Angela’s story: the stress of having too little work

It’s common for people to feel stressed because they have far too much work. But what happens when you don’t have enough to do? That may sound like bliss. In fact, it can be very stressful as university careers adviser Angela (not her real name) explains.

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"If you tell people you’re under worked they tend to think ‘lucky you!’ It doesn’t feel like that to me."

I’d always wanted to work in higher education as a careers adviser. I’ve worked in education for 15 years, seven in HE, and I have the Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. So I’m accredited which shows I understand best practice in teaching and learning.

It’s therefore very frustrating to find myself working in a university where there isn’t enough to do. Especially as it took me seven years to get the job I wanted.

Authoritarian

Everything was fine till about 18 months ago. Then it all started to go wrong. 

I’d always had really supportive managers who were enthusiastic about what I did. Then we got a new one and she was very authoritarian. 

Suddenly I was told my work was not up to scratch and that my presentations were poor. I knew they weren’t, but with financial problems and redundancies on the horizon, I knew where things were headed. I had to go.

I managed to get another job but at a lower grade. I thought I would probably stay about eight months and find something else but nothing else has come up. And it’s so stressful. This new job is so low level and has no responsibilities whereas I used to manage two faculties and now I just have one department.

No one notices me

Some days I feel no one would notice if I wasn’t here. My colleagues say the same thing. 

We’re all in an academic department and no one knows what we’re doing. I could skive for the whole day and no one would know. There are no students booked in to see me. They don’t seem to know or care that our department exists and it’s there to help them. 

I feel as if I am wasting my time here. And I resent that with all my qualifications and experience I’m just called an Employability Adviser.

"I was so desperate and stressed by this that I did a search just using the words help and education. And the Education Support came up on the search engine. I rang them immediately and the response I got was amazing."

The counsellor helped me see things from a completely different angle.  I was able to see what I had achieved rather than what wasn’t working. Between us we came up with a plan. The counsellor said I should either focus on getting a new job or focus on making the most of the one I had. But I can't do both. And I saw that made sense.

I came off the phone and felt so much more positive when I went back to work. This new-found confidence helped me to make more of an impression on the students, who suddenly all wanted help at once! 

By changing how I was, I managed to change how they responded to me.

Better now

We hear a lot about stress at work but no one wants to be in a job where you just laze about. If you do go for another job, what will you talk about at the interview?

I’m very grateful to the Education Support for helping me to see things differently. Sometimes that’s all it takes and I feel much more positive and hopeful now about the future.

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