Asking yourself whether you are in the “wrong” job may seem like something that newly-graduated, entry-level employees do. However, even if you’re a seasoned mid-level professional with years of experience in your field, don’t be surprised if you too discover that you’re in the “wrong” job. As your field, company (and even you) evolves, you may find yourself disenchanted with your work and yearning for a change. Or perhaps you’re getting a sense that something is not quite right, that things aren’t jiving at work the way you’d like them to, but you’re not exactly sure what the problem is.
I use the phrase “wrong job” loosely as I am not really a proponent of the word “wrong.” Sure, there are instances when it is appropriate to use—your company has shady or downright illegal dealings, you’re facing bullying or discrimination, or another similar scenario.
What is “wrong” about your job can be:
- A drastic change to your responsibilities that your current skillset does not support
- A change in responsibilities that you are not excited about or don’t feel motivated to take on
- The “same old” responsibilities are starting to feel rote, unchallenging, or otherwise unfulfilling
- You are experiencing a personality clash with a new manager or coworker
- You see no room for advancement
- You’re desperate for a change or have already identified a new career that you want to try
The list goes on and on, and there are many more possibilities. And in some cases, you may have been doing the same work for years before realizing it doesn’t thrill you. Again, this is not unique to newer members of the workforce who are “trying on” a job. It’s very possible to discover this even after you’ve been going to the same job day after day for years. And that’s okay.
We grow, evolve, and gain new competencies. It’s natural to want different things at different stages of our lives. It’s okay to embrace it!
So when reflecting on whether you are in the “wrong” job, look at it with the thought that your current work situation might need a once-over, not that you are actively looking for “bad” or “wrong” things about it.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What tasks do I enjoy doing at work?
- Which of my responsibilities do I always put last on my list? How essential are these tasks to my work? How would I feel if I never had to do them again?
- What would an ideal work day look like?
This last question might be difficult without some probing follow-up questions to help guide you:
What are the things you enjoy doing? Don’t limit yourself to work tasks—you can also turn to your hobbies. If they don’t translate to things you can do at a job, looked deeper for similarities that relate. For example, if you love to crochet, you probably won’t find a job crocheting that will sustain your basic living expenses. So think about what you’re doing when you are crocheting that might translate to useful information for your new career. For example, do you like to crochet because you:
- Are working with your hands?
- Are creating something beautiful?
- Are creating something useful?
- Find it relaxing and comforting?
- Like working with color and/or patterns?
Once you have your responses, start researching jobs that might allow you to work with your hands, be creative, or have repetitive, physical tasks to complete. That’s a pretty simple example, but use it as a guide to help you explore.
What are your favorite books? See what your favorite types of books and themes might tell you about a possible career. What careers do your favorite main characters have? For any interesting ones, start researching them, see what’s involved and how you might break into that type of career.
Are you a morning person or night person? Rather than go against your personal alarm clock, find a job that works with it.
Do you prefer solitary work or do you thrive on working collaboratively on a team? Think about the jobs you’ve held and which category they fall under. Then assess whether you’ve been pursuing the right types of jobs all along or if you should go after a job with more interaction with your coworkers, or one that keeps you in your own office most of the time.
What skills do you want to learn, use, or enhance? While we may grumble about work, the beauty of it is the opportunity to learn new skills or enhance the ones you’ve already got. If you want to learn new skills and your current job is not providing you with that opportunity, see how else you might gain and master the skills that are important to you. You may first want to take a class or seminar so you have some chops to show, and then learn the rest on the job.
Do you want a management role? Not everyone wants to manage or lead. If that’s you, don’t go after roles with a supervisory or management component. While it may seem like a “next step,” it might not be the “right” step for you. Search for jobs that allow you to work at a high level but don’t require supervisory responsibilities.
Are you looking for a remote/telecommuting position? Think about this and other logistical questions when figuring out what would make the “wrong” job the “right” job for you. Telecommuting is becoming more and more commonplace, so as you search for your next gig, decide whether this is an important factor for you.
Reflection by using these types of questions is only one piece of the puzzle. Exploration and information gathering can also play a role. A couple of ways to do this:
Review job listings
Looking at job listings is a great way to get quick information about the types of opportunities that are available. There are many online sites that serve just this purpose. You can also look directly on the “careers” pages of the websites of companies that are of interest to you.
Schedule informational interviews or informal chats
Look to your network: friends, family, professional contacts, and former colleagues. Set up informational interviews, or if that’s too formal a structure for you, set up time to chat so that you can ask about their current jobs in a more free-form conversation. Also ask about their full career path—how they got to where they are today, what recommendations they have, what worked for them when they were making a career change or switching jobs.
In addition to learning about their jobs, you might find comfort in learning that you’re not alone in desiring a change. A transition that sounds unlikely or “pie in the sky” might feel more attainable after hearing someone else’s success story. Learn from others, take the tactics that work for them and figure out a way to implement them that works for you.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, uninspired, or antsy at work, you owe it to yourself to find out whether your goals and needs have changed and your current job is not meeting them. Do what you can to discover ways that your employment can better match your changing needs.
Victoria Crispo, July 2015 Career Coach