How To Avoid Feeling Lost After Completing A Big Project

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I submitted my book manuscript earlier this week. The final version won’t come out for the better part of a year, but everything feels a little realer now that my editor has a copy of each chapter in her inbox. (The book is designed to help readers get unstuck in their careers. You can expect to hear more details soon!)

The last few weeks before turning this thing in were somewhat frantic. I was fact-checking with sources and revising the text while scrambling to write and report a few sections that were still missing.

Then it was January 3, i.e. “pencils down” day.

I’d expected to feel a sense of relief. Or pride. Or even terror. Mostly I’d expected to feel something once that draft was out of my hands. Instead I didn’t feel very much. If anything, I felt somewhat empty.

It’s a common emotional phenomenon — people in all sorts of work contexts describe feeling depressed, or lost, or in some way let down after they complete a big project.

In a way this all speaks to the reason I’m writing the book in the first place. For so many people, work is a central piece of their identity. (In my case, writing the book wasn’t part of my day job, but it was very much related to my career as a journalist covering the workplace.)

Sure, there are other critical pieces of my life and identity, like my family. But now that COVID cases are surging again and I’ve been spending most of my time at home, doing very minimal socializing, writing a book was a thing I could throw myself into. Once I came to a stopping point on the draft, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. At the risk of being melodramatic, I didn’t really know who I was.

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So this week I’d love to hear from you: Have you ever completed a big project and then felt, well, nothing? If so, why do you think that happened? And how did you cope? Share your experiences in the comments below.

In the meantime, take a look at this recent HR Insider article that my colleagues and I published on writing an email that gets a hiring manager’s attention. (Pro tip: Address your message to the appropriate person!)

You can check out all stories in the HR Insider series here, but as a refresher: We’re all about helping you get hired and succeed at top companies, building a career that’s fulfilling to you.