We all experience difficult phases during our working lives.
Often these brief periods of disillusionment with our profession are temporary bumps in the road caused by stress and pressure. During these times, perseverance can provide us with a learning curve – after all, a little dissatisfaction isn’t necessarily the beginning of the end.
On the other hand, there comes a point in all avenues of our lives where change is simply inevitable, and our careers are no different. A fulfilling role can sustain you for many years, in theory, but when it ceases to provide the challenges, the opportunities and the sense of accomplishment you need, a change of pace may be the next logical step.
The average person changes their job once every five years in the UK, and every four years in the US. And though there are things you can do to rejuvenate your passion, it’s important to recognise when the time is right to move on.
1. You don’t feel challenged
Even if you thrive on routine you still may need a challenge from time to time – something that pushes your boundaries and stimulates growth. Challenge in the workplace is healthy – it directs our attention and gives us energy and prevents us from growing bored and stagnating.
And a truly fulfilling career should provide you with just the right amount of new challenges, forcing you to think outside the box every so often. If your current role no longer provides these opportunities, it might be time to reflect on why that is, and what needs to change.
If you find your role is becoming repetitive, try and find new ways of approaching tasks and work on finding new solutions to everyday problems. Push yourself to bring forward new ideas and take active steps to transform your position – employers appreciate staff who are proactive about their own development.
Identify areas for improvement in both yourself and your work and use your role as an opportunity to strength your weak points. This in itself is a great way to create new challenges and find renewed inspiration in your role.
That said, if you’ve tried these tactics and pushed your role as far as it can go, it may be well be time to find a new arena in which to grow your strengths.
2. Your career development has stopped
Learning and development are crucial not only to our career progression, but our personal fulfilment. Expanding our skills gives us the ability to approach our role in different ways, to renew our excitement, improve our performance, and ultimately, move forward.
But unfortunately, lack of training and development is often cited as one of the major reasons for staff leaving their jobs.
When those all-important opportunities for development begin to dry up in your current role, it’s only natural to start feeling a little stale. When this happens, you may begin to lose confidence in your own ability and question your purpose and capability in your role, making it all the more difficult to kickstart your next move.
And it isn’t just our learning that can dry up – ever heard the phrase ‘dead end job’? If you feel that there is nowhere else to go with your role and that you’ve gone as far as your can go, you may find yourself in such a situation.
Perhaps you’ve recently been passed over promotion, or simply no longer see a trajectory in your current career path. The options and opportunities within your company or even your industry just don’t inspire you any more. If that’s the case, it could be a sign that your energies would be better expended elsewhere.
3. You’re experiencing burnout
Everyone experiences stress in the workplace – it’s par for the course.
Usually, the pressure of these stressful periods are eventually offset by the satisfaction of achievement, which makes our endeavours feel worthwhile.
But when we experience large amounts of stress with reprieve or satisfaction, this can veer into the dangerous territory of career burnout.This is becoming an increasing concern for employers and can be a driving factor in staff looking elsewhere for new ventures.
A couple of days’ annual leave can take the edge off. But if you’re coming back from your holidays with a grim sense of pre-Monday dread that feels almost worse than before, it might be a sign that your enthusiasm for your role is at its end.
It’s important to understand whether this is caused by your job or your career. Ask yourself not only whether you’re getting the opportunities you need to progress, but whether you want those opportunities. Check out roles similar to yours with other companies, and read the descriptions – can you picture yourself doing that? Does it sound appealing? Could you be happier there?
If the answer to those questions is yes, you may be refreshed by a horizontal move within your industry. But if you find that those job listings fill you with dread just as much as your current position, it could be time to consider expanding your skillset and moving on to something completely different.
It’s important to understand that burnout is a complex and serious issue that can affect every aspect of our lives, and it can occur for many reasons. However, if you feel that your career is the main cause, it may be time for a move.
4. You no longer fit in with the company culture
Company culture is a huge part of any role, and can be a major contributor – or detractor – from your enjoyment of your job. In the early stages, it may be one of the factors which attracts you to the position, but later down the line, it may be the very thing driving you in the opposite direction.
Perhaps when you first started, the culture was one of the reasons you fell in love with the place – you fit in instantly, built strong relationships with your colleagues and really felt as though you’d found a place to thrive. But after a change of heart (or perhaps even a change of teammates), you no longer feel the same, and if every single meeting and email has you rolling your eyes to the back of your head, it’s a sure-fire sign that you’re no longer invested in the company’s mission.
This isn’t uncommon, of course. But when one member of the team loses their enthusiasm, the rest of the workforce pick up on it, and it can begin to make working relationships extremely difficult, particularly if your work colleagues don’t share your cynicism.
If you find that you’re struggling to build relationships with your colleagues and no longer feel part of the workplace community, it could be a sign that the honeymoon period of your role is at its end.
If you no longer feel that the goals of your team or company align with your own, you’ll find yourself feeling uninspired, with nothing motivating you to reach harder. When that’s the case, it might just be time to move on.
5. You’re considering other options
This is the ultimate tell-tale sign.
Everyone has an idea of what they might like to do if they didn’t work in their current role.
But if you find yourself relentlessly weighing up the prospect of changing your job, it’s probably a sign that you’re after something more than your current role. If you’re skimming LinkedIn to see what’s out there, or furtively peeking at Indeed listings,, it’s probably not just speculative any more.
Maybe you’re even researching other industries to see how your skills transfer, or considering a step back in to education to retrain for the role of your dreams. Whatever it is, if you’re thinking a little too hard about a change of career, it’s more than likely overdue.
Any of these five warning signs may indicate that it’s time for a midlife career change, but if you’re looking to move to a brand new industry, it could take time to retrain, and you may be starting from the beginning.
But with a distance learning degree from ARU, you can choose to balance your studies alongside your role so you can learn while you earn. And with a wide range of courses to give you a foot in the door in many industries, you could be well on your way to success sooner than you think.
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