“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs
The thing about our work is it takes up a big part of our time, which then means it contributes heavily to our identity. It’s not like a new pair of trainers you buy them one month, wear them for 4 months, but then decide you need a nicer pair so buy them too.
Our careers aren’t that fickle.
To change a career requires a whole load of thinking. That includes mathematical equations to understand the financial implications of your choice, it also includes a lot of introspection and thinking about what you really like to do.
And that’s hard.
Choosing a career for us is a hard decision. It feels plagued with unforeseen downsides and the fear that the phrase “the grass isn’t always greener” might actually be true haunts you.
Step One: How do you decide? Enabler or Personal?
So how do you know? How do you know if you should move careers or actually this just works and this is what it’s like?
Part of the answer lies in what work means to you.
For some people and I’ve chatted to them, they really don’t mind what work they do. They like the consistency of a job 9–5 even if they don’t really like it, for them, work is something that enables them to do whatever they want outside of work.
For those people, work is an enabler.
For other people, work is really personal. People describe a need to feel connected to what do because it’s a reflection of who they are. It’s why it feels so painful when they’re not quite in the right role because it feels like they are not being themselves. That sense of inauthenticity feels like they are faking life. Which is not a pleasant feeling.
For these people, work is personal.
First, you need to figure out which one sounds more like you. If for your work is an enabler, that’s cool, you can stop reading now. This is for those people who think of work as personal, that they want to create and develop to find their passion and make their place in the world.
This is for the person that is agonising about what career will give them the most fulfilment.
Some Background: The Jump Into the Unknown
The jump into the world of work is a lesson in life more than anything else. The thought that you’ve jumped and you’ve landed in the wrong spot so you now need to take a jump again, into the unknown, well that feels scary. We feel tied by the chains of societies expectations.
You might have worked your way up to a good salary and therefore feel like you are taking a backwards step if you leave this job. And that’s where you get stuck. Feeling like you don’t fit but bowing into societies expectations is a fairly pressuring force.
So you sit in between being okay with not being totally happy with your job. You always wonder ‘what if I made a change’ but you never do because where you are right now paying 40% more than the cut you’d have to take and you might not like it anyway.
You cycle between googling the best jobs for someone like you, writing out the pros and cons to moving or staying put, finding some motivational speaker on YouTube to get you psyched up about leaving, you write down some quotes from the speech and change your phone background to the words: “We only have one life, live it”.
Only to wake up the next morning, realise you were being completely irrational, you get 28 days holiday in this job and you give yourself a telling off for wasting your Netflix hours on day-dreaming.
Only to repeat in a months time.
So what are the signs that you should consider moving jobs? Here are a few.
1. You Won’t Give Yourself Permission to Admit You Don’t Love It
“The people who make it to the top — whether they’re musicians, or great chefs, or corporate honchos — are addicted to their calling … [they] are the ones who’d be doing whatever it is they love, even if they weren’t being paid.” Quincy Jones
You feel like you need to give yourself permission. You need to give yourself permission to think that this job might not actually be for you. You overthink around the subject and conclude that ‘it pays well, so you’ll continue’.
If you find yourself battling with even the notion that you don’t like your chosen field that’s a red flag.
If you start to think about it then shake it off because ‘you are lucky to have this job’ and ‘it sustains your lifestyle’ then maybe you need to take a closer look at why you’re telling yourself not to think about it.
We will be working for the best part of 50 years. You perhaps want to find something you enjoy otherwise you might find that the majority of your life is pretty miserable. You are allowed to want to change jobs.
You are allowed to try and find something that will fulfil you. If that’s something that pays less initially that’s okay… that’s allowed too.
Think of a career change as an investment:
If you spend 5 years figuring out what you want to do with your life you will learn a lot along the way and you can spend the rest of your time honing your skills in that field.
It won’t take you very long to get brilliant in a field that you are genuinely interested in.
Spend your early years in work testing and figuring out what you love, you can then spend your 30s crafting that passion.
2. It’s Not Sustainable
“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” Warren Buffet
Can you see yourself doing this job for the next 3 years? What about the next 5 years? To get good at anything, you need to be in it a while. To be in something a while you need to like it enough to stick around.
If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with the sense that this isn’t what you want to do with your life, you might want to think about why. If this is part of a plan to earn lots of money and then buy a B&B in ten years time then that’s cool if you’re happy with that.
However, if it’s not part of a plan and you're just doing it because it’s easy and you feel unhappy, then you need to grab life by the balls and consider changing.
Don’t do things to look good, do things to feel good.
By the way, this isn’t about quitting your job tomorrow. However, if you’ve identified parts of your job you don’t like you need to figure out how you can start doing more of the stuff you do like.
For example, if you hate 40% of your job and that 40% is data crunching you need to figure out if you can find a way to not do 40% of your day working with data. You need to ask yourself ‘what is it about this that I don’t like?’ that’s the first step in figuring out how to make things better.
It’s likely that you don’t need to quit tomorrow, you just need to figure out how to make tomorrow 1% better.
3. You’re Constantly Frustrated
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Steve Jobs
Waking up and feeling pissed off at the world isn’t normal. Well, it’s probably normal a couple of times a month but not every day and not consistently, year after year.
Work is a huge part of our lives, understandably we want to feel like we are doing something that fulfils us and we feel passionate about… why wouldn’t we?
Feeling frustrated about your work is a sign that something isn’t quite the right fit. If you get wound up at work by the same things over and over, then it might be time for a change.
The way something works, especially in a big corporate is unlikely to change. They’ve been doing things the same way for years so if it’s the fundamentals of that company that you don’t like, don’t try and mould yourself to them because it’s unlikely and you’ll struggle.
Ask yourself the following:
- Is it something situational I need to change? I.e. the people I work with, the hours I work, my boss, place of work. Situational circumstances are subject to change, which means you have the power to influence them. You might need to change a team within the same company or a different company doing the same job.
You might need to ask about changing your working hours, think about whether you can work from home a day a week.
2. Is it something fundamental that I don’t like? i.e. the work you’re doing, if you’re a Data Scientist and you hate data, it’s likely that moving company won’t help solve your problems.
Once you’ve identified which one it is you can take the necessary steps.
4. You’re Doing It Because It Looks Good
“Every moment spent on impressing others makes one’s life shorter than it already is.” Edmond Mbiaka
So you’ve got a fancy title and it’s a well-paid gig. People then know you are the person with the fancy title and the well-paying job. People think you are successful and you like that, even if you don’t particularly like what you’re doing.
You now feel obligated to stay in this job even though you don’t like it because people think you are this big success. So you where you are to impress people you don’t even like and sometimes don’t even know.
Us humans are odd beings at times.
You’ll know if that’s the case because if you look deep enough that will be your answer. If you put the bare facts in front of you, you will see that is the thing holding you back.
The likelihood is that you could make the finances work, you could figure out how to earn a bit of extra cash if you need it. The real thing that is holding you back is the judgement of other people.
Questions you might want to ask yourself to find out if you are doing it for other people:
- What would I do if no one was watching?
- If changing my career was seen as a successful thing to do, the norm, would I do it?
- If you moved to another place where no one knew you, would you do it?
- With all the money in the world, would you move jobs?
The reality is, no one cares. I mean that in the nicest way possible but no one is thinking about your career and your career health. People might say they are interested, they might show you they care but in the main, no one cares because they are too busy thinking about themselves.
It’s human nature. How many times are you sitting and wondering about other people’s career happiness? Probably not very often.
You need to do work that fulfils you, don’t worry about what other people think, stay unapologetically focused on what you think.
5. You Spend Your Time Wishing for Friday
“Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.” Johnny Carson
“Only 2 more days till the weekend.”
How we’ve become accustomed to this idea that life is to be lived Saturday — Sunday but definitely not Monday — Friday is pretty grim. We’re giving up the majority of our lives to enjoy the minority?
Something about that seems acutely wrong.
I’m not saying every day you should go jumping and skipping to work. Your mood and overall happiness play a part in how much you enjoy work too. However, what I am saying is that you shouldn’t wake up on Monday and immediately look forward to Friday.
When your week hasn’t even started yet. You shouldn’t want to rattle through the week as quick as possible in order to get to the end and feel like you can finally breathe. That’s not much of a life for anyone.
We all dread certain things and I do think in work you’ll have to do things you’re not particularly fond of. Annoying meetings and frustrating people exist in every job. That’s just life.
However, feeling like pretty much everything is pointless and you’re not sure why you are there is a sign maybe you should look to do something else.
If there is no part of your job you enjoy, nothing you look forward to and you can’t remember the last time you came home and thought “I’ve had a really good day” that’s a problem.
That isn’t just normal levels of frustration and annoyance, that is far above average.
If you are constantly frustrated with your job you need to start to understand the reasons causing your frustration.
6. You’re Clinging On To Your Identity of the Money Maker
“The law of work seems unfair, but nothing can change it; the more enjoyment you get out of your work, the more money you will make.” Mark Twain
You keep telling yourself this is who you are although you know deep down it’s not. You tell yourself you like the consistency of the office life although you know really you despise it.
If you look back on the jobs you’ve had in the past, the best ones are nothing like what you are doing now. In fact, this is perhaps the polar opposite.
For example, it could be that the best job you ever had was incredibly active and on your feet all day.
You loved that about your jobs in the past, you felt tired at the end of each day, you felt purposeful like you were getting stuff done. Now you sit behind a desk all day and answer emails.
Some things to help you understand if this is really your identity or if you are playing tricks on yourself:
- Do you want your boss’s job?
- What is your ‘why’ for doing this job?
- In ten years, at this job, will you be living the life you want?
If you are constantly telling yourself ‘this is who I am’ it might be time to look in the mirror and figure out if it’s actually who you are.
It can be really difficult to figure out whether this job you are currently in is really for you. Whether it’s financial implications, personal circumstances or meaning you need to change your outlook, finding work that you love is incredibly important.
If you are constantly frustrated, feeling like you can’t move because this job makes you a tonne of money or won’t give yourself permission to think about changing jobs — it’s perhaps a sign something needs to change.
“If you can live while doing what you love, then you are already a success.”
― Debasish Mridha
So give yourself permission — find something you love and work your tail off to make it work.