Making a career transition can be an intimidating endeavor. We often feel loyalty to our team or employer. Many times we’re comfortable and fear the unknown. Sometimes we worry that we won’t be successful someplace else. So many fears and worries can keep us in the same role much longer than is good for us.
It’s important to identify the signs when it’s time for a career transition so that you can get ahead of it and start exploring your options before you become truly burnt-out.
Here are some of the key signs that it may be time for a career transition:
Your work is getting too repetitive. It can be incredibly demoralizing when you’re craving more, but you’re stuck doing the same thing over and over again. Check in with yourself to see if you are still learning new things in your role. If not, this could be a sign to start opening yourself up to new possibilities.
You’re apathetic about your work. If you feel this way, you’re likely not doing something you’re passionate about. When we do something we’re passionate about we feel energized and alive. Take note of what you do while you’re procrastinating from your work work. What we do when we procrastinate is often a good indication of what we’re truly passionate about.
You truly dread the alarm clock. Many of our clients come to us with a severe case of “Mondayitis.” The get anxiety on Sunday nights (and most weekday nights) thinking about work in the morning. They may lay sleepless at night stressing about what’s to come in the office the next day, be it boredom, a terrible boss or unfulfilling or uninteresting work. They have gotten to the point where they dread the alarm clock going off.
If you work a 40-hour work week and sleep 8 hours per night, you spend more than a third of your waking hours at work. If you work a 60-hour work week, you spend more than half of your waking hours at work. That is a significant portion of your life to dread. If you find yourself feeling this anxious about your job, it is definitely time to consider a new path.
You’re bringing your work stress home. When you carry the stress of work home with you, it continues to be taxing to you and then to those around you. If you’re constantly checking your email, talking about the things that went wrong at work or complaining about your colleagues or team, it could be a sign that this job isn’t right for you. Finding balance in our lives and knowing when to turn off work mode is incredibly important to both recharge and maintain healthy relationships. Of course, there will be big projects and important deadlines which will cause us to stress more at certain times in our job than others. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump ship anytime things get stressful, but if the stress level is consistently high and starting to feel burdensome, it may be time to evaluate your role.
You’re not the best version of yourself. A buildup of work-related stress over time can often lead to you lashing out on those around you. You may find yourself acting in ways that are completely out of character, shocking and embarrassing. This may not even be as dire as being the worst version of yourself but could simply be knowing that a different environment helps you to be the best version of yourself. If you know you’re not showing up as your best self, it’s time to think about ways to manage this or if a new position may be a better fit.
You feel isolated. While your career path is yours to own, you need the support of others for guidance, opportunities, personal growth and to achieve your full potential. You may be able to actively seek out this support, but if you’re still feeling that senior leadership isn’t investing in your initiatives or advancement, you may want to look elsewhere.
Your values are being compromised. Our values are a key component of who we are as people. When our job forces us to compromise our values, it often leaves us feeling unsettled or frustrated. Maybe you don’t agree with how your company treats its customers or maybe your job forces you to prioritize work over family. If those things conflict with your core values, the emotional and physical strain is sure to surface. Of course if your work is causing you to act in a way that you believe is unethical, you may need to remove yourself from the situation immediately.
Your work lacks meaning and purpose. We want to feel like our hard work has made an important contribution to someone or something. If you’re feeling like you’re wasting 40+ hours per week, and your work isn’t making a tangible impact on customers or the organization, it may be time to evaluate alternatives.
You can’t work productively with your boss. All relationships are difficult, and it can take time and effort to get in a good flow with your boss. People have very different personalities, communication styles, preferences and approaches at work, so don’t worry if you’re not getting along famously right from the start. You should always have an ongoing dialogue with your manager about how you can continue to work better together. However, if the relationship is truly toxic, and all of your efforts to improve it are falling short, it may be time to get out of the situation. No one deserves to be bullied at work.
Making a career transition can take many different forms.
If one or more of the above signs really rings true for you, then it’s worth exploring the idea of a career transition. The right form of transition for you will depend on which of the above signs is plaguing you most you and what you’re looking for from this next phase of your career.
New team – If you find yourself with a terrible manager or are feeling isolated, the solution may be as simple as switching to a new team within your company if the structure allows. You can find ways to do this tactfully without burning bridges but migrating your way to a group of people who will allow you to be happier and more successful.
New position – If you absolutely love your company and believe in its mission, then you don’t have to leave! Perhaps you’re finding your work repetitive or you’ve become overly stressed out with your workload. In these cases, trying out a new position within your organization could be a great solution. You may even want to start by asking to shadow someone in that department or see if there are ways to support them with a project to get a better sense for what they do.
New company – If you find your work lacks meaning or if the way the company operates is misaligned with your values, then finding a new organization could be the right approach. The company culture significantly impacts your experience as an employee, and that goes beyond decor and perks. It speaks to the way people interact and treat one another and the way work gets done. There may be a different company that’s better aligned with how you operate.
New role – If the nature of your job is such that you aren’t learning and growing or it isn’t something that gives you energy, you may want to explore other roles. This could be within your company or elsewhere depending on which components of the role aren’t aligning. Also what interests you in the future. For example, when I was leaving management consulting, it wasn’t my company that I didn’t like. I just knew that I didn’t want to be a consultant anymore.
New industry – You’re feeling completely apathetic about your job because it just doesn’t interest you, the industry as a whole may just not be the most exciting place for you. For example, I have a friend who worked in investments, and he would see his colleagues so excited to wake up in the morning and read the Wall Street Journal or bringing investing books with them on vacation. Even though he was great at his job, he just didn’t care about it! He now uses those analytical skills in an entirely different context which he is much more interested in.
If by now you’re thinking that perhaps a career transition is the right next step for you, congratulations!
I hope you’ll truly take this as an opportunity to reflect and reconnect with yourself before rushing into something new. How exciting that you are about to embark on a new career journey that can look many different ways.
That being said, I know how overwhelming this time can be. If you’re not sure where to begin, I encourage you to download our 10-step career transition guide here. You can also read about our comprehensive career transition coaching program, the ALV Method, here.
When it comes time to put in your notice and move on to the next opportunity, you may want to take a peek at this article. I talk about how to quit your job without burning bridges.
Career transitions are scary, but they are also empowering. I’ve made them a couple of times now, and even though I’ve been fearful about what’s next and nervous that I’ve walked away from something good, I have never looked back. Take the time to really get to know yourself and what you need to be at your best, and then find or create the job that mirrors that. Once you do, that is when you will really thrive.