Wherever you are in your career journey, you’ve probably had that odd moment of thinking about what might have been. Perhaps you’re fantasizing about moving along in your career and opening the door to new skills or opportunities. Or, you may even be considering a new career path altogether by deciding to make a career change.
Very few of us talk seriously about changing our careers, and even fewer go ahead and do it. This is understandable when you remember how much of our identities we put into what we do for a living and how much of our lifestyle depends on a steady and sufficient income source.
It takes courage to go after what you want in a career in today’s uncertain world. But if you’re contemplating whether to take that big step toward a career change, there are various signs to look for that mean it’s time to move onward and upward with your career goals.
Unmistakable Signs Indicating You Should Make a Career Change
1. You’re Bored and Lack Passion
Let’s face it: everyone gets bored occasionally, even in the most creative and challenging roles. Boredom isn’t always bad; it can be a helpful way of measuring our life experiences. After all, how would we know if something is exciting or engaging if we’ve never experienced boredom?
But, before writing off that you’re spending eight hours a day inventing pointless busy work to keep yourself occupied, it’s worth examining what’s going on. Chronic boredom can undermine even the most determined workers and suck the joy out of your career.
If you’re bored every time you’re at work (or at your place of study), it may be that the only cure is a change of scenery. Boredom can be a sign of intellectual or spiritual growth, indicating you’ve grown out of your environment; in the same way, a child outgrows their old games and toys and seeks something new and challenging. On that note:
2. Your Career is Not Challenging
It’s often tempting to view life as a running race, keeping your eye on the finish line. In reality, it’s more of an obstacle course, and many of these obstacles will present as enjoyable challenges. Humans thrive on these tasks—many sports and hobbies revolve around functions and rewards.
While encountering too many stressful challenges all at once will leave you burned out and wanting to change careers in the most destructive ways, never being challenged at all will leave you unsatisfied.
Not being challenged in their job is why people leave ‘easy money’ jobs and often fail to thrive in work environments where they meet little or no resistance in their day-to-day work. Humans don’t do well if they’re treated like numbers. If your role or boss isn’t giving you enough responsibility or challenges in your role, it might be time to move on and make a career change.
3. Your Current Career or Job is Not Meeting Your Goals
As an experiment, sit down for ten minutes and write out a list of your work-related goals. Make them as minor as you want (you want to use the photocopier more) or as ambitious (you want to become CEO). Then take stock of how many of them your job—and your boss—are helping you meet.
Many individuals seem unaware that an excellent job with a great manager should help them create and reach personal and career goals, even if these fall outside their regular duties. A good job will provide opportunities for training, education, and promotion.
If you’re not being encouraged to create workable goals or feeling discouraged, it may be time to ask yourself if your current career is where you want to spend thirty to sixty hours of your week.
4. Job Opportunity Knocks
Time and again, in my life and the lives of the people I’ve spoken to, I’ve seen this happen: you spend years thinking about making a career change. Or maybe you thought of training in something new without any real concrete idea of when or how it would happen—or even if it would happen. And then one day, seemingly out of the blue, you’ll have a chance conversation with a friend-of-a-friend, check a newspaper you seldom read, or click a link online you’d have ignored the week before. Behold: the job opportunity falls into your lap.
This opportunity will probably not be perfect. You may be offered an entry-level role you believe is below your skill set, or it may not seem like the right timing regarding your personal life. Opportunities are rarely perfect, but if one has just presented itself, something might prompt you toward your desired career and lifestyle.
5. You Become Obsessed with Your Hobby
Many of us are used to viewing a ‘hobby’ as something we do between our ‘real job’—the one that makes us money. For some, though, their hobby pulls at them until it becomes an obsession, and they cultivate their skills until they perform them at a very high level.
When this happens, it may be time to do some soul-searching about where your talents lie and how to use them to the best of your potential. I’ve known public servants, born gym instructors, and call center employees whose hobbies included producing professional-quality photographic portraits.
Work out what you love to do, then investigate if there is a way for you to be paid for doing it. If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not yet,’ that’s worth taking on board, too. You may still view your hobbies not as guilty pleasures but as personal training for your desired career. When the opportunity presents itself, you’ll want to be ready.
6. Money Isn’t Your Job Motivator
Let’s face it: it’s easy for someone else to tell you to throw in the towel on your current job and change your career if they don’t have to pay your bills. Fear of economic failure is a massive part of why people remain unsatisfied with jobs or underemployed; the current job market can sometimes feel too significant a risk to cross-train or make a career change.
This anxiety is particularly understandable if we have dependents relying on us (spouse, children, elderly parents, etc.) or expensive investments that need to be protected (e.g., a mortgage).
Upskilling or changing your career can sometimes cause your income to take a temporary hit, which is enough of a deterrent for many people. Before you walk away from pursuing your dreams because you’re afraid of what it might mean in terms of income, take a thorough and honest look at how you’re doing financially. You may adjust your lifestyle so that your reduced circumstances don’t result in anyone going hungry.
7. Your Personal Life is Suffering
In today’s gig employment culture, there’s a tendency to glorify the work ethic that has you chained to your desk for sixteen hours a day, inhaling coffee for dinner, at the expense of all other aspects of your life.
It’s natural for employees to please their boss by going above and beyond, especially in an environment where their position is not guaranteed. Moreover, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that an office full of exhausted workaholics is common workplace culture and proves everyone on staff is dedicated to what they do.
A good job will provide—even outright enforce—a healthy work-life balance, from having a fair leave policy to encouraging social outings between employees. If your current position doesn’t embrace you as a well-rounded person with various relationships and interests outside of work, it might be a sign you need something more in your career.
8. Your Instinct is Crystal Clear – You Know
These are examinable, quantifiable ways to tell it’s time to move on with your job and look into a second job option. But there’s another way that will rarely disappoint you: use your intuition.
Most of us have an inner prompt that tells us when something is correct and isn’t. It sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, but science indicates that it results from our brains observing something. For example, the organization you work for has a very high layoff rate, and your intuition comes to a conclusion based on what you’ve observed (that you should look to upskill or change careers before you’re laid off) without you consciously realizing how you came to that conclusion.
Or perhaps, it’s just your soul talking to you. In any case, it never hurts to listen.
Are you looking to transition into a teaching or any other education role? Or are you seeking to make a career change out of education?
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