What are a few ways to know that it’s time for a career change? I have shared some of my insights and tips on this topic with the brilliant writer Ginika Ebenebe, who has curated this article here. Enjoy!
The pandemic has been a time of great reflection and reinvention for many. Nearly 25% of Canadian workers say COVID-19 has inspired them to reconsider their professional futures. So if you’re reading this right now and feeling uncertain about your current career path, rest assured you’re not alone. But how can you tell if it’s really time for a change or if you’re just going through a rough patch? Today’s post looks at seven signs a professional makeover is overdue, plus some tips for getting started.
First, let’s get clear on something: a career change doesn’t have to be drastic! It can be as simple as negotiating additional responsibilities within your existing role or as radical as starting something new that has no connection to your educational background or experience. There are several types of career shifts one can make, so this discussion is relevant no matter your status.
7 Signs You’re in the Wrong Spot
#1. You Often Feel Unfulfilled and Frustrated at Work
There’s a saying that goes: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
While it’s an admirable sentiment, it’s not entirely realistic. Even if you enjoy your career, you’ll have stressful moments, go through off days and experience aspects of your work that you’d rather do without. At the end of the day, a job is still a job. However, if you constantly feel exasperated and dissatisfied, that’s a sign something needs to change. You don’t necessarily have to love what you do, but you shouldn’t hate it either.
#2. Your Company’s Culture Doesn’t Align With Your Values
Do the morals and ideals floating around your place of employment sit well with you? Maybe you’ve noticed dodgy business practices, icky office politics, or a disregard for employee wellness. Whatever the case, misalignment in these areas isn’t something to skim over.
When you work for a company that reflects your most important values, you’ll be far more inspired to complete good work. You’ll also have greater job satisfaction because you’ll feel like you’re making a difference. This is known as intrinsic motivation, arguably the most powerful drive one can have. If your company’s culture doesn’t align with who you are, you’ll have a tough time remaining engaged over the long term. Nobody wins in that scenario.
#3. You’re in a Constant State of Apathy and Exhaustion
Every day feels difficult, and the simplest tasks take up a lot of energy. You’re constantly tired, no matter how many vacations you take or how well you nail down your evening routine to get the experts’ recommended amount of sleep.
On top of that, you just… don’t care anymore. Maybe you were once upbeat and enthusiastic, but now you’re no longer invested in your company’s global goals. That doesn’t make you lazy or a bad worker. You’re likely in a state of apathy, which is often a symptom of mental health deterioration. It’s not uncommon to go through this while working a job that isn’t right for you.
#4. You Feel Stuck and Directionless
You want to move forward but have no idea what “forward” or “better” looks like. You’re not satisfied with the status quo but can’t quite put your finger on why. You feel utterly indecisive about what to do next, and that indecision is eating away at your peace. You’re either out of touch with your career goals or don’t have any career goals to speak of. All of this may indicate that your current work’s growth prospects aren’t enough or don’t suit you.
#5. More Money Isn’t the Answer
Although everyone loves to say that money doesn’t buy happiness, research indicates that’s not entirely true. A recent study published by the University of Pennsylvania showed a correlation between income levels and all aspects of well-being. But while “happiness” tends to rise along with income (largely because more money equals more freedom), each dollar starts to matter less the more an individual makes.
My point is this: the dissatisfaction you’re experiencing at work might result from making less than you want to. If that’s the case (and you’re in the type of role where more money is just a matter of time and experience), waiting it out and conquering a few more rungs on the corporate ladder makes sense. But if you’ve reached a point where you’re miserable at work, and no amount of money will make a difference? You might need a different ladder, my friend.
#6. You’re Not Doing What You’re Actually Good At
Many people spend a lifetime trying to be good at careers they’re not suited for and ignoring what comes more naturally to them. Sometimes they wind up in that situation because their employers simply don’t recognize (let alone make use of) their greatest skills. That’s another potential sign that your current professional path isn’t a great fit.
Now, if your most distinct ability is playing the ukulele, quitting your day job to do it full time may not be the wisest move (unless you have a feasible plan to make it work. In which case, go for it!). But if, for instance, coaching and mentoring people lights you up but you never get the chance to do that at work, that’s wasted potential. Why keep that talent hidden when there are plenty of jobs out there that require that skill?
#7. You’ve Seen the Future, and It’s Not Pretty
You’re picturing life 5, 10, and even 20 years from now and don’t like the imagery that pops up. You see yourself missing out on your full potential, or sacrificing the relationships and experiences you want to have, or compromising your long-term health. The future of your current trajectory seems more dreadful than exciting. Some jobs get better with time. Others won’t, no matter how long you stay.
Okay, So Now What?
If any of the above resonated with you, it’s time to do something about it. Here are three tips to get things going:
Decide What Truly Matters to You
All too often, people choose their careers solely based on surface-level factors like job title, salary projections and prestige. These are important criteria, but be careful not to exaggerate their significance in the grand scheme of things. As you contemplate your new direction, start by understanding your values and how you want your future work to reflect them. Then go from there.
Do Your Research and Set Clear Goals
Your research results will help narrow down your objectives and determine how to proceed. One of the first things to work out is the kind of career shift you need. For example, is leaving your industry the only solution or do you simply need to switch jobs? Do you need to overhaul your education and experience, or can you leverage what you already have? Identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be so you can set clear goals and make a plan.
Note: if point #4 in the previous section describes you perfectly, this might be hard to do. In that case, you might want to start with the final tip below.
Talk to A Career Coach
Among many things, a career coach can help you:
- Define (or redefine) your professional goals
- Explore your personality and skills and link them with suitable job pursuits
- Create an actionable plan to get from Point A to Point B
- Negotiate better work conditions
- Renovate your resume and LinkedIn profile
Working with a career coach for even just a few sessions can provide the clarity and confidence you need for your journey.
Relax. It’s Fine. Career Changes Are a Part of Life.
There’s often a lot of fear around the idea of making a career change. But it’s a perfectly normal part of the professional life cycle. Research even suggests that Canadians may hold as many as 15 jobs throughout their lifetime. If you’re looking to make a shift, get clear on what you want and plan out how to get there. After all, your career should serve you. Not the other way around.
About the author of this article: