would apply only to be declined an interview.

Four years passed, and I had all but given up hope. I really liked the company and my co-workers, and although discouraged, I put forth a 110 percent at work. My diligence garnered better positions in the sales department and more responsibility.

Losing Kenny hit me like a train wreck; I never imagined a life without him before he passed. I quickly came to the realization that I had to go on for Kennedy. Returning to work was one of the first steps to that path. So I did.

Shortly after I returned to work, a communications position was posted to the internal job board. But I had my hesitations. I knew it was perfect for me, but was I really ready to take on a new position? Could I handle the disappointment if I didn’t get an interview?

I struggled with submitting my resume right up until the application deadline. On the last day, I sat looking at my resume in hand and then thought of Kenny. I could feel him urging me to step out on faith and send it in. My supervisor was extremely supportive as well. She assured me that the time was right, and that I would be an asset to any department, just as I had been to her. She even offered interviewing tips and quizzed me on potential questions.

I succeeded in getting an interview, and ultimately, the position. Turns out, all those years of hard work truly paid off. What impressed my supervisor the most was my ability to successfully handle all the various positions I had been given and excel in them. This was the perfect foundation for my current position.

I‘m now responsible for managing our internal company Web site as well as additional communications. I’m finally doing what I love and I’m constantly learning something new. Even better, my work hours are extremely flexible. As a single parent, this is an added bonus for my daughter.

I still keep in touch with friends from my previous department that shoot me e-mails complementing me on an article I’ve posted or a graphic I’ve designed. I’ve also been blessed with a supportive network of new friends in my current department.

Although he didn’t get the chance to see my dream come true, I know Kenny is looking down proudly still cheering me on.