It’s only Monday morning at work and you’re already out of steam, on your third cup of coffee, trying to look like you care. And that nagging thought that’s been bothering you for months is turning up the volume.
“I’m in the wrong place.”
You know it can’t go on like this. But then… Don’t we all have our ups and downs? Maybe you’re overreacting. Maybe you just need to be more patient. More mature. More grateful for what you have.
Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between a temporary setback and the pain of being stuck in a career that’s a bad fit for you.
From my experience helping people change careers, I’ve noticed a few most common signs that it’s time to re-evaluate your path, muster the courage and make a move:
1. It’s affecting your health
It seems that your body has started to break down and you wonder if it’s aging. I’ve worked with people whose chronic headaches, high blood pressure, back pain, and anxiety lifted when they started their career shifts, without even quitting the job yet. This isn’t to say that an unhappy career is to blame for all health problems, of course not. But the stress, the suppressed emotions and the feeling of being trapped that come with the package inevitably affect the body and mind.
One of my clients was stunned to realize how much tension he’d built up from working in a busy open-plan office with a rigid schedule. He’d started having panic attacks. For him, a much happier career meant still doing what he did (he loved the industry), but working remotely and at the odd hours that suited him.
2. You don’t feel like it matters
Your days at work seem like long loops of meetings and emails that lead nowhere. You try your best to be interested in the new project, in your performance review, in that “fantastic” opportunity you’re offered. But the truth is, you just don’t care. You feel little connection to the outcomes of your work, and you might even feel embarrassed telling strangers about what you do. Maybe you’re volunteering on the side to know that you’re doing at least something useful. If you feel that your work is ultimately meaningless, it’s a strong signal that things need shaking up.
3. You’re not enjoying most of what you do
Don’t get me wrong, no career is made of rainbows and unicorns. There are always things like filling in forms, chasing invoices or presenting to teenagers (whatever it is you dread!) And there are days when your bed is simply the best place to be. It’s when you look at the past weeks, months, even years, and you can’t say that you’ve enjoyed yourself for most of the time, there’s a problem. I often see this in my clients: people in fancy, high paying sales roles who hate selling; talented data analysts pushing themselves to take on management duties that make them miserable. If most of what you do is only hard work and no fun, you’re squeezing yourself into a career that’s a size too small.
4. You waste a lot of time on job sites
You spend your lunch breaks, evenings and sleepless nights browsing hundreds if not thousands of jobs, hoping for a glimpse of inspiration. But they all look like just another black hole. You’re not even applying, or have done it a couple of times half-heartedly. Why would you – you’re already working for an amazing company, with a great manager and there’s space to grow. Deep down you know that simply changing jobs isn’t going to cut it. It’s the core of what you do that isn’t working for you, so moving jobs seems like touching up the walls with paint when your house is falling apart. But job searching makes you feel like you’re doing something about it.
5. People who enjoy their work make you uncomfortable
How does it feel to hear or read about people who (mostly) enjoy what they do? I see all sorts of responses: irritation (“Why can’t they just stop bragging about it?”), jealousy (“Wish I could have that”), dismissal (“It’s easy for her to do this”), avoidance (“I stopped reading books and watching movies about interesting people”). Highly charged reactions always signal a pain point that needs addressing.
6. You’ve tried to make it work
Heaven knows you’ve tried. Mindfulness and yoga; vitamin C and less cake. Doing more of what you’re good at and outsourcing the dull bits. Writing down all the reasons you’re grateful for your job. Self-improvement training. Working part-time, switching off your phone, taking up new hobbies. It just wouldn’t go away – you’re more efficient, focused and productive than you’ve ever been, but still absolutely miserable at work.
7. You’re reading this
How many boxes above have you ticked? What you already know is something needs to change. What I know from my experience is that for 99% of people reading this, a year from now they’re still going to be stuck in that unfulfilling, empty career, because they’re going to leave this page and… do nothing.
Are you going to be the 1%?