I hear stories all the time from clients and professionals who tell me “they don’t hate their jobs enough to leave.” So how can you tell if you’re truly unhappy at work?
Everyone experiences work dissatisfaction in different way. The decision to leave your job, to change career paths, and to uproot yourself is a deeply personal one. There’s no secret formula to diagnose if you’re truly unhappy at work, but I’d like to share 5 warning signs you’ll want to watch out for. They could be important clues telling you you’re working in the wrong place. How many of the following have you said to yourself lately?
1) “I’m drained”
Back in the day, when I was considering becoming a doctor, I spent many summer afternoons working in pharmacology labs growing bacteria cultures, mixing chemicals, and studying results. I remember feeling completely drained by the afternoon, often struggling to keep my eyes open. I used to think I just suffered from post-lunch food comas, but it wasn’t until I started doing work I enjoy that I eventually realized my exhaustion was due to the fact I was doing work that depleted my energy. That’s what happens when you do work you don’t enjoy. On the other hand, right now, I feel super energized each and every day. I’m excited to get my day started, and I feel great.
2) “Time drags on”
My sense of time used to be totally different when I was working in a corporate job that no longer suited me. Time literally slowed down. There were times when I was surprised how little time had passed in meetings, especially the ones I didn’t enjoy. 15 minutes felt like 2 hours. Honestly. I used to think that this was normal. Hence, the cliché of “watching the clock.” But when you do work that you enjoy, time literally flies. Every day, I feel the opposite now. I can’t believe how many hours have passed because it feels more like minutes.
3) “I find myself pretending to be someone I’m not”
I recall being in one job many years ago when I found myself at our company conferences, pretending to care about things I really didn’t care about. Especially during the networking lunches, I found myself feeling a bit like a fraud, trying to be engaged in discussion topics, but feeling incredibly detached and bored by it all. You almost feel like an actor, playing the part, but not feeling like you’re being you.
4) “I’m not growing”
Before departing from my last corporate job, I remember feeling like I was on a hamster wheel. Going around in circles. Not growing, not learning, and not evolving. Work stagnated, and I no longer felt excited or enthusiastic about what I did. I felt really disengaged and bored at work. When I reflected on my future projects, none of them excited me either. Basically, this feels like complete stagnation, like you’re confined rather than allowed to fully grow and thrive.
5) “I’m in a bad mood. Often.”
What you’re feeling at work has started to trickle into the rest of your life, your relationships, your recreation, even your health. I remember someone once asked me, “What do you do” at a party, and I kind of snapped at her when she asked me to share more details about my job, describing it in a very annoyed, dismissive fashion. When I got home from work, I was in a foul mood, not exactly the best company for my wife. On the flip side, these days, I’m generally in a good mood, walking with a bounce in my step and generally feeling very happy.
How many of these “symptoms” are you feeling? How long have you felt them? And how long will you tolerate this situation? How bad will it have to get before you make your change?
It’s time for your career check-up
One thing you can do at this stage is take stock of all the ways your job is negatively affecting your life. So I’ve created a checklist of 30 ways your job affects your life to help you. How many of them are you experiencing?