For many years during my 18-year corporate career, I remained in a number of roles I disliked, and a few of them were a terrible fit. Now I see that there were some critical factors that influenced my strong resistance to make the changes I needed to, including worries about money, self-esteem issues, confusion as to what I really wanted, reluctance to start over in a new job, and just plain fear.
Now, after two reinventions and running my own coaching and consulting firm (and loving it), it’s clear that in my corporate life I also lacked an essentially important mindset– an entrepreneurial approach to my work and professional life that would have helped me be more nimble, flexible, brave, resourceful, creative and innovative in my efforts toward building a livelihood that would joyfully match who I really am, on the inside. Instead, I stayed stuck in a tight box of my own creation, because I didn’t understand how it truly works, to find roles we love, be treated with respect and care, to achieve great compensation for our work, and thrive in it.
My research with professionals reveals that there are five glaring signs that you need to change what you’re doing – either by modifying your specific job or shifting your entire career.
Sadly, so many professionals stay stuck in complete denial about these signs, because they’re just too frightened to heed them and take proactive measures, until crisis hits and forces them to consider a new direction.
The five signs that you should leave your job or change directions now are:
#1: You’re unhappy most of every day doing this work.
This is not brain science here – the clearest sign that you need is a change is how you feel about the work you’re doing every day.
The majority of the time, are you feeling unhappy, depressed, thwarted, bored, misunderstood, mistreated?
Do you feel that the “real you” just can’t come out in this job, and the way you love to work isn’t honored or respected? Do you wonder how you ever ended up here, and fantasize daily about doing something very different?
Don’t be in denial about your feelings – they’re pointing you to a very real situation that needs to be dealt with. Remember: You don’t have to be miserable or lose your sense of self in order to be gainfully employed.
#2: The environment is tainted with toxicity and ugliness, including your boss and colleagues.
The role you play in your work isn’t just about the functions and tasks you perform every day. A job – and your success and joy in it – is shaped by a myriad of other factors including:
- The character of your boss and colleagues, and the leadership dynamic of the company (if there’s narcissism, you’ll suffer)
- How your organization treats all of its human resources (including you, but also others)
- The outcomes that the company is driving toward, and whether you respect and support these outcomes
- The growth you can achieve in this role (is it boring, stagnant, and deadening to you?)
- The collaborative spirit and positive, growth-inducing behaviors (or total lack of them)
- How well your dominant action style is suited to the action-approach your company and boss demands of you
- And finally, if the power gaps you possess are activated –meaning, if this job makes you feel powerless and victimized
Looking holistically at your job – and understanding all the dimensions of it – will help you see more clearly if you are right for this role, or if you’re more suited to thrive in another job or type of work experience altogether.
#3: The skills that you’ve been hired to use for this job aren’t a fit for what you’re good at or enjoy.
So often, people don’t understand that the skills that you possess are not at all the same as the natural talents and abilities that you enjoy using each day.
In other words, you may be “great” at updating spreadsheets (or overseeing projects, or doing event planning) but in reality, you may actually hate doing it. What we’re good at is not the same as what we love doing. If your job forces you to use skills that aren’t enjoyable or easy for you, you’ll be miserable and drained every day in your job. And you’ll feel like an impostor much of the time.
#4: You believe deep down that you’re meant for better, bigger, and more thrilling things.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of successful career changers, and many of them have shared with me some version of this:
“I had this terrible, nagging feeling for years that I was made for better things than this, but I just didn’t act on that feeling until I finally snapped and say “YES!” to myself.”
Many people, particularly women, feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit that, deep down, they feel they are made for better things than their current role. They’re afraid this sounds boastful or arrogant to think these types of thoughts. But these thoughts and feelings are not something to ignore – they’re pointing to the fact that there is another direction waiting for you, one that will bring more joy, success, reward, recognition and satisfaction to your life.
If you feel you’re made for more exciting things, then you are. Don’t be ashamed of it or hide from it.
#5: The outcomes that you’re working toward feel meaningless or negative to you.
Finally, how do you feel about the outcomes that your job supports? Do you love what you’re working on and do you feel it has contributive value in the world? Do you believe in the positive good of what you’re doing, and that what you’re spending your precious life energy on is indeed worth it? Or do you think that what your company is doing is actually wrong, unethical, unnecessary or even hurtful in the world?
You can’t thrive or even succeed a tiny bit if you don’t believe in what your organization is putting out in the world or how they’re doing it.
You simply cannot succeed if you subconsciously oppose what your employer stands for in the world.
If any of these signs strike a chord for you, it’s time to make a change. Now. The key question isn’t “Will you?” but “When will you finally honor what you know to be true about yourself?”