The climb: How to keep workplace ambition from burning you out 

Is ambition the driving force in your career? Make sure the climb to the top doesn’t leave you burned out.

Remember the girl who always had her hand raised, volunteered to be the group leader, and also always managed to get straight As? She grew up to be the ambitious one at work. Maybe she’s you. How are you doing, Sis? 

Key findings from a CNBC study found that women of color were more likely to report career advancements compared to last year, with 26% of Black women saying their careers advanced in the last year. We’re an ambitious group; we know this. But I wonder, do we think enough about the impacts of our drive outside of career advancement? How is it really playing out in our everyday lives? 

Ariane Hunter, career equity consultant, speaker and author, notes that children of immigrants can often specifically point to their upbringings as the source of their ambition and have likely experienced the benefits and challenges that come along with it. 

“A lot of children of immigrants can attest to this: Our ambition often comes from our parents,” said Hunter. “We develop this relationship — I’ll just say to ambition — of always having to be the best; always having to go far. And we push ourselves to the brink of burnout in order to achieve that.”

Hunter says it’s important to examine how ambition has shown up in your life. How have you been validated or praised for being ambitious? How have you been vilified for not being ambitious enough? 

I think it’s also important to make sure your ambition doesn’t leave you lonely. We need a sense of community to thrive, and sometimes our ambition can make us so focused that one day we can look up and realize we’ve had tunnel vision for five years straight with no allies, and no work supporters anywhere. That’s when ambition becomes all about you

“I’ll always say that continuous networking and building out your relationships should always be a part of your career development strategy,” said Hunter. “And that goes hand-in-hand with having your cheerleaders, those who are gonna support you, who are your mentors [who] you can go to for specific business advice or career advice and maintaining those relationships.”

As a self-described ambitious woman, this idea of balancing ambition is a bit of a reality check. I’m building a business; I’ve got big huge goals, deadlines, exciting projects lined up. But if I don’t slow down and check in with myself and those around me, ambition can get the best of me. Success is no fun on your own. 

Let’s be kind to ourselves and smell the roses a bit. Our ambition will be there, revved up and ready to go when we’re ready. Learn more about how we can maintain balance in the meantime in this week’s episode of “The Reset with Coach Tish,” above.

Letisha Bereola

Letisha Bereola is a life coach who helps ambitious women overcome burnout and reach their career goals so they feel great at work and happy at home. She’s a former Emmy-nominated TV news anchor, Podcast host of AUDACITY and speaker. Learn more:

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