Work. You’re not quite content. Nevertheless you shuttle to and fro every business day. You know with a sigh of resignation that nothing in life is perfect. You do your best to placate the sneaking suspicion something’s off. That it’s the wrong job for you. (How inconvenient!) Is your job an ominous presence you should exorcise from your life? You certainly don’t need to be M. Night Shyamalan to see the signs.
Sign: Your workload overwhelms you
It’s normal to feel a little frazzled now and again especially when you’re in a pressure cooker of deadlines and noxious quarter end quotas and such. But it’s not such a good sign if your regular routine is to carry on like a decapitated chicken. You should be able to handle your workload. You’re in the wrong job if you have more work than you’re capable of doing in the allotted turnaround time.
It’s not a good sign if you’re so overwhelmed you experience frequent bouts of anxiety. You’re agitated. You’re emotional. You have mood swings. One minute you’re on your daily commute to work laughing at something Howard Stern said and the next minute you're sobbing inconsolably blowing your nose into a baby wipe because somebody cut you off on the road.
What’s your course of action to deal with this problem? (Apart from buying Kleenex for the car.) Can you adjust the company’s expectations to something more realistic for you? Is talking to your boss like hitting a brick wall? Are you too insecure to ask for help because you’re afraid your manager will think you’re incompetent? Or are you ten paces beyond insecure, already riddled with paranoia that your boss is fantasizing about all the things he could do with your salary if you weren’t around. If you’re worried your boss gives you the dirty looks of a useless waste of office space I’d classify you in the too-late zone of ruptured communication.
I don’t know, this could all be in your head of course, if you have a history of severe mental instability. Otherwise chances are your problems are real and your instincts are correct. This is a negative work environment that won’t nurture your needs for your career or work-life balance. You’re not a robot. Reboot your resume and look for a new gig.
Sign: You’re stagnating at work
You’re underutilizing your skills to the point of atrophy. This is not quite the same as being overqualified. You can still be in the ‘right job’ even if it’s beneath your level of expertise. It’s only when you risk losing the stuff that makes you stand out professionally should you be weary of your sacrifice.
This could be renewing your membership to a trade association, keeping up to date with required ongoing training, or working a minimum number of hours in your specialization. You’re in the wrong job if your current occupation doesn’t make these allowances by constraining you with time or not paying you enough to cover the essentials.
And what about honing your abilities? Sorry but most of our skills don’t fall into the category of ‘just like riding a bicycle’. So unless you’re in the world’s oldest profession, the general rule is you use it or lose it. Just think of how quickly technology moves. If you don’t touch some software program for two-years, how adept can you expect to be after your hiatus? You’ll forget all the shortcuts you used to know and you won’t be up to date on the newest versions. You will fall behind.
Sign: You’re ashamed of your job
Here’s a sure sign you’re in the wrong job. You can’t bring yourself to tell people whatever it is you do. It’s intrinsically bad for business. Think how much your shame is going to impede your ability to be effective in your job. How many networking opportunities will you miss if you’re hiding behind euphemistic statements like ‘I’m in property management’ when in fact you run an adult movie theatre. You need to own your stink with pride. Whatever business you’re in, whether you manufacture porn or toilet paper your pride should be based on how well you excel at what you do.
How does your job compare to the one you’d be doing in an ideal world? Does your job clash with your own set of morals and values? Do you have any control over the types of clients taken on by your company? Or are you constantly put in the position of working on projects that you find offensive? Is it lack of a wow factor that makes you feel bad? Is it your relationship to the hierarchy of the company that’s problematic, pigeon-holing you into a role with no potential for growth?
Settling makes you feel shame. What does settling feel like? Like you’re doing a job that’s beneath you and it forces you to make excuses for yourself that basically boil down to you declaring yourself a victim. If you aren’t proud of your work you’ll never be able to derive satisfaction from it.
Sign: You’re a loner at work
You’re not a social pariah and yet have no friends at work. You’re not clicking with anyone in your office. You’re unable to forge a connection with your coworkers beyond exchanging the most rudimentary pleasantries. You go in, you do your job and you leave.
What’s keeping you from bonding? Are you too different age-wise, culturally, stylistically? Be honest. Is the kitten appliqué on your colleague’s sweatshirt and florescent pink Crocs keeping you two from hitting it off? Shallow as it sounds, maybe you need to be in a different work environment surrounded by a staff that matches up with you a little better.
Otherwise you’re missing out on an important part of working life. Access to people who will support you through difficult moments and shared successes. Friends to provide a little lunchtime comic relief from the stoicism of the workday. An impetus to work as a team. Work without your peeps is long and dry and alienating. Your productivity depends on friends and so does your long-term happiness.
Sign: There’s no growth and development in your job
Somewhere along the way you landed a job and they mistook you for a mere functionary. Or maybe you mistook you for a mere functionary. Your job contains zero element of discovery. In reality you’re a student of life and you have plenty left to learn. It’s your responsibility to continue your education. You’re in the wrong job if you’re not exposed to learning opportunities or taking advantage of them.
Opportunities aren’t hiding under rocks. They’re all around you. At industry events, weekend seminars, online webinars. Most companies dedicate some budget to send their staff for professional development and training when it’s job relevant. Check with your current or prospective employer to find out what the policy is.
If you can’t access company funding take advantage of your onsite resources, your fellow colleagues, your clients. When you’re new on the work force you can learn from the tenured people who walked before you. When you’re the old hand you can learn from the newbie with the fresh perspective. The key is to keep an open mind and recognize the chances you’re given to grow and develop.
If you recognize yourself a little too much in these menacing signs then use it as a wake up call. You owe it yourself to look around for something worthy of your time and energy. There are plenty of fish in the sea. You don’t have to work for Jaws.