There can be a fine line between feeling content (or even happy) at your job and feeling desperate to get out. A good workflow can change with new organizational priorities, a disagreement with your boss, or your own external circumstances (like if you need more money or flexibility). And these events that make your great job suddenly suck can seem to appear out of nowhere—but did they really?
Here are some signs to watch for so you can avoid being blindsided by hating your work.
Sign #1: Sunday Night Blues Are the Norm
Though the “Sunday Sads” are not a new concept, many professionals have reluctantly accepted them, coping through Instagram memes and comforting Sunday rituals. But, if this feeling of dread or anxiety before work arises on a regular basis, pay attention.
While it’s comforting to know you’re not alone (a Monster.com poll shows that more than three-quarters of US workers surveyed feel sad and anxious on Sunday evenings), that doesn’t mean you should just accept these feelings as the norm. If you experience signs of physical and mental exhaustion just at the thought of going back to work, working with a specific person, or meeting a work goal, you could be one project away from wanting to quit.
Create two columns and map out in as much detail as you can what fires you up at your job versus what drags you down. Take a look at positive side and ask, “Do these attributes actually point toward a new direction?” Likewise, look at the items that drag you down and consider “Can I change or reframe these? And if not, to what degree am I willing to keep experiencing this?” It may become clear that you can address certain aspects where you are or that you should begin seeking new opportunities.
Sign #2: Your Work-Life Balance Is Non-Existent
Raise your hand if you’re making a decent salary, but you can’t even enjoy it. Are you in a cycle of paying rent for an apartment you’re never at and buying food that you’re scarfing down in front of your computer? Maybe you enjoy diving deeply into your work. (For example, if a particularly visible project was handed to you, you’ll want to spend extra time working on it and exceeding expectations.) But eventually, the adrenaline runs out and the lack of self-care or personal time can turn into disdain for your job.
The key here is to identify if you have control over building a better balance between work and other things you value. If so, what can you change to shift this cycle? Alternatively, if this pressure to work all the time is coming from the company, be honest about whether this level of commitment really works for you—or has you headed for burnout? If it’s the latter, it’s time to consider building boundaries at work, or seeking a company that aligns with your optimal balance.
Sign #3: You’re Not Being Mentored for a Leadership Role
It can take some time to tell how strong your opportunities for growth are, and if there’s an upward path for you. A team that may be really supportive and offer lots of guidance during training may also not encourage you to speak up or actively involve you in advancement opportunities as you gain experience.
Maybe your manager asks you to complete aspects of her job, but doesn’t give you credit during meetings, or declines your request for of a high-ranking project (without any feedback as to why). Or, perhaps other colleagues tend to resign at a certain point in the company, usually to pursue a promotion or further education. Sometimes, you really aren’t ready for advancement. But, as you gain experience within an organization, you will quickly hit a ceiling—in your career and how you feel about your work—if growth and leadership aren’t cultivated in entry-level and mid-manager positions.
Schedule a time to meet with your immediate manager to discuss your plan going forward and brainstorm ideas to develop your skill sets, leadership opportunities, and visibility in the company. If this goes well, put these ideas into action, and note how people in the company respond. However, if this conversation isn’t fruitful and nothing changes, start getting your resume in order, because odds are there’s an expiration date on how long you’ll be satisfied in this role.
By staying on the lookout for signs that you may be weeks away from hating your job—you give yourself more opportunities to process and prepare, which can lead to a more efficient job search. If you identify with the signs above, don’t ignore them.