You probably already experienced at least some degree of the signs I write about below. No job is perfect. One sign might not be enough to change jobs though. It all depends on how long you are feeling that way: if it lasts more than a few months, it’s time to at least seriously question your employment in the company.
Remember that not taking a decision is taking a decision: the decision of staying where you are now. This allows you to be aware of your choice and choose better coping mechanisms to face the challenges of your position.
1 | You have learned everything there was to learn
If you have been in the same role and in the same company for a few years, chances are you know everything there is to know about the tasks you have to accomplish, what is expected of you, and how you are supposed to work with others. If the fact that you don’t have anything else to learn is relevant to you, it is a sign that your department or company aren’t implementing enough changes to renew, upgrade or develop your skills. You would benefit from a career change that would first stimulate your need for something new, but also give you an opportunity to work for an organisation who keeps innovation and change at its core.
My advice: look to create change yourself by trying a new process, being involved in a project or getting familiar with other departments. If you have done that already and it still isn’t enough to keep you happy, consider what a new role might bring you.
2 | There are no opportunities for growth
Your company might be changing a few things around, and as a result challenging you to change the way you work, but they aren’t offering any opportunities for you to apply to an internal role. By opportunity I mean either a promotion to a more senior level or management, or a transfer to a different role at the same level, which requires a different set of skills. It could be that there either isn’t any role at all, or your application keeps being rejected. In both cases, you might want to consider moving to a company that can offer you what you want, even if it means taking a step back and starting fresh somewhere else. It will still be better than continuing working for an organisation that can’t or doesn’t want to offer you career progression.
My advice: have an honest conversation with your manager about your future in the company. They don’t have to share everything with you (they might not have any visibility on future roles), but you will probably get a good sense of what’s possible and realistic or not.
3 | There are opportunities for growth, but you don’t want them
On the opposite, there could be opportunities for you to change jobs internally, get a promotion, or move to a different department, but you’re not interested in any of them. They might not fit what you want in your career, or it might feel like it’s not the right time for you. Not applying to these roles when others expect you to is very powerful. It shows that you don’t commit to something you’re not 100% sure of or just for the sake of doing what others think you should do.
My advice: spend time to explore what it is that you really want to do before making any move. You will be more confident that this choice is the right one if you do it after reflecting on your career aspirations.
4 | Your boss doesn’t like you
Let’s be real here. You need your manager, and your manager’s manager, to support you in succeeding in your role and in the company. They should be your strongest allies, by challenging you to do better, but also by vouching for you and praising you internally. If they aren’t, you should consider your future in the company. They have a great influence on your personal brand, how others, particularly managers, perceive you, and indirectly, on your chances to move roles.
My advice: clear the air with your manager and ask for feedback. Do not push back or find excuses. Stay open-minded and accept what is being said. Give feedback yourself if needed, but make you it doesn’t feel like you’re “fighting” back. There is no battle to win here. If the conversation leads to nothing constructive, do yourself a big favour and go to another company where you can start over with a new manager.
5 | You keep getting the same feedback
One (very valid) reason your boss might not vouch for you internally is that they keep giving you the same feedback over and over. If you also get this feedback from other people, you should reflect as to why you are getting the feedback in the first place, but also your motivation to change it. You might want to try to improve but it’s never good enough. Or you don’t like your job enough to make efforts. In both cases, something is not working, and it is best that you take the lead and explore what options are available to you.
My advice: have a conversation with your manager and share with them your reflection on your motivation an the efforts you are willing to put in to change.
6 | You don’t like the company’s culture (anymore)
The culture of a company encompasses its mission, values, purpose, but also processes, politics and behaviours communicated and reinforced by senior management. If they don’t align to who you are and what you want and aim at in your life, it will be very hard for you to change it on your own. All these unsaid and unwritten rules are stronger than individuals. It takes a lot to change a culture, and it usually starts with the top of the organisation. If you keep giving feedback about things that matter to you but nothing changes, consider the other signs in this article to see if you would be willing to compromise on them.
My advice: sit down and list what clashes with your values, and what you wish you could improve in your current company. You can then actively look for a company that offers what is lacking in your situation. Also explore how you could find these values in your department or in your team if they are lacking at the company level.
7 | You dread going to work every day
You might feel a nod in your stomach when getting ready in the morning. Sunday evenings are depressing, Mondays are tough, and Friday afternoons are a relief. If coming to the office pains you, you should be proactive by either better reacting to what happens at work, or by exploring another path.
My advice: think about what exactly makes you feel that way. There could be a few things that are piling up (for instance some or all the points above). It’s important to label these things so you know for sure what to improve in your situation, or what to look for in your next role & company.
8 | You are disengaged and uninterested
Another sign to pay attention to is your overall level of motivation to do the most important tasks of your job. For instance, you used to be proactive, but you stopped taking initiative a while ago. In meetings you’re physically there but absent-minded. You give short and generic answers only when you’re being asked to participate. The reality is that you don’t care enough to bring new ideas, and it’s easier to agree with everyone else. If that’s the case, it’s likely that there are other signs in this article that speak to you.
My advice: take a break from work to change your mind. If you still feel that way when you come back, and you remain like this for a few months, it is time for a big change.
9 | Challenges used to motivate you, now they drain you
If what made your role so exciting at the beginning now drains your energy to the core, it is time to sit down and consider the choice you have in front of you: stay and change that, or leave. Every job has its challenges, escalations, issues and problems. If you used to love solving them (or trying to at least) and it now takes you more time than ever before to handle them, there is something going on.
My advice: explore what changed between the moment you like these aspects of your role and now. What happened?
10 | The environment is negative and toxic
There are people and even entire teams incapable of discerning the subjective (negative) opinion of an individual from facts and reality, causing this negativity to spread like wildfire in the workplace. People who are not involved are at best ignored, at worst rejected by the group. If you happen to be one of these people, first, let me tell you well done on showing maturity and professionalism. Second, try to keep these people at a safe distance while finding out what you can do about it.
My advice: don’t get involved in the negativity. By staying out of it, you can indirectly influence the group to see things with a different perspective. You can also talk to your manager about what you’re seeing or hearing so they are aware of what’s happening (they probably know already). If it doesn’t work and negativity persists, it’s time to call it off.
If you experience any of these signs and are feeling unhappy at work, but you haven’t taken a decision yet, give yourself time. It might not be the right time for you for a lot of different reasons, sometimes personal ones. Just consider what changing jobs would look like, and what’s the worse that could happen if you took that leap.