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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

4 Questions to Help You Decide if You Should Stay at Your Job or Peace Out

Are you one of the many people who’s thought (more times than you’d care to admit), “I’d rather be doing something else—anything else” when it comes to work? I mean, who hasn't fantasized about what it would be like to work for another company, felt a slight twinge of jealousy when listening to a friend explain what she does at her exciting new job, or experienced his fair share of the Sunday Scaries over the years?

But what does it mean when these thoughts occur more often than not? How can you tell if what you feel has less to do with the occasional workday blues and more to do with the fact that you’re simply in the wrong job?

Although it’s never as cut and dry as jumping ship just because you’re not singing from the mountaintop every time you arrive at work, here are four important questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure whether to stay or go.

1. Am I Learning and Growing?

If the last time you learned something new at work was when the vacation policy was being explained during new-hire orientation, it’s time to read the writing on the wall.

I chatted with career consultant and digital brand strategist, Kyshira Moffett about how people can tell it’s time for a career change, and her advice is clear:

Every role you take should enable you to develop new skills and increase your knowledge base.

Even though it’s true that in any job there’ll be times you’ll be doing more than you’ll be learning, gaining new insights and expanding your skill set is a critical part of being happy at work—and it typically goes hand in hand with producing.

If you’ve tried creative ways to develop on your own, such as researching online classes or doing an informational interview with someone on a different team from yours, but you still feel stunted, this job may no longer be the one for you.

2. Does the Job Still Meet My Expectations?

Remember when you first read the description for your job and got all warm and fuzzy on the inside? You were excited to apply for the position you believed was tailor-made for you. How do you feel about that same job today? Has it morphed into a completely different role—one you’re no longer interested in? Or have your own career priorities changed over the years?

Maybe you were super excited to work behind the scenes analyzing Excel files full of data when you first started, but as time progressed, you find yourself preferring a client-facing role where you’re meeting people and managing key relationships.

Whatever the reason for feeling your job isn’t a great match anymore, it’s totally OK to admit you’re no longer happy where you are. It’s better to be honest with yourself and look for work that feels more in line with your interests than to stick it out in a job that’s got you doing work day in and day out that’s making you miserable.

3. Is My Job Just Plain Boring?

Have you had the same exact routine for the past six or 12 months (or more) and feel there’s no opportunity for you to bring your creativity to work? Does the thought of working on one more PowerPoint presentation on the same uninspiring topic make you want to toss your computer out the nearest window?

Although there are parts of every job that aren’t the most electrifying, if yours is more mundane than motivating, and if it doesn’t inspire you to do your best work, then ask yourself what that could mean.

Moffett says, “If you’ve tried to talk to your manager on a number of occasions about things that could bring new excitement into your work, such as new projects, the possibility for stretch assignments, or internal mobility opportunities, and you’ve been met with radio silence, it may be time to dust off your resume and pursue other options.”

4. Am I Doing Everything But Work?

When’s the last time you produced something you were proud of and that reinforced your reasons for being in your line of work in the first place? A month ago? A year ago? Never?

Feeling like the work you do matters is an important part of being satisfied at work and any job where you’re so disengaged that you’ll entertain any distraction that comes your way—all so you can put off doing real work, because you figure, who cares, no one’s taking notice—may mean it’s time for a new gig.

We all spend some small portion of our workday taking care of personal tasks, such as paying bills and making doctor’s appointments. But when finding ways to avoid doing work becomes its own full time job—and you’re 100% sure you’re not going through an “I’m-just-not-feeling-anything-today” phase—it’s time to evaluate what’s really going on.

While you shouldn't automatically assume occasional feelings of boredom or frustration mean you need to immediately quit your job, and you shouldn’t give weight to any one of these questions in isolation, you should definitely be paying attention to what you’re feeling and why.

The average person spends more than one-third of his or her life at work, so it’s important to be constantly tuned in to what motivates you and allows you to do your best work. Taking the time to ask yourself the tough questions aimed at getting to the bottom of what you want professionally is the first step to leaving the wrong job behind and finally finding the one that’s meant for you.

Photo of person at wall courtesy of Natalie Faye/Getty Images.

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