For years, I thought my professional calling was working in international development.
I idolized development and aid workers, imagining my future self running vaccination campaigns or defusing international conflicts while speaking multiple languages and traveling around the world. In college, I interned for the U.S. embassy in Cyprus and the World Health Organization, eager to learn the ropes and make a positive impact. And as a management consultant at McKinsey, I did everything I could to get on projects that would let me have a hand in the development and nonprofit world.
So, when I landed a position doing strategic planning and implementation for vaccine introductions in East Africa, I thought I had landed my ultimate dream job.
In reality, I hadn’t.
Yes, I was doing incredibly valuable work, but most of my day-to-day involved costing out implementation in Excel spreadsheets, building PowerPoint decks to present our approach to groups of officials, and dealing with various bureaucracies. While the people I worked with were phenomenal, I ultimately realized that the work really wasn’t making use of my best skills and abilities. At the close of one particularly successful project, I started to feel itchy feet.
Making the decision to leave that job was difficult for many reasons—not the least of which was that I was walking away from what I had always considered my dream career and starting the next chapter essentially from scratch. But looking back, I knew in my gut it was the right decision. When I returned to the U.S., I began working on a small website—a project that did make use of those skills I wanted to be using and that eventually led to me founding The Muse. I haven’t looked back since.
Whether you, like me, aren’t sure you’re passionate about your work anymore, or you’re itching for a change, pondering new opportunities, or just wanting to try something else, I know how hard it is to make a change versus staying the course that you’ve plotted for yourself. But I also know that career paths are long and rarely linear anymore, and that if you’re not feeling fulfilled in your day-to-day, there’s no better time than now to consider what you might like to be doing instead.
But how do you know if it’s really time to make a change? Here are a few of the questions I asked myself when considering leaving my job. Hopefully, they will help you decide if a career move is right for you, too.
- Do I want to do this for the next five years—or does the thought of that make me panic?
- When I look at the opportunities ahead of me at my job, am I excited—or do I feel stressed, anxious, or bored?
- Are there other roles, opportunities, projects, or clients I could work on at my current job that are interesting to me—or not?
- Am I still excited about my work—or am I holding onto this job because it’s what I’m used to, because it’s what I thought I wanted to do, or because I’m afraid to make a change?
- Does this job make use of my best skills—or am I feeling frustrated that my abilities aren’t being put to good use?
- Does my current employer value growth, learning, and new opportunities for employees—or would I have more support elsewhere?
- Is my work still aligned with my values, interests, and goals—or have my needs changed over the years?
Deciding whether to stay or go is never an easy decision. But hopefully, these questions will get you thinking—and, one way or another, point you in the direction of your career dreams.
Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.
Photo of man walking courtesy of Shutterstock.