3 Ways to Figure Out if You Just Need a New Job or an Entirely New Career Path
We all know that sinking feeling on Sunday night when you only have a few more hours of freedom left before you have to drag yourself to a job you really just don’t like. And because you know what that feeling is like, you also understand how much it can make you want to drop everything and quit ASAP. Not just quit your job, but your entire industry. That’s how much you dread Monday morning.
While it’s perfectly normal for most people to have at least one job that makes them want to give up everything and move back home, it’s not always clear if it’s the company or the industry that’s driving you crazy. And that’s an important thing to figure out before you make any moves. After all, one involves applying to new jobs in your field, and the other requires spending time figuring out what career path you even want to be on—and then how to get there.
If you’re struggling with this very thing, here are three questions to ask yourself.
1. Would You Be Happy Doing Your Job Somewhere Else?
This one seems straightforward, but when you’re at a point when the thought of Monday mornings seems worse than major surgery, the fact that you actually like your actual job responsibilities can get lost really, really quickly. Of course, you might not like the work as much because your company is kind of a drag or your manager’s the worst, but you won’t know for sure unless you really take the time to think about why you’re so frustrated.
Figuring this out is also fairly simple, but it will take a little bit of effort on your end. Not too much work, though. I’d hate to call this a “pros and cons” list, but take out a piece of scrap paper and quickly create two columns. Label one “Things I Like About My Job” and the second, “Things I Don’t Like About My Job.” These might seem silly, but once you’ve gotten a few things down, you’ll quickly see trends that’ll either point you toward a better company, or toward making a 180-degree turn with your career.
2. Are You Fulfilled by Your Career?
If you’re like most people, you assume that a fulfilling job includes work you love, a mission you can get behind, and a personal assistant who is always at the ready with a fresh latte. And when a job falls short on one of those things, it’s easy to assume it’s time to move on. While it’s important not to ignore these feelings, it’s just as crucial to identify what being fulfilled actually means to you.
I’m a big believer in the idea that there’s such thing as the right job at the wrong company, and vice versa. Of course, there’s also the double whammy of the wrong job at the wrong company. However, each scenario is different for everyone. To quickly figure out which bucket you fall into, ask yourself a couple not-so-easy questions.
Does your job give you opportunities to utilize your strengths in unique ways? Is the industry’s mission, product, or impact so awesome that you can’t imagine doing anything else? Do spend your spare time reading up on trends and related news? No matter what you’re looking for, sit yourself down and be honest about what your priorities are—even if that means coming to grips with the fact that you actually are in the wrong job at the wrong company.
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3. Have You Been Down This Road Multiple Times?
Do you keep getting so-called awesome positions at so-called awesome companies, only to find yourself just as miserable as you were at your last job? I’ve been there, too. There will always be jobs that oversell themselves and leave you feeling duped, but if this keeps happening over and over again, it might be time to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if the biggest issue is you.
How do I know this? I am Exhibit A. For a long time, I assumed I was going to have a long career in sales, even though I wasn’t very good at it. And on the days I was most upset about it, I figured it was because I didn’t like the companies I worked for. So I bounced around a couple times (often to some really cool places), and a funny thing happened—I still wasn’t very interested in what I was doing. Fortunately, someone close to me finally got through and helped me realize I was jumping around so often because I was chasing the wrong jobs. And even though you probably wouldn’t consider me a best friend, I hope this helps you come to a similar conclusion.
It’s perfectly normal to be frustrated by a job you just aren’t excited about doing. However, before you make a drastic move, take some time to ask yourself a few questions so you can better prepare yourself to tackle it. While it might delay your plans of making a grand exit from a job or even a career you don’t like, you’ll ultimately find that you’ll be able to put yourself on a much clearer path to something you can get really excited about doing every day.
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Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author