15 Signs You're Ready for a Career Change, According to Experts
Here's how to know if you should change careers, according to career coaches and HR experts.
We tend to ask kids at a very young age what they want to be when they grow up. And though we don't expect them all to still want to be astronauts, ballerinas, and firefighters as they grow order, we don't afford ourselves the same flexibility in our careers. The truth is, it's completely fine (and totally normal) to realize that the career you've held for decades and thought you'd be passionate about until retirement really isn't working for you. So how do you know if you've reached that point? Here are 15 subtle signs that you're ready for a career change, according to career coaches, HR experts, and other professionals.
You pause, waffle, or deflect when asked, "What do you do?"
When a person feels misaligned with their career, it can be hard for them to actually say or write what they do, according to Lauretta Ihonor, founder of the career change platform The Ambition Plan. "That's because you don't feel like it fairly represents who you are as a person and you don't want to identify as someone in that profession," she says. "People in the right career feel comfortable being seen as a member of a particular industry or profession and that's because they value the work they do and see it as worthwhile work."
You've become a "yes" person.
In the past, you were vocal when you didn't agree with a work decision, but these days you blindly say "yes" to everything you're asked to do—even when you can see the logic is flawed. "Becoming a 'yes' man is a clear sign that apathy has set in," says Ihonor. "You've officially checked out of the job, so much so that you don't even care about preventing problems that could make your life difficult down the line. This is because you have subconsciously decided that you won't be around when the repercussions of these bad decisions set in."
You've lost interest in activities and hobbies outside of work.
Spending valuable energy trying to make it through your workday is bound to leave you feeling depleted at night and on weekends, making it harder to feel up to socializing and enjoying the small things that used to bring you pleasure, notes Michele Mavi, the director of coaching services and internal recruitment and training at Atrium, a workforce management and talent acquisition firm.
So, if you stop caring about activities you used to love, it may be a sign that you're ready for a career change. "It can present itself innocuously enough as Monday blues or winter SAD, but it's worth looking into," says Roger Maftean, a career expert at ResumeLab. "Odds are your body and mind are beginning to tell you a deeper story here. That which used to reinvigorate you should stay your healthy escape hatch and not become a drudgerous obligation."
You're not learning anymore.
Everyone likes to be the expert, the go-to person for a key subject. But even masters can grow stale if they don't continuously challenge and refresh their knowledge base, explains Tim Toterhi, a career coach and author of The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job.
"The best teachers are students," he explains. "If you've reached a stage in your career where you're no longer learning, there's a danger of becoming a jaded know-it-all. Either reboot your outlook or get out of the game before your perspective sours your brand."
You're no longer willing to give your career 100 percent.
Remember when you started your career and you were on fire—willing to do whatever it took to move up the ladder and do quality work? When that goes away, it's not a great sign. "Our passion in our career is what gets us up in the morning and keeps us working until the job is done right," says Julia Aquino-Serrano, entrepreneur, speaker, author, and coach. "When we are in a great company, but we are dragging to get out of bed and running out of the door and leaving work on our desks, it is probably time to shift into something that drives and motivates us. When we work in our strengths and passions, we tend to not only be great assets in our careers, but we also enjoy every day."
You feel like the work you do doesn't matter.
Feeling like the work you do is pointless is a sign that you are not fulfilled by your job—and if you can't understand how anyone could be motivated in your field, it's time to reevaluate. "A key part of a fulfilling career is feeling like you are making a difference and contributing to something more important than yourself," she explains. "If you no longer feel like the work you do makes a difference and this matters to you, it's time for a career change."
Your values no longer align with your career.
"Our values may have been around making money when we began our career, and now our desire is to 'impact' the world or develop a business around our recently uncovered passions," Aquino-Serrano says. "The shift in your 'values' is creating a disconnection. Connecting your career to your deeper drive will create content and renew your passion, ultimately resulting in success on your terms."
You have a hard time physically getting to work every day.
One of the first signs that you should make a career change is when you start dreading your daily routine. This can be due to the repetitiveness of your tasks, lack of motivation to improve performance, or simply realizing that you're stuck in a dead-end job or career. "Burnout tends to happen to many overqualified individuals that took a job just to 'pay the bills,' resulting in them losing interest at work over the course of time," says Darko Jacimovic, the co-founder of What to Become, a career and education guide. "Once that initial 'spark' from the first few weeks of work fades, and you start questioning why you show up to work every day, it's time for a career change."
A vacation doesn't leave you feeling recharged.
We tend to think that all we need to regain our passion for work is some time away. But what do you do when a vacation doesn't leave you feeling refreshed? "Usually, that is a sign that there is more at play than just feeling run down from your day-to-day," says Rich Franklin, the founder and president of KBC Staffing. "You might want to look at the job itself as the source of your troubles."
You sweat the small stuff at work.
Deep dissatisfaction with your career can show up in dozens of small ways, like if you find yourself complaining more frequently about minor incidents, having more disagreements with your boss, or being more irritated by your colleagues. "When someone is doing something that is truly fulfilling at a deep level, such minor irritations don't register or are quickly brushed off," explains Sean Sessel, the founder and director of The Oculus Institute.
You're focused on drastically boosting your pay.
While the desire to earn more money is hardly out of the realm of normalcy, it can also be a sign that you need a change, Sessel says. "You especially want to be watching your thoughts for things like, 'I don't get paid enough to put up with this nonsense,'" he explains. "That's far more often a sign of an issue that isn't fixed by any reasonable sum of money and requires a career shift."
Your performance reviews are often lower than you expect.
If you consistently fall short of your manager's expectations, take it as a sign you may want to find a new career. "This can mean you don't have the right skills, maybe even desire, to truly succeed in the role," says Ryan Youngberg, the founder of Work Shift Hub. "Assess what's preventing you from being successful and change something about it." And yes, that could mean an entirely new career.
You're frequently asking others about their careers.
Sure, you may be genuinely interested in what people do for a living, but interest in others' jobs could mean you're ready for a change, too. Frequently asking friends, colleagues, or other people what their careers are like may indicate you're not completely confident with where you fit within your current career, Youngberg says.
You have a nagging feeling that there's something more out there for you.
If you're asking if there's something more out there for you, then the answer is, yes, there is. "It's up to each of us to define what matters to us and how our careers support our purpose," says career and leadership coach Emily Eliza Moyer. "If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled with your work, that probably means it's time to do some inner reflection to evaluate what that something more might mean for you."
You spend your free time thinking about, learning about, or even doing things related to a new career.
Those dreams that bubble up whenever your brain is calm, such as in the shower or on a walk, are what TyAnn Osborn, a success guide and strengths guru, calls "yearnings." "These may also be triggered when we see something interesting on TV, read an article, or learn about someone doing something intriguing," she says. "Too often we dismiss those yearnings as not practical, or not profitable, and yet they keep coming back. The next time this happens, pay attention. Jot down the yearnings. Over time, you may detect patterns that can be good clues to your next career adventure."
Andrew Chen, founder of Hack Your Wealth, also says that it's imperative to pay attention to the signs that pull you toward a new career. "If you find yourself daydreaming and reading news articles and blog posts about a new career area, you're commenting on many Facebook posts about it, even investing free time (and money) doing it as a hobby, or taking classes on it, etc., then it's a sign that it may be time for a career change," he explains. "You're clearly naturally motivated and already spending time and resources on it. Why not start taking steps to make it official?"