Are you at the end of your current job rope?
Everyone gets restless at work from time to time. Whether you’re in the career of your dreams or working at a job you stumbled into, it’s not uncommon to hit a rut. But how do you distinguish a little restlessness from a surefire sign that it’s time to change careers?
People tend to panic when they realize they’re dissatisfied at work. They assume they’re in the wrong field or they’ve gone as far as they can in their current positions. Sometimes those instincts are right. There is such a thing as a right time to move on.
That’s not always the case, however. Before you start planning your exit strategy, let’s look at common signs that you’ve reached the end of the road — and how they can be deceiving. We’ll also talk about how to strategize appropriately when these indicators really do mean it’s time for a change.
Here are some very telling signs it may be time for a new job:
You dread Monday mornings.
I often tell people, “Never run from something; always run to something.” Getting a knot in your stomach every time Monday rolls around is not fun — or healthy. But the knot will reemerge if you don’t understand what’s causing it, even if you land a new position.
Many people quit their jobs because they’re unhappy with a certain aspect of it. Once they’re gone, they realize how good they had it and regret leaving. If Monday mornings get you down, make a list of pros and cons. What do you like about this company? Is it the values? Your co-workers? The benefits or professional development opportunities?
Then catalog the negatives. You may be surprised at how much you like your job, with the exception of the one area that’s causing you dissatisfaction. That’s useful, actionable information. You’ve identified the problem, so now you can talk with your boss or colleagues about fixing it.
But if the list makes it clearer than ever that this job is no longer a fit, you should start looking for new opportunities. Don’t disengage during this process, though. Make good on your responsibilities before you leave, and offer support to your boss and co-workers. You want to maintain good relationships throughout the transition, because quality work and a positive attitude open up untold future opportunities.
2. You’ve outgrown your environment.
In my book Love Your Work, I share the story of Todd Williams. The man’s life is a study in second and third acts, and he’s a role model for anyone considering a pivot in their careers. Todd was a world-class runner who shifted to the business side of athletics after retiring from the sport. He faced multiple setbacks due to company restructuring, but he maintained a positive attitude and took advantage of opportunities to better himself.
While traveling the country as a Running Tech Rep for Adidas, Todd became involved in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. His growing interest in martial arts ultimately led him to start his own safety and self-defense company. He now works with clients and students throughout the U.S.
We play different roles during different seasons of our lives. Todd’s love of sports never left him; it simply led to new paths. Feeling restless in your work doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave your field. But you may need a new environment in which to thrive.
When this happens, I recommend re-vectoring. Take stock of your current circumstances. Which aspects of your work inspire you? What excites you about getting out of bed in the morning? Consider how you can cultivate the next phase of your career around those passions.
3. You don’t love the mission.
Routine can blind us to the value of our contributions, so reflecting on why you chose your career path in the first place may renew your sense of purpose. Are you really disenchanted with the mission, or do you simply feel disconnected from it? Is there a way to get more hands-on? Perhaps you can volunteer your expertise on other teams’ projects to feel more engaged. Or maybe it’s time for a new role within the company, one that affords you a better view of the bigger picture.
I also share the story of a man named Daniel Headrick in Love Your Work. Daniel turned down a prestigious law position to pursue his vocation to become a minister. Daniel and his wife had promising legal and medical careers, respectively, but when both were presented with opportunities to advance in their fields, they followed Daniel’s calling instead.
This is an example of what I describe as repurposing. Although Daniel chose to enroll in seminary, he was able to continue practicing law. When you find yourself disengaging, consider whether it’s because the mission no longer resonates or because you simply need a new way to serve it.
If the passion is truly gone, consult with your family, close friends, and mentors about your next move. See this “crisis” as an opportunity to discern what you really want to be doing at this stage in your life.
Don’t “check out” on your current responsibilities.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore your current responsibilities while pursuing a new job. Not only does this hurt your professional relationships, but it’s also a missed opportunity. Use this time to learn whatever you can from your present circumstances. You don’t want to look back on this job and think, “What if?” Make your time there count so you can move on without regrets.
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