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How to Know You Are in the Wrong Job


November 20, 2020

“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives” Annie Dillard

How do you view your work?  Is it a means to an end?  Is it just the ‘way you get to pay for stuff’ or is it something more meaningful?

Do you do it because it brings you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction? Does it reflect your interest, abilities and passion? Should or could your work bring you personal fulfilment?

The way in which you have answered the above reveals a lot about the expectations you have and perhaps how satisfied or not you are in your current place of work.  The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lives and clearly this has a massive impact on a person’s quality of life.

For many of us, our attitudes to work have been inherited or taken on by us from our parents, teachers, society and culture.  Certain careers are viewed as status-enhancing such as careers as in law, accounting or medicine.  Others are viewed as aspirational and for the privileged few with access to resources such as being an entrepreneur or business owner and still others are viewed as ‘solid’ and advantageous in terms of hours, package and commitment, for example, teaching and other public sector roles.

An increasing number of people are realising that the jobs they aspired to are no longer satisfying or rewarding.  Our attitude to work changes as we change and awaken to the truth of who we are and what was once considered a rock solid career with fantastic prospects can become drudgery and something which depletes our life force.

I have many clients who tell me that money and climbing the career ladder are no longer as important to them as they once were.  They have a realisation that the job they once greatly aspired to is now longer cutting the mustard. Somehow, expectations have not been met. They are looking for something more than just a pay packet; they are looking for meaningful work that fulfils them.

Often we find ourselves in careers and wonder how we got there. We get to define what is and is not acceptable to us.

Here are some tell tale signs that you are no longer in the right job or career for you:

• You avoid talking about work

This is a tell-tale sign because it indicates your lack of interest in what you spend a significant portion of your time doing.  While nobody wants to talk about work all the time, a reticence or reluctance to discuss it is often a very telling indication that something might need to change.

• You have no desire to professionally develop

Are you keen to attend extra training workshops and seminars or would you rather watch paint dry?   Do you aspire to climb the career ladder and add to your expertise and credentials or would you rather stay where you are?  The answer can often indicate a lack of ambition in your chosen professional sphere and in addition to other signs might be an indication that you are not as interested in or passionate enough about your career as you could be.

• You contemplate quitting

This really is a red flag and one that is always a very clear indicator that all is not well.  If you are frequently dreaming of quitting you job, running away or winning the lottery and retiring to your own private island, then this is a sign that cannot be ignored. Why do you wish to quit? Get specific.  Is it an annoying boss, unrealistic demands being placed upon you, boring and unfulfilling tasks?  Sometimes we can address what is bothering us in a work environment and at other times, the right thing to do is leave.  As quitting is a very decisive act which can have far-reaching consequences, a deeper analysis, contemplation and discussion with a partner, friend or professional might be required before you do anything hasty.  I always recommend having a plan in place before one leaves a job or to gradually test the waters in a new career before resigning from a current role.

• You experience low vitality

This is a very obvious and insidious sign.  If we choose it, our work can be something that enriches us and puts us into a flow state where we are functioning and engaging optimally.  Experiencing a low or depressed mood as a result of your work indicates a lack of joy and presence at work.  Do you believe you can be happy and fulfilled by your work or is this just the reality of working life that we have to accept? You decide.  Recognise that if you are experiencing negative emotions because of your work life that this will inevitably spill over into other aspects of your life such as your health, relationships and family life.  People are often worried about the risk of leaving one job to pursue another but often the right question to ask is what are the risks of staying?

• You get the Sunday night blues

If you find yourself feeling a sense of dread or anxiety about the thought of going into work on Monday, it may be a clue that there is a deeper issue at play.  You have had an amazing weekend, let loose and really enjoyed yourself. By contrast, the thoughts of another week of work fills you with physiological dread. It’s common for those in fulfilling careers to not enjoy some aspects of their work and to feel healthy anxiety from time to time, however, a sense of impending doom and anxiety at the prospect of another week is a telltale sign that all is not as it should be.

• You feel lost/stuck/trapped

A feeling of being stuck, confused and trapped is very common for those who are in the wrong career.  This often arises as a direct result of the low mood we feel.   Negative emotions have a narrowing effect on the mind which make us feel hopeless and despondent about what our prospects and options are.  We might feel that there is no point in considering making a change for a myriad of reasons such as our age, experience, financial cost, the risk involved, the opinions of others or due to poor self worth.  The fact of the matter is we get what believe we deserve.  There is always hope and greater possibilities if we choose to act on it.

• You are sensitive/emotional at home

People who are dissatisfied with their work can often bring their dissatisfaction home with them. This can spill out into their relationships in the form of emotional imbalance. They might find themselves quick to anger or to tear up. The slightest thing might set them off and the reaction might seem wholly disproportionate. This is often the result of repressed emotions which then ‘leak’ into interpersonal relationships.  A person who is unhappy at work might not be inclined to open up and tell others how they are feeling for fear of being judged. Moreover, for loved ones, it isn’t exactly fun to hang around with someone who is unhappy in such a key area of life.

While a person may experience one or more of these signs and still be happy to remain in their job, if you are experiencing several of the above it may be time to do some soul searching and ask yourself if you would be better suited to another career.

Often we know deep down that we could do more or better but our own limiting beliefs and fears get in the way.  Our choice of career is and always will be a personal decision that reflects our own beliefs, expectations, desires and values.  We get to decide what is or is not acceptable to us.

In my opinion, many people end up in the wrong career because they have chosen careers for the wrong reasons -money, prestige, to get approval, legitimacy or based on a false understanding of themselves.

Fundamentally, the ideal career is decided upon based on a clear understanding of who we are and what we are here to contribute.  It almost always includes using our strengths and tapping into what we do naturally and instinctively. It sits perfectly in aligment with our core values.

A great question to ask anyone considering a career change is what would you do for free?

The old adage of doing what you love and never working a day in your life still holds true.

If this resonates with you and you need some help then don’t be afraid to ask for it!  If you are looking for some in depth career coaching to uncover a career that is more in alignment with who you are on a deeper level and which brings greater meaning and fulfilment to your life then you can book your free discovery call here.

About Sarah

I’m Sarah, women’s life and wellbeing coach. I am an intuitive, warm & compassionate coach who truly understands the modern female experience and the challenges it can bring

Contact Sarah