As the year winds down, your projects come to a pause, and year-end office parties and celebrations wrap up, you finally have a moment to catch your breath. Whilst the holiday season has its frantic moments, it also offers you a few days away from the office, and a much-needed break from the madness and crazy pace of your career.
Ahh yes, your career. Your day job. The activity that fills most of your waking hours. For a very small minority of you, the work that fills your day also fills you with satisfaction, fulfilment, a sense of true accomplishment and meaning. You love the work you do. However, if you’re within the 87% of employees “not actively engaged in their jobs,” you may dread the workweek, and instead live for the weekends and holiday breaks. You may find yourself struggling to maintain your motivation at work, and if it weren’t for the money and the stability your job offers, you would probably quit. Today.
I hear stories like this all the time from clients and professionals who tell me “they don’t hate their jobs enough to leave,” but really struggle to feel happy because they’re spending so much time doing work they don’t enjoy. Questions around change often come up at the end of the year when you finally have time to truly reflect on how things are going for you. I, myself, have gone through some major career changes, times when I decided to quit, to make a major career leap. To walk away from the world I knew for the pursuit of something else, not always knowing exactly where I was headed, but knowing exactly where I didn’t want to be.
We all have bills to pay, CVs to manage, professional images to maintain. Most people I know don’t love instability, disruption, and unpredictability, often par for the course with career changes. Leaving your job behind for the pursuit of something else is a major decision, probably as big as it gets in the world of career decisions. So the question is, how can you tell when it’s time to make a career change?
The decision to leave your job, to change career paths, and to uproot yourself is a deeply personal one. The truth is, there’s not one single diagnostic tool that will tell you what to do. However, you’ll want to watch for the following clues that may signal enough is enough. How many of the following have you said to yourself lately?
By the end of each day, your energy has been completely depleted. You spend your weekends recuperating from the workweek. In meetings, most of your energy is spent trying to care instead of trying to do a great job. You’re exhausted all the time. Waking up each workday seems to be harder and harder as the week goes on.
“I dread Mondays”
Friday evenings are great. Sunday evenings aren’t. You find yourself watching the clock, almost having to give yourself a pep talk before walking in the door first thing on Monday morning. The week ahead feels like an eternity, and you are absolutely dreading the thought of getting through your to-do list.
“I have to be someone else”
Each day, you feel a bit like an actress, playing the part, but not really being who you are, not making the most of your strengths. You feel like you have to be someone else to fit into your role. It feels like you’re stuck playing the wrong sport. You feel like you do have some natural talents & skills that are completely untapped right now.
“I’m not growing”
You feel like you’re on a hamster wheel. Going around in circles. Not growing, not learning, and not evolving. Work has stagnated, and you no longer feel excited or enthusiastic about what you do. You can’t remember the last time when you felt really engaged at work and you’re overwhelming feeling is complete boredom.
“I’m in a bad mood all the time”
What you’re feeling at work has started to trickle into the rest of your life, your relationships, your recreation, even your health. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” at a party, you dread giving your answer because you’re not excited by it at all. When you get home after a long day, you’re in a foul mood, not exactly the best company for your partner. You’re not in the greatest shape either. After all, you don’t have a ton of energy, so you’re not making it to the gym as often.
Wow, this all sounds intense, doesn’t it? Taking a big step back, at the end of the day, all of us are in some ways blessed to have jobs, stable incomes, and roles others would love to have. However, we also all have the permission to strive for more, to not settle for a career we don’t enjoy. How many of these “symptoms” are you feeling? How long have you felt them? And how long will you tolerate this situation? How bad will it have to get before you make your change?
If you’re feeling stuck, the holidays are a great time to reflect on what you really want. To stop for a moment, and consider if you’re happy with where you’re headed. To consider how you want the upcoming year to be different from the one that’s past. To decide if the time has come to move on.
Ultimately, only you can decide if and when to make a change. My challenge to you, especially if you’re feeling everything mentioned above, is to start sooner rather than later, to take at least one small step in the new year toward exploring a new direction. Whilst making a change certainly comes with its costs, finding a more satisfying career path for your life is absolutely priceless.
Joseph Liu is a Career & Personal Branding Consultant, Speaker, Associate Certified Coach, and Founder of JOSEPHPLIU.COM, helping professionals relaunch their careers by marketing their personal brands more powerfully. He's also the host of the Career Relaunch Podcast featuring inspiring stories of career change. His work is informed by 10 years of global marketing experience in the US & UK on brands including Glad, Liquid-Plumr, Gü Puds, and Häagen-Dazs, 4 major brand relaunches, and 450+ hours of professional coaching. Joseph has served as a featured speaker at TEDx, MarketingWeek Live, and the Edge Digital Marketing Conference. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Medium.