I’ve been doing some advertising lately on Facebook for a course on career change and it’s clear from the response that the idea hits home with so many people.
Of course, some fortunate people absolutely love their work and will continue to love it until the day they retire.
For others of us, our chosen career can sooner or later lose its shine.
Maybe it’s to do with the hours we have to work, maybe it’s that we cease to be challenged, or maybe it’s because of difficult clients or unhelpful colleagues.
Whatever the reason, the prospect of changing careers can gradually start to enter our consciousness. At first, it might be a half-noticed thought about what else you could do. Eventually, you might find it hard to think of anything else.
Of course, the question of whether you should look for a new role or even change careers completely is a complex one and will depend entirely on your own circumstances.
But, as career changer myself, I think that there are some tell-tale signs that indicate that it’s time to give some serious thought to the direction your career is heading in – and whether that is ultimately where want your life to go.
Here, based on my experience and that of other career changers I know, are some of those signs.
1. You’re beginning to dread your phone ringing or a new email landing in your inbox
Of course, there are always some clients or some types of work that you want to avoid. But if your heart sinks when anything new lands on your plate, you have to start wondering how much longer you can go on being de-motivated by the very work you are there to do.
2. You’re starting to rehearse some big conversations in your head
Maybe something like: “I know this is a secure job with prestige and good money, but wouldn’t you just like me to be happy…” or even: “I know I could be on the senior leadership track, but the way things are going right now, I think I’d rather get a job working on the railroad track…”
3. You couldn’t care less about the big new change in your industry – and you’re having trouble pretending otherwise
You know the kind of thing: AI, a new tech system, some kind of game changing legislation, maybe a new competitor has entered the market.
Everybody’s been talking about it for months. Projects have been put on hold, and Mr Super-Keen along the corridor is poised to publish a commentary on it in the trade press. For you, however, it just means tedium and drudgery: revising your standard procedures and documents, reviewing all pending projects and acting like you give a shit whilst discussing it ad nauseam with clients and colleagues.
4. The walk to the office takes a little bit longer every day
The long route from the station seems so much more attractive than it used to and you waste a few minutes each day staring at the display in the second-hand bookshop window on the way. You just like to check if anything has changed overnight, even though it’s clear from the books on offer that the last time it was touched by human hand was some time in the early 80’s.
4A. Alternatively, you find it harder and harder to actually go to the office
With hybrid working, it is easier to hide your dis-satisfaction with what you’re doing. Of course, you do your hours and complete what you need to complete, but there is much less pretending to be interested when you don’t have to go to an office every day. So, you find you’re going in less and less frequently.
5. Consequently, you’re starting work a little bit later each day
It’s only a minute or two, but whereas you used to be one of the first online at 7.30am, it’s now 8.15 before you’re firing up your desktop. At this rate, you’ll be doing the night shift in 6 months time. It might be time for a career change.
6. You’ve stopped going out
At first, you started turning down your colleagues’ invitations for coffee, lunch, drinks etc. because you were too busy, too stressed or just not in the mood. Now you’re not going out because nobody asks you – and that includes your friends outside work too.
7. You seriously envy the woman who comes round to water the office plants
She’s got comfortable clothes on, her buds in her ear and a relaxed smile for you when she walks past. She starts at 8, finishes at 5 and nobody’s adding more plants to the planters as she’s working and telling her she needs to get the pruning done by COB today. She can probably even go out in the evenings because:
- she leaves work at 5 p.m. and
- she doesn’t have a conference call with the plant waterers in New York at 10pm.
8. You’re a grouch
You’re getting a bit short-tempered with everybody these days, not just your spouse or your partner, although you’re getting even worse with them. Now you’re not just grumpy in the office, you’ve even almost totally lost it with a colleague on a couple of occasions. And the chances are, it wasn’t one of the people who deserved the rough end of your tongue.
9. The Sunday evening dread now starts by Saturday lunch time
You’ve barely had your Saturday morning cappuccino before your thoughts turn to what awaits you on Monday morning. You ruin every weekend feeling desperate about the week ahead.
10. You just wish you could be outside or work with you hands instead of your brain
You dream about working in sport, or gardening, parks or horticulture – maybe you could buy a vineyard in California or an olive grove in Spain. If only you could paint, take photographs, make hand-crafted guitars or cashmere sweaters. You feel the strongest urge to get out of your own head and into the world. It might be time for a career change.
11. The high point of the day is when you lock yourself in the bathroom cubicle and read the Guardian on your phone
Or is that just me?
12. You’re composing the emails you’d really like to send
You used to do it in your head. Now you’re drafting the actual e-mails. Before long, you’re going to press send by mistake and it may be all be over anyway.
13. You realise that you were never really a details person all along
You’re beginning to see that your ex, your friends and your former collaborators in the situationist art collective, were right. Maybe spending your life looking for book-keeping errors or reviewing government policy on widget production may not be what you were put on this earth to do.
14. You catch yourself making some dumb errors
Whereas once you used to read and re-read your written work before sending out, you now usually just give it the quick once over. Lately you’ve noticed more silly mistakes creeping in but you still can’t bring yourself to go for the second read through.
15. You buy the Four Hour Work Week
And you start signing up for various online marketing resources. You keep hearing about people with side-businesses that become their real businesses and you’re thinking that maybe, just maybe, that could be the answer. It could just be time for a career change.
Time for a career change? What can you do?
Firstly, bear in mind that if you’re not currently happy with your work, it doesn’t have to mean leaving your present industry altogether.
Maybe you just need some adjustments to your current role, a new job elsewhere or even perhaps a new way of thinking about your current work.
Whether it’s that kind of limited change that you need or if jumping ship entirely is a real possibility for you, you need to:
- Bring some order to your thinking and and work out what really matters for you and whether it’s a big change or a smaller career adjustment that you need.
- Identify where your true strengths and talents lie, so that you can focus your career aspirations on areas in which you can really thrive.
- Address the complexity of the decisions you need to make and bring some prioritisation to your decision-making.