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 new opportunities. Or, you may even be considering a new career path altogether by deciding to make a career change.
In fact, very few of us talk seriously about changing our careers, and even fewer actually 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 source of income. In today’s uncertain world, it takes courage to go after what you really want in a career. 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 from time to time, even those in the most creative and challenging of roles. Boredom isn’t always a bad thing, either; it can be a useful way of measuring our life experiences. After all, how would we know if something is interesting or engaging if we’ve never experienced boredom?
But, before writing off the fact that you’re spending eight hours a day inventing pointless busy work to keep yourself occupied, it’s worth examining what’s really going on. Chronic boredom can undermine even the most determined of workers and suck the joy out of your career. If you’re bored every time you’re at work (or to 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, that 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. Human beings thrive on these tasks—many of our sports and hobbies revolve around tasks and rewards. While encountering too many stressful challenges all at once is going to leave you burned out and wanting to change careers in the most destructive of ways, never being challenged at all will leave you unsatisfied.
Not being challenged in their job is the reason 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 your 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
Just as an experiment, sit down for ten minutes and write out a list of ten of your work-related goals. Make them as minor as you want (you want to be able to use the photocopier more) or as ambitious (you want to become CEO of the company). 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 be helping them to 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 you’re feeling discouraged from them, it may be time to ask yourself if your current career is where you really want to spend between thirty and sixty hours of your week.
4. Job Opportunity Knocks
Time and again, in my life and in 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 was going to happen—or even if it was going to happen. And then one day, seemingly out of the blue, you’ll have a chance conversation with a friend-of-a-friend, or check a newspaper you almost never 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 be prompting you toward the career and lifestyle you want.
5. You Become Obsessed with Your Hobby
Many of us are used to viewing a ‘hobby’ as something we do in 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 are performing them at a very high level. When this happens, it may be time to do some soul-searching as to where your talents lie and how to use them to the best of your potential. I’ve known public servants who were 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 choose to view your hobbies not as guilty pleasures, but as personal training for the career you want. 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 huge part of why people remain in unsatisfying jobs or remain underemployed; with the current job market, it can feel like too great a risk sometimes to cross-train or make a career change. This fear is particularly understandable if we have dependents relying on us (in the form of a spouse, children, elderly parents, etc.) or if we have 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 be able to 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 sort of 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 an employee to want 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 simply 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 a range of 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 Just Know
All of these are examinable, quantifiable ways you can tell it’s time to move on with your job and look into a second job option. But there’s another way, one that will rarely let you down: use your intuition.
Most of us have an inner prompt that tells us when something is right and when something isn’t. It sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, but science indicates that it’s the result of 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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