The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on the employment landscape. One of the unexpected changes was that the extended time off work, or at work in extremely difficult conditions, made many workers re-evaluate their jobs. In fact, recent research reveals that during the “Great Resignation” in 2021, over half of Americans who quit their jobs did it to make a complete career change.
Since you’re here, it’s clear you’ve been thinking about doing the same. You may wonder how to make the decision to give up on a career path that you may have been on for years — or even decades. The good news is that there are several clear indicators that it’s time to make a change. We’ll tell you the 10 warning signs to watch for, what they mean, and how to respond.
1. You dread Mondays
There’s a scene in the film Kate & Leopold, where Meg Ryan’s character is depressed even when she’s not at work: “Sunday is the day before the day I work,” she laments. “So… it gets poisoned.”
While a recent survey by The Sleep Judge showed that 63% of workers polled had their most restless nights of sleep on Sunday, if your anxiety and dread slowly begins to dominate your entire weekend, you need to consider a big change.
Think deeply about why you feel more than the usual loathing for Mondays. If you’re dealing with difficult coworkers or an impossible workload, these might be solved by a discussion with your boss or moving to a different role or department. If you dread the work itself, however, and believe your misery would remain the same no matter where you worked in the industry, you may need a completely new career path.
2. You only stay for the money
Most of us need to work to pay for the necessities of life — plus, hopefully something extra to make life worth living. We might even stay at a less-than-satisfying job just to keep that money flowing in. Overlooking some minor disappointments, however, is different than being completely miserable at work.
Salary is one aspect of finding the right career, but it can’t be everything. Do you feel your work is valuable? Are you challenged and inspired by your assignments? Do you like working with the type of people the job attracts? If there’s nothing appealing about your job, and the only reason you clock in at work every day is to get the money, this is a clear-cut sign to consider a career change.
3. You feel you’ve reached a dead end
Have you reached a point in your career where there’s nowhere else to go? There may be no higher levels to be promoted to, or a promotion won’t bring much of a salary change. You may not be able to progress without further education or training that you’re not interested in pursuing.
If you feel you’re stuck at a dead end, with no further goals worth pursuing, this is an excellent reason to try something new. Consider taking a career test, like our very own over at CareerHunter, to see the array of new industries that suit your current skills and work personality.
4. You just don’t care
A strong sign that it’s time to change careers is that you’ve stopped caring. Maybe you’ve started showing up a bit later each day, or taking longer lunches. You only do the bare minimum to complete your assignments. Though you once had all kinds of ideas to contribute, you’ve stopped looking for ways to innovate or be productive.
Careers we choose when we’re still in school might not be the same as what inspires us as we grow older. Technology, economics and consumer tastes can also change an industry and leave you with a job that’s nothing like the exciting day-to-day life you once experienced or envisioned. Don’t settle for dull complacency. Look for something that suits who you are now and that will inspire you to fully use your hard-earned skills and experience.
5. Your health is taking a hit
Often, your body will tell you something is really wrong at work before your mind is ready to face it. Maybe you’ve noticed that you feel tired all the time. You may have sore, aching limbs, even if you haven’t been doing anything that physical at work. Maybe you’re constantly anxious or irritable, or feel susceptible to every cold and flu going around.
These are all signs of job burnout, and you need a time-out before it impacts your health any further. Use your vacation time if you can. At the very least, set aside a weekend to truly consider your next step.
Once again, listen to what your body is telling you. Does the thought of a new career path instantly release the tension in your neck? Do you feel happiness or excitement rather than anxiety and dread? These feelings can help guide you to a new career for a better work–life balance and improved health.
6. You’re relying on “self-medication”
Many of us “reward” ourselves after a tough day. Maybe it’s a few drinks after work with our coworkers. Maybe it’s some online shopping. Or maybe it’s a decadent dessert while bingeing our favorite TV series.
The problem is when those occasional drinks become a nightly necessity, or your apartment is filled with frivolous purchases you barely even recall ordering. You’re mindlessly scrolling Netflix instead of working on that report due Monday. Just thinking about work makes you eat an entire box of chocolates.
These “self-medicating” actions can be a sign that you’re trying to fill the void left by a career that feels pointless, directionless or downright soul-sucking. The first step to breaking bad habits is to acknowledge the problem and start looking into careers that will reward you with a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.
7. You feel what you’re doing is pointless
As you’re shifting one pile of reports to another, or entering an endless stream of data into online forms, or answering the same customer question for the thousandth time, you begin to feel that what you’re doing is pointless. You probably spend a good portion of your day imagining all the more worthwhile things you could be doing.
One of the main components of job satisfaction is feeling that you’re contributing something of value, and that you’re improving and developing in your current role. If you constantly feel that your skills and talent are being wasted, then it could be time to change careers.
8. You don’t feel like yourself
Most of us have a work persona that differs slightly from how we are at home or when hanging out with friends. You may dress a bit more formally at the office, and use a lot less curse words. The problem starts when you feel like your job requires you to maintain something close to a split personality.
Maybe you love being creative and trying new things but your job requires almost robotic repetition and adherence to strict guidelines. You might be an easy-going person who’s forced to aggressively pursue sales for any hope of getting a promotion. Challenges can be good for personal growth, but you shouldn’t have to become a completely different person on the way to work every morning. Choose a career that plays to your strengths and doesn’t require constant discomfort to fit into the role.
9. Your self-esteem is low
Being stuck in the wrong career path can be a real confidence crusher. When you feel unmotivated, undervalued and unsuccessful at work, it can bleed over into the rest of your life. You may feel less competent, less interesting and, overall, less worthy than everyone else. You may struggle to make any decisions, certain that you’ll make a mistake.
Note the way you react when someone asks you what you do for a living. If you struggle to find anything positive to say, or feel a desperate urge to change the subject, it’s time to switch careers. We spend a large portion of our life at work, so choose something that you’re excited by and proud to be a part of.
10. You keep daydreaming
We all start out with ideas about what our “dream job” is, and there are many reasons we get thrown off that ideal path. Some workers set aside their dreams to follow a career that’s more lucrative, easier to obtain or that better suits their current lifestyle. Others find that the “perfect” career they chose isn’t what they thought it would be, that their interests have changed as they aged, or that the nature of the job has altered drastically over time.
Whatever got you to this point, if your workday regularly includes daydreaming about the career that you wish you had, it’s time to make that dream a reality. The good news is that the experience you’ve had in the workforce can help you find the right industry and your dream job role. You now know your strengths and weaknesses, the type of work that motivates you, and the kind of people you want to work with.
As you consider the important decision to change careers, here are five things to remember:
- A job can pay the bills, but the right career helps you use all your skills, contribute to something you believe in, and reach your true potential.
- Don’t brush off constant fatigue, anxiety, stress or other negative feelings as a “normal” part of working life. No career is perfect every day, but it shouldn’t be a regular source of misery.
- The wrong career can affect all aspects of your life. You can experience stagnation in your salary and career development. Your self-esteem can suffer. You may acquire bad habits that affect both your emotional and physical health.
- Applying for a different department or company gets you away from issues like a bad boss or an impossible workload. If you’ve truly lost interest in your work and any future it brings, however, it’s time to take an even bigger step.
- Consider career testing to find the perfect industry and job role that fits your interests, skills, personality and life goals.
If you’re experiencing one or more of the 10 warning signs we’ve discussed above, it’s time to take the next step.
Have you decided to join those from the “Great Resignation” and shift into a new career? Join us in the comments below and share your story!