Give or take a handful of people who have been in their dream job since Day 1 with absolutely zero regrets, most of us have times in our professional lives when we daydream about doing something else. Maybe your ideal position is one within your same industry or even at your same company, just in a different department or on a higher rung up the corporate ladder. Or, maybe you visualize yourself doing something entirely different. Maybe you’re pushing paper when you’d rather be teaching kayak lessons. Maybe you’re a scientist who dreams of giving it all up to become a professional chef.
If you’re having these nagging thoughts that something just isn’t right at your current job, that may be your conscience telling you it’s time to take that first big step in a new direction. Still not sure? Here are five signs to make it clearer.
1. You dread the work day.
It’s natural to get a little Monday blues every now and again. Yet, do you find yourself waking up every morning with a deeply seeded sense of dread? If so, you’re likely not in the position for you. Maybe you’re anxious over having to deal with your co-workers. Maybe you’re asked on a routine basis to do things you’re not comfortable with. Maybe you’re consistently dealt a crushing workload that finds you clocking out and checking in with an unshakable burden on your shoulders. Maybe you just don’t want to spend eight hours a day in that role, simple as that.
Regardless, while it’s natural to feel stressed at work sometimes, that feeling should ebb and flow. Not everyone will fling back the covers and greet the sunrise with a happy yoga pose, but there should still be a general sense of excitement and positive energy that ensues when you think about going to work. Your time is too important to settle for anything less.
2. You see it as a means to an end.
Do you only work for the salary? Are you begrudgingly trudging through the Monday through Friday work week because you know that there is a paycheck just around the corner? If so, your intentions around your job aren’t sincere and it’s time to consider a change. When money becomes the sole motivating factor in your work endeavors, you lose the passion and drive behind it. Instead, seek to derive your satisfaction from a job well done, fruitful collaboration, recognition from your peers and superiors and personal self-growth.
Of course, while money can’t buy everything, there are bills to pay. To that end, you might reason that a job that fulfills you to the core might not pay as much. However, there is almost always a way to generate a profit from your passions — the key is understanding how to do it and which resources can help you get there. For instance, someone who loves to write short stories, poems and reflections can consider crunching the numbers and saving the money to self-publish a novel. Or, if you enjoy knitting, why not sell some of your homemade wares online? The rise of digitization means that there is are now myriad ways to turn even your most niche hobby into a profitable business. So take the time to research your options and you might find that you can both enjoy your work and make money at the same time. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) an either/or situation.
3. You’re feeling cynical and it shows.
Does everything you say to your co-workers come across as snarky or sarcastic? Do you find yourself re-reading every email before sending it to make sure your tone is positive enough because in real life, it’s anything but? If so, you’ve become emotionally detached from your job and it’s time to consider shifting into a career that makes it easy to stay positive.
Of course, we all have our “off” days where it’s easy to spout a condescending comment, ignore that colleague who keeps pestering us for help and attempt to hole up in our office until it’s time to go home, but those days should be rare. If your job is essentially bringing out the most negative, weary version of you, then you deserve better, and so do the people around you. It might be time to lose that chip on your shoulder and toss the dice in a new direction.
4. The future doesn’t excite you.
There is always room to learn and grow. That’s true whether you’re a 20-year-old college intern or a seasoned pro on the brink of retirement. As such, even if you’ve reached the highest position available in your industry, you should still be able to look down the road and see yourself in a better position. The future should be one of limitless possibility, exciting milestones and opportunities galore and no, those opportunities you look forward to most shouldn’t just be your retirement or a hefty pension check.
Where do you visualize yourself one year from now? What about five to 10 years? If the future in your current position looks equally depressing, negative or unfulfilling, it’s time to consider making that career change. Staying in a position where you truly believe that, given some time, the office politics will still be as messy, leadership will still be as lax and the workload will still be unrealistic can lead to a pretty bleak outlook. Change yours and free yourself for the future.
5. Your personal life is suffering.
You know those stressful assignments are keeping you up at night, but are they also putting strain on your heart? If you’re under constant pressure to perform, you’re not just harming yourself mentally but you could also be affecting your short and long-term physical health as well. The same goes for your personal life. If nagging feelings of negativity and dread are coming home with you, you’re more likely to lash out at your loved ones as the pressure continues to build.
If you find that you’re becoming withdrawn, dreading social interaction or losing interest in the things that used to bring you great joy, it might be time to speak to a healthcare professional. Along the same vein, consider the toll that your current job is taking on your quality of life. Back-to-back restless nights, coupled with headaches, exhaustion and tightness in your chest are signs that you’re overdoing it at a capacity that’s impossible to maintain.
If you’re feeling strung out and burnt out simultaneously, it can be difficult to maintain any sort of serious relationship, either with your spouse, your children or other family members or friends. There is such a thing as work/life balance for a reason and your pendulum should be proportionate.
Taking Those First Steps Toward Change
Change, in any capacity, can be a challenge. Even if you’re in a position that you abhor, making the switch to a new career can be a scary concept. Still, it’s possible to be fully satisfied with your work, believe you’re making a positive impact, and fulfill your deepest interests, hobbies and passions along the way. The key to taking that all-important first step is to embolden yourself with the knowledge that you are capable, deserving and worthy of the change you seek.