Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER DEVELOPMENT / FEB. 23, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Know if You're in the Wrong Career or It's Just the Job

Job Dissatisfaction

Are you happy in your current job? If your answer is "no" you're probably not alone. A number of Americans report being unhappy in their jobs, and some question whether the career path they chose was right for them. As children, many of us dream about what we'll be when we grow up. Many of us spend years taking classes and participating in other types of training to prepare for the job we think we want. All too often, though, we find ourselves unsatisfied with our work even if we secure our supposed dream job. Many who find themselves in this situation look into another career path. However, if you want your next job to be better than the current one it's crucial to find out whether you need a career change or just a new job. Here are a few things to consider.

Does Your Job Use Your Skills?

Often people consider swapping their careers when all they really need is a job that better suits them. For example if you love to write you may not be very happy crunching numbers, though someone who loves math would. You'd likely have better luck in customer relations or research, so why not look for opportunities in these areas within your industry? If you apply for a job that similarly doesn't suit you in another industry you won't be any happier.

If you’re really at a loss for what kind of job is a good match for you, start with basics. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, as well at what kinds of tasks you enjoy. It may seem silly, but a little soul searching can really go a long way. You might also consider taking a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. Often, people with a specific personality will enjoy certain types of work.

Are Your Expectations Realistic?

Growing up, many of us assume the perfect job is out there waiting for us after we graduate. Unfortunately, there really is no such thing as a perfect job. No matter where you work there will be some tasks you don't like. Some tasks may feel menial, and you probably won't be making as much money as you'd like — at least when you're starting out. In every industry you have to start somewhere, although it's easy to imagine everything's so much better for your friends in publishing, or finance.

If you've done enough research into the kinds of positions you're applying for, you should have a good idea about what the work will be like. If you start a position that truly is nothing like the job description the problem probably lies with the job itself. However, the problem may be in your field if you understood what the position would be like from the beginning, but still don't feel satisfied with your work. For example, the problem might be your career if you're a teacher and went through the appropriate training, but are finding more and more that you just don't like teaching.

Is There Room for Personal Development?

Even if you found a job that seemed perfect it wouldn't be right in the long run. When choosing a job, you should look for something that will challenge you and enable you to grow. Otherwise, you won't just stifle your development — you'll also probably eventually get bored.

A lack of room for personal growth is often a problem with the job itself, though it can also be a problem with your career path. Ideally, you want to work in a thriving industry. Look at the market trends for your industry from the past few years. Are jobs being created? Will there be an increased demand for the products and services in the future?

Not only is it depressing to work in an industry that struggles to turn a profit, but there will also likely be fewer resources for employee growth and welfare. Do you really want to work at a job where you'll be doing what you already know to do for the next ten years? Most people enjoy learning new skills, at least from time to time.

Is There Room for Career Advancement?

By the same logic, you never want to take a job that's a dead end for you professionally. The industry and company you're in should have opportunities for job advancement. Will you be eligible for a promotion, or be able to apply for another position after you gain some experience? Again, limited opportunities for advancement are often career problems. Less profitable industries have probably had to cut back rather than create new positions, and there just won't be as many chances for you to move up.

The problem could be with your job if the company itself does not promote from within, or it's a very small company and there just aren't any other positions. That's not to say that start-ups are bad — on the contrary, working for a small business could give you more opportunities as the company grows. Rather, the opportunities for job advancement can just vary from company to company.

Whether you’re looking for a new job, or considering a career change, starting something new can be scary. However, getting started is always the hardest part. Once you’ve taken the first step and found what will suit you best, the rest will only get easier.

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