The past few years have been a period of increased introspection for many. Loads of us, all around the world, have been pushed to stop and think about what we really want out of life. And the careers we’re working in are a huge part of that. If you’re worried you may be in the wrong job, allow us to help you take a closer look at that.
I spoke with Professor Margaret Anne Carter of the Australian College of Applied Psychology, who shared that “for most of us, a career is a decades-long journey that entails many twists and turns”. While, in many cases, we’re bound to land in a few roles that don’t fit us well throughout our careers, “the key goal is to come out in the green – to be more satisfied than not over the long term,” she said.
In order to do that, we need to take a look at what makes us happy; what leaves us feeling satisfied. Are our values in line with the work we’re performing each day? In short, Carter shared that we should be asking, “does my job align with my authentic self?”
And while the reality is that not everyone has the luxury of asking these questions of themselves when it comes to work, it is the goal – in an ideal world. In fact, studies indicate that holding a job you find satisfying significantly improves your happiness levels.
So, what are the signs you’re in the wrong job?
Here’s what Carter said.
You may be in the wrong job if you lack purpose
Sure, there are few of us who spring out of bed on a Monday morning and shout, “gee, I’m glad to be heading to work!” But if you’re looking at your position and see no reason or value in what you’re doing, that’s a big red flag.
Carter explained that if you’re asking “What’s the point?” chances are “You lack a clear sense of purpose and meaning. Can you answer why you’re getting up in the morning each day to go to work – beyond the paycheck?”
Do you lack goals?
Goal setting may not come naturally to everyone, but they remain an important part of your development and even productivity.
“If you’re struggling to identify short to medium-term goals, it could be because you don’t truly see your job in your future. If your job aligns with who you are authentically – here and now – then aspirational goal-setting should usually come pretty naturally,” Carter said.
Do you have a lack of interest and inspiration?
How committed to your role are you, really? “If you find yourself daydreaming or counting down the clock constantly and have mastered the art of procrastinating at work (even when you’re super busy) and maxing out your sick days, these could be red flags,” Carter shared.
You don’t have to be working in a state of flow all day long, but a certain level of interest and pride in your work is going to help. If you can’t get there, you may be in the wrong job.
Do you lack happiness when it comes to your job?
“Jobs – when they are right – are not supposed to make you consistently unhappy,” Carter said.
While there may be days or weeks that suck, all-in-all, your job should not be a black hole where happiness goes to die.
“If you frequently find yourself cranky, impatient, anxious and/or lethargic, it could be a wise idea to be proactive and look for other jobs. This is particularly the case if job-related unhappiness starts to bleed into your well-being and your personal life,” Carter said.
The wrong job can be a drain on your joy.
Do you lack fulfilment?
As excellent as you may be at your job, if you don’t find it fulfilling, there isn’t much point to you performing it.
Carter explained that:
“You may feel like you’re selling yourself short and not reaching your potential. You may know you have strengths or talents you are wasting, and it is possible you feel despondency and dissatisfaction as a result”.
Do you lack connection to yourself?
“We all adapt to our work environments and adhere to different standards and expectations depending on our jobs. But, in general, our principles, values, needs, and wants should be in alignment with our work,” Carter said.
If you start your day at work and find you don’t feel like yourself, or that you’re at odds with the core values and culture of your workplace, it could indicate you’re in the wrong job.
In the end, Carter explained that there are a handful of questions you should ask yourself when you’re worried your job may be wrong for you.
- What do I really want?
- What am I doing to get what I want?
- Is what I am doing working or not working?
- What do I know or need to know to get what I want?
- Is what I am doing to get what I want satisfying me?
She added that it’s important to weigh up what you see your purpose as, what kind of relationships you have at work and how your work may be able to help you perform tasks related to your deeper values.
“As a starting point, it can be helpful to write down your key personal principles and values and rank them in order of importance. Then, when assessing your current job and any future job prospects, refer to your ranking as a guide,” she said.
“If a job ticks lower-ranked principles and values, it’s probably not the best fit for you. If, on the other hand, a job ticks loads of your higher ranked principles and values, it’s probably a job worth giving serious consideration to.”
What you can do to improve things
If you’re certain it’s time to move on from your job, there are tools available that can help you to make a choice that will hopefully help you avoid career missteps going forward. If the above points and questions aren’t enough, Carter suggested reaching out to a careers counsellor for more personalised advice.
After all, if you’re spending the majority of your waking hours at work, it’s worth doing your best to try and make your job one that leaves you feeling fulfilled.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.