It’s time to stop snubbing the little voices in your head telling you to switch careers, and start listening to them very, very carefully.
Many people may be willing to give anything to have the job you currently have, but you may walk into your office every day with the urge to burn it down, wondering what a waste it all is. And you feel ungrateful, sometimes. But that’s alright because you are not the first, neither the only one to be unhappy with a job that is seemingly great.
I made a career switch long before I could even begin to hate my previous career choice or job and that is exactly what I recommend everyone to do – switch before it becomes necessary. I almost ‘fell onto’ my new career path and I can’t be happier about it. Most people, however, take too long in making that decision either because they’re afraid of the uncertainty that comes with changing careers or because they fail to identify [or ignore by choice] the signs. Of course, it is no easy decision to make but one that can make all the difference in your life.
Ask yourself the following questions. If the answer to any of them is yes, it might be time to rethink your career choice.
Was this career path thrust upon you?
Did you accept a job only because it helps you pay your bills? Or did your parents look at you pulling apart gadgets as a child and decide you must become an engineer? Parents choosing our destiny is the common rule particularly in the subcontinent; either because they expect you to join the family business or because that is what everyone in the family is successfully doing. At other times, it’s an unfulfilled personal wish.
Whatever the reason, you have ended up being in a career that was never your choice and despite trying hard you just can’t get to like it. If this is true, and you have an alternative career choice you always wanted to follow, there is no better time to switch than now.
Have you hit the ceiling?
You feel that there is no more scope for growth, learning or better financial returns. You’ve hit the ceiling. Hitting the ceiling is different from reaching a plateau. A plateau can be a temporary situation where you are stuck because of a flat hierarchical structure, for example. A ceiling, on the other hand, is a more permanent situation where any upward mobility is unlikely even if you switch jobs.
Sometimes diversifying can help. For example, bagging consultancies on the side of a full-time. That may bring you additional income, feel more challenging and exciting, and even add to your skills, but it is also likely to add to the dissatisfaction from not having enough time for yourself.
If you feel that putting in more time into the same career path is adding lesser and lesser value, a career change can be the right thing to do. So ask yourself, can you do something to improve your prospects in the same career? If you have exhausted all options and any more attempts at moving up in the same field are expected to result in even more discontent, start exploring alternative careers – particularly ones that can utilise the strongest of your transferable skills.
Have you developed a strong personal brand that is limiting how far you can go?
Author, entrepreneur, marketer and public speaker, Seth Godin, while talking about a friend said, ‘Doug needs to leave for a very simple reason. He's been branded. Everyone at the company has an expectation of who Doug is and what he can do. Working your way up from the mailroom sounds sexy, but in fact, it's entirely unlikely. Doug has hit a plateau. He's not going to be challenged, pushed or promoted to president. Doug, regardless of what he could actually accomplish, has stopped evolving -- at least in the eyes of the people who matter.
If he leaves and joins another company, he gets to reinvent himself. No one in the new company will remember young Doug from 10 years ago. No, they'll treat Doug as the new Doug, the Doug with endless upside and little past.’
Do you never feel uneasy or challenged?
This one may be considered linked to previous identifiers. You always know what to do, who to go to, or what to expect. You have become a master and whatever comes next is just routine for you. You start to lose excitement and feel there is nothing to look forward to.
This is particularly true for people who enjoy taking risks, trying out new things, exploring untapped avenues and so on. If you feel that your career path can no longer offer you the thrill of taking risks and everything has started to feel like a drag, it’s time to look for inspiration elsewhere.
Is your job becoming obsolete?
Can you believe that between 1999 and 2011, Kodak went from a USD 2.5 billion annual profit to USD 222 million quarterly loss? Digital photography replaced films and Kodak saw its traditional business obsolete.
Now consider what happens to the jobs of phlebotomist [the people who draw blood when you go for a blood test] when Tasso Inc.’s ping pong ball-sized, needleless HemoLink blood sampler becomes readily available? It can be operated by patients from the comfort of their homes to draw blood simply by placing it against the skin on their arm or abdomen.
With rapidly changing technology, some industries or jobs are expected to become obsolete in the next few years. Ask yourself if your career falls under the soon-to-be-dead list. You do not want to become a deadweight. Neither do you want to be caught by surprise. Be aware and prepare!
Does your career contradict some of your values, ideals and / or morals?
You can’t be working in the snake skin industry if you feel strongly against killing animals for clothing or luxury products. Similarly, if I am asked to work in a role that requires doing repetitive or predefined tasks day in and day out, I am very likely to be dissatisfied because I am driven by creativity and variety. I know people who have left their jobs at the bank because they disagree with the concept of interest or those who left the tobacco industry because they believe it is responsible for more harm than good.
If you are not comfortable with the way things work in an industry or its effect on you or the people around you, it is a good idea to look for an alternative that is more aligned with your personal values.
Does your current career make it impossible to live the lifestyle of your choice?
If being around your family is the kind of life you envision, a job requiring frequent travelling will not make you happy. Alternatively, if you wish for a lifestyle where you get to travel the world while making money, the same job would make you happy.
Ask yourself if your job, and eventually career path, is enabling you to do the things you always wanted to do. Perhaps you wish you had more time for your children, or want to pursue a hobby you're passionate about. It doesn’t always have to be a direct consequence of your career but can be in terms of the time you get for yourself or the money the career offers to pursue your hobbies.
Has something significant changed in your personal life?
A change in personal life affects the way you perceive things and your priorities in life. Marriage, birth of a child, divorce, the death of a loved one, a visit to another country, or something as simple as reading a life-changing book can change the way you look at things and what you want from life.
As a single individual, you could be looking for a lucrative gig even if it's unstable in the long run but once you have responsibilities of a family on your shoulders, you would need something that is stable even if it pays less.
Identify if a change in your personal life or your values and perceptions demands a change in the career you have chosen.
Is your strongest skill or talent not being utilised?
We are most likely to enjoy doing something we are great at. Unless that is not the case for you or what you are best at doesn’t make you enough money, I can think of no reason why you would be in a career that doesn’t utilise your greatest skill.
The fact that you are looking for reasons to make a career change is evidence that you are not happy with your current career choice. So, for instance, if you are great at teaching, you should certainly give yourself a chance at it. Whether you choose to be an academic instructor at a school or become a business coach or corporate trainer is something you can think about. You may not enjo