How do you know whether your current occupation is right for you? What are the signs that indicate you’re in the wrong job or career?
It may sound like a silly question, yet the answer can be less obvious than you would expect. While there are people out there that hate what they do, most of you — especially those who, like myself, work cushy corporate jobs filled with spreadsheets, meetings, coffee out of plastic cups, and freshly drycleaned jackets — don’t despise your job.
It may be quite comfortable. Maybe even too comfortable, with its stable paycheck, soft computer chair, and predictable daily routine. If you’re a white-collar professional, you could even say it’s intellectually stimulating.
However, there’s something that feels off about it. You can’t quite pinpoint what it is. Or maybe, you don’t want to pinpoint it because if you admit that your job isn’t as fulfilling as you want to believe, that would mean you have to take action and embark on a journey of self-exploration and search for fulfillment.
That process can be quite uncomfortable. I can attest to that, as I have recently come to terms with the fact that my investment management career — as intellectually stimulating as it is — isn’t what I want to do going forward. And I will be the first to say that admissions like that don’t come easy. Especially not to someone who used to identify with their job title.
However, the reality is, your affinity for comfort and stability can often play against you because it can hold you back and keep you stuck in an underwhelming place of complacency, disguised under a mask of conventional success. To even begin to escape it, you have to first admit that you are stuck. And for that, you have to set aside all BS and stop lying to yourself.
Here are 6 telling signs that you are stuck in the wrong job.
1. You procrastinate (a lot)
You have a project you need to work on, but you won’t start on it until the deadline begins to loom dangerously close.
There may be two reasons behind your procrastination: fear of failure (i.e., impostor syndrome) or aversion to the task in question.
If the problem is the former, then you need to let go of your self-imposed sense of perfection and allow yourself the freedom to learn and make mistakes. However, if your procrastination is fueled by a lack of interest or dislike for the work you’re performing, it’s a clear sign that this may be the wrong job for you.
2. Similarly, you get distracted
You finally get to work, but you find it difficult to maintain focus for long periods. You end up taking numerous little breaks here and there, filled with social media, news, and trips for coffee and snacks.
A good indicator of how engaged you are in your work is whether you can achieve the flow state. The flow state is a state of mind where you are fully focused on and engrossed by the work you’re performing and derive satisfaction from it.
While it’s very unnatural to achieve the flow state every working moment of your day. Frequent distractions and the inability to concentrate on the task at hand may suggest that you are bored with what you do. If your job is boring to you, then getting yourself to do the work becomes difficult. You will find yourself looking for all kinds of excuses to interrupt it or avoid it altogether.
3. Work irritates you
You often find yourself irritated at work, especially in situations that lead to an increase in your workload.
Thus, you may get noticeably annoyed:
- When you get assigned a new task. Just when you thought you finished all immediate priority tasks and could have the rest of the week in peace, an ad hoc project comes up, and you can’t help but feel pissed. How dare they assign you more work on their dime?!
- When meetings run over. You expect to tolerate discussions during a call or a meeting for a specific, pre-determined amount of time, and when they run over, you feel deceived. You really don’t want to spend more energy and time on this than you absolutely have to.
- When coworkers reach out with questions or for help. Helping others means more work for you. And you really hate the idea of doing more work.
4. You space out at meetings
It can be an internal team meeting or one with investors or business partners. The main condition is that you’re not the only one taking it, and you don’t have to lead it. That’s important because clearly if you have to maintain a conversation, you will be unlikely to space out. (Although you may be compelled to wrap it up as soon as reasonably feasible).
In the meetings and calls where you don’t have to be put on the spot, you tend to drift away mentally. This is especially easy now when all meetings happen over Zoom. You put yourself on mute and read the Wall Street Journal until the meeting is over and you can move on with your life.
You just can’t help but feel like all of it is such a waste of your time.
5. Your main motivation to work is the paycheck
Ask yourself: if all of a sudden, the paycheck stopped coming, would you still be willing to do the job?
Look, money is undeniably significant and a strong motivator. I get it. Nobody wants to work for free. However, what I am trying to get at here is would you be willing to perform your job for free for a while if you thought that eventually, it would pay off? Are you passionate enough about what you do to continue doing it even if it didn’t pay as much as it does or the pay wasn’t as predictable?
Is there anything other than money that’s keeping you at this job? If the answer to this is no – you might be in the wrong job.
6. You only do the bare minimum
You do what you’re asked and nothing more. Rarely do you show initiative or volunteer to get involved in projects outside of your direct domain of responsibility. You’re pretty passive; you roll in, do your job, and roll out.
You don’t feel like doing anything more than required because the work itself doesn’t excite you. You’re bored, annoyed, and find it hard to be engaged in anything beyond what’s required to get paid and remain in your boss’ good graces.
If that’s not a sign of being in a wrong job, I don’t know what is.
We all like lying to ourselves. It’s comfortable when you can pretend that everything is fine, your job is fine, your life is fine.
Admitting, even to yourself, that you are in the wrong career can be hard for several reasons. You may feel confused because you don’t know what else you could do. You may feel afraid because deciding to abandon the comfortable lifestyle — even if you know it doesn’t make you happy — can be stressful.
At some point, you will have to come out of your denial. You will need to come to terms with the fact that staying in a job that irritates you, doesn’t keep you engaged, and is only enticing because of the stable paycheck, will not bring you anything but discontentment and disappointment in the long run. You’re in the wrong job, and it might be time to move on.