Almost everyone has that one job where they look back and go, “Yeah, that probably wasn’t the right fit for me.” Maybe it’s that job you got at the amusement park one summer in high school, where you spent more time cleaning bathrooms and running the concession stand than actually using those free passes you were comped. Or, maybe it was your first position after college, where you found yourself in over your head, overwhelmed and second-guessing every decision you had made up to that point.
Either way, when something isn’t right, we usually know it. Other times, it might be a nagging voice that tells us something is wrong, but we can’t put our finger on what it is. Have you been feeling a void lately? Do you clock out wondering if you really made a difference at your office? Do you have an underlying itch to do something totally different or pursue a new passion? If so, you could be spending eight hours a day or more at a job that’s totally wrong for you. Here are five signs that this is the case.
1. You do everything alone.
Even if you’re the most introverted introvert on the planet, going into work, spending a full day there and coming home in the same silence can become incredibly dull. This is even more the case if you’re naturally an extrovert who usually finds it easy to make friends.
If you’re not connecting with anyone in your office, take a second to assess the situation. Are you the only 50-year-old in a room full of new graduates? Are you more of a khaki and collared shirt person in an office of eccentric fashion majors? From age to style, you might be feeling ostracized for myriad reasons. While every workplace should be inclusive, if you have zero in common with your teammates, it can be difficult to forge that connection, making basic communication and collaboration next to impossible.
If this is the case, you might be in the wrong job simply because you’re feeling alienated. If you truly love the work and are passionate about the industry, you may just need a new location. Or, this may be the needed realization that encourages you to reach out to someone and ask them to lunch.
2. You’re embarrassed to talk about it.
You’re in a group setting and someone casually asks you, “So, what do you do?” How do you react? Are you able to speak confidently and proudly about your work, or do you want to crawl under the table and act like you didn’t hear the question?
One of the most surefire signs that you’re in the wrong job is that you cannot talk about it. While you might feel this way for an entire host of reasons, deep in your gut, that shame is signaling to you that it’s time to make a change.
Think also of how unproductive you’ll be in your job and how many partnerships and networking opportunities you may miss if you can’t bring yourself to publicly acknowledge your role. So, stop telling everyone “I’m in sales” if you aren’t. At the end of the day, you should be proud of your work. Only then will it bring you true satisfaction.
3. You’re always frazzled.
It’s natural to be overwhelmed at work sometimes. We all have deadlines, deliverables, and timelines that can make even the most sane person crazy. Yet, think about how often you feel this way. Is it just every now and then, when your inbox gets unmanageably full, the phone is ringing off the hook and your boss insists on holding a meeting every 30 minutes? Or, do you come home every single day utterly exhausted and mentally strained?
If it’s the latter, you could be in the wrong job simply because your talents and strong suits are not adequately matched to its demands. If you constantly feel as though your workload is heavier than your abilities, that juggling act is impossible for anyone to keep up. This kind of information overload can quickly lead to anxiety and high levels of stress. From there, your ability to perform can be even more hindered as you try to cope with the crushing feelings of inadequacy and ill-preparedness. You can easily become angered, quick-tempered and emotional when this is the case, making it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand.
Do yourself a favor and find a position that lets you leave every day feeling accomplished and successful, even if it’s just a small check off your to-do list. You don’t need to reach a major milestone daily by 5:00 p.m., but you shouldn’t leave out the door sleep deprived and drained, either.
4. You know you’re capable of more.
There is such a thing as plateauing. Ask anyone who has reached a particular weight while on a diet, but for some reason cannot lose any more pounds. The same holds true at work. You might be in the right industry, field and office, but be totally underutilizing your knowledge, experience and skill set. When this is the case, you’ll go in and come home each day feeling like you could have done so much more.
In many ways, this is like a gifted student sitting through a classroom that isn’t designed to take advantage of his talent. You become bored. You’re complacent. You’re just coasting through and while that’s fun on some days, it’s infuriating most of the time. If you don’t exercise your mind and put your abilities into practice, they could atrophy to the point where you begin to lose them.
If you’re in these shoes, take the time to become involved in industry happenings that aren’t necessarily related to your specific office. For instance, join a professional organization that allows you to further your training and add certifications to your resume. Buy or lease the tools and resources you might need if you land a better gig. Attend networking events and meet people who can move your career along. Take steps to prepare yourself as much as possible so you can find an office that appreciates your gifts and wants to cultivate them.
5. There’s nowhere to go or grow.
This is along the same lines as #4, but different in many regards. If you think you’re in the wrong job, it might not be that your talents aren’t being utilized on purpose. Maybe, your office simply isn’t designed to support upward mobility. This might mean that there are no training programs in place, the C-suite is ironclad and not looking for any new members any time soon, or your boss is bent on keeping you in a sub-par position.
Your job should allow you to discover new knowledge, push yourself beyond your limits and grow as a person and employee. If your office doesn’t supply you with the opportunity to pursue those goals, it might be time for a switch. Find one that offers ample learning opportunities and encourages you to take them every chance you can.
Ultimately, you can only stay in the wrong job for so long before you start to lose it. Before you pull an Office Space and smash your printer out in a field, take it upon yourself to perform a little inward analysis. In your current role, are you challenged? Are you satisfied at the end of the day? Are you proud of your work? Are you encouraged to grow? If the answer to any of these question is “no,” then it’s time to make a move. Look for a position that allows you to use your talents and gifts to make the difference you crave.