When you’re not enjoying your job, you might feel like you’re just done with your whole career. You might be experiencing a wide range of emotions, including frustration, anger, sadness, or even apathy. In some cases, you can just feel like you’ve had enough and that you want to make a major, drastic change.
But do you want to change your job… or do you want to change your whole career?
Although it might feel like you want to drop everything and make a total career shift, that might not be the answer. Changing your career is a major move, and sometimes, a job change might be enough. The tricky part is figuring out whether it’s your job that needs to change, or if you truly want an entirely new career. When you’re in the middle of it, it can be extremely difficult to tell.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to figure this out. To get to the bottom of this, you’ll have put in some work and it won’t all be easy. This article will take you through a couple of exercises I use with career coaching clients to get you started. These exercises will help you get a better understanding of what’s important to you when it comes to your career and involve a little bit of serious reflection on your part!
When it comes to your career happiness, it’s worth taking the time needed to figure it out.
Figure Out What You Like & Don’t Like About Your Job.
Sounds simple, right? This exercise is harder than you’d think to determine and yet so crucial to figuring out whether you just need a new job or a whole new career.
As you zero in on the specifics of what you actually enjoy (and don’t enjoy) about your job, you might start to see whether it’s the actual job that’s the problem or if it’s other factors such as work environment, your manager, the team, corporate culture, industry, or something else. Write a list of what you like and don’t like about your current role:
For example, if you wrote down:
- “Don’t like boss’s management style” = That might mean a new job
- “Don’t like constantly responding to people’s complaints (in a customer service job)” = That might mean a new career
- “Don’t like company’s mission and purpose” = That might mean a new job
- “Don’t like the amount of unexpected administrative work (instead of creative work) involved in my job” = That might mean a new career
Now keep in mind, it’s not quite that simple. Just because you wrote down you don’t like your boss doesn’t necessarily mean a new job is the answer. But it’s a clue about what you’re not enjoying and part of how you need to identify some of the overall trends about what’s going on with you.
Get Clear on Your Career Values
Figuring out what you value when it comes to careers is crucial to finding something you enjoy. If you’re not enjoying your job, chances are that something is not aligned when it comes to your values.
What is most important to you when it comes to your career? Here are just a few examples of values that could be important:
- Chances to help others
- And more!
Try writing down a list of your most important values when it comes to your career, then think about your current role and how it matches up to these values. If it’s not matching up, where is it falling short and why? This can help you narrow down if it’s the career or the job that’s not working for you.
Try Out This Easy Exercise to Learn YOUR Career Values
Are you wondering what your career values are? If so, try downloading my FREE career values exercise to learn more about what’s important to you in a career. You can access it for free here!
Signs You Might Need to Change Your Job
1. The things you don’t like are part of the management style / team / company culture.
As you’re reading through the things you don’t like and your career values, you might realize that a whole lot of them don’t have anything to do with the career itself and more to do with the company.
- Not feeling appreciated
- Boss doesn’t accept or even consider my ideas
- Team is very competitive and doesn’t help each other
- Constant negative vibe in the workplace
- No flexibility / no chance to work from home even 1 day a week
2. You’ve only had one job in your field.
If you’ve only ever had one job in your field, and you absolutely hate it, that could mean this is not the career for you. But it could also mean that this was not the company / job / team / etc. for you. It can be really hard to know if you’ve only had one job in your chosen field if you need a total change.
You’ll have also invested in this career already, whether it’s getting an education in the field or putting in time and effort to build up experience. Depending on how much you’ve invested and how long you’ve worked in the job, it may be worth it to give another job in the field a try before changing careers. At the very least, you’ll know you fully gave the career a chance and tried out more than one role before putting your time and energies into a career change to something else. Plus, who knows, maybe you’ll find a job you actually like! And if not, you might learn even more about yourself in the next role which will help you decide what to do in a new career.
3. You can’t see a future in your current role.
Think about what your future in this job looks like. Where would you be with this career path in 5 years? 10 years? Ask yourself what a future promotion might look like? For instance, do you think you’d enjoy your job more if you were working in your boss’s job? Or another more senior position? If not, why not?
Sometimes we get tired of a position when we’re looking for a new challenge. And often that challenge might be advancing into a leadership position. Would a shift into leadership be the right type of “change” for you? Is this the right career, but you’re ready for the next step… i.e. the next job?
On the other hand, if you look at the future possibilities in your career and can’t even imagine taking on your manager’s role, chances are you’re leaning towards a career change.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- If you were told tomorrow you could never work in your field again, how would you feel?
- If you could do this work in a different environment, would you enjoy it?
Signs You Might Need to Change Your Career
1. The things you don’t like about the job are a core part of the career.
As you’re reading through the things you don’t like, you might notice these are a pretty big part of the job. Maybe you wrote down the things you don’t like about the job are:
- Constantly dealing with customer complaints
- Spending a large portion of time on administrative work
- Don’t enjoy making sales calls
- Don’t like working with children
- Don’t like bureaucracy and predictability of the job
If you write down things this specific about the job itself, it’s possible that you’re not loving the actual career.
The next thing you’ll need to ask yourself – can this career exist without a focus on these things?
For example – if you don’t like bureaucracy and you’re in an HR role, could there be a role at another type of company (maybe a tech company or a startup) with less bureaucracy?
2. You’ve tried working in a few different settings and things didn’t improve.
Maybe you haven’t been sure about your career path for awhile, but you’ve really given it a try. You’ve had multiple jobs within your field, possibly within different organizations or even industries. Once you’ve worked in multiple roles and you’ve realized that you still haven’t enjoyed any of them, chances are that it’s the career that’s the problem.
3. You think that the work of others in your organization looks more interesting than your own.
Maybe it seems like the work in your department is really uninteresting, but you can feel yourself getting more interested in what some of your colleagues in other departments do.
If this is the case, it could mean there’s probably something missing in your current role that appears to exist in these other positions. You need to do a bit of reflection and think about what exactly appeals to you about this work. Is it the chance to work as a member or a team, or maybe you get to be more independent? Maybe the work seems more meaningful somehow? Maybe the work appears more analytical and that interests you?
By the way, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this work is the ideal career for you either. It’s a sign you need to do some work to identify what you actually want and what career might be the best fit for you.
Trying to Decide if you Need a Job Change or a Career Change? – Take The Quiz!
It’s actually not that easy to figure out and it can be extremely confusing. I’ve created a quick and easy quiz to help you figure out what to do next.
Click here to take the “Should You Change Careers? Quiz.”
As a Career Coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients to help them identify and pursue their ideal careers. When you hate your job, it can be difficult to determine if it’s the job or the career that’s the problem, and it can sometimes honestly seem like it’s both.
Career coaching can help you identify what’s not working for you and create an action plan to move in the right direction. Whether it’s identifying you need a career change and then exploring other careers to narrow down a choice, or if it’s developing a job search strategy, new resume/cover letter/LinkedIn Profile, and sharpening your interview skills to land another job in your field that you’ll actually enjoy.
No matter what career challenge you’re facing, I’d be happy to help with my coaching services.