1. You can’t remember why you do what you do
Unless you’ve been incredibly lucky or inherited a fortune, you’ve probably done at least a little work that’s nothing like being an astronaut or a ballerina… or whatever you wanted to be as a kid. You may have a job that’s disappointing to you. Like you reached a fork in the road, picked a path, and got lost or trapped there. Maybe it’s time to make your way back to that fork. Or find a new utensil. (Or a new metaphor.)
2. You’re not cut out for the cubicle or field or… circus, etc.
Not everyone works well at a desk or enjoys constantly traveling, or… likes riding light-up unicycles at the circus. The good news is that there’s no “right” way to work; there’s only the way that works for you. So it’s reasonable to assume that you may have found yourself working in a way that doesn’t suit you.
3. You don’t make enough money
There’s a socioeconomic difference between being broke and being poor, and there’s a difference between a company that doesn’t pay much and an entire career path — a particular industry, or a particular line of work within said industry — that doesn’t pay your bills. If you can’t make ends meet and it’s been a consistent problem in your career, it may be time to start thinking about another line of work.
4. Or your salary climbs and climbs, and it’s still not worth it
Money helps. Money can solve a considerable number of problems. We need money to survive (and generally thrive) in society. Still, anyone who values personal relationships and good health knows that money isn’t everything. If you hate what you do, don’t have time for other areas of life (e.g., you regularly miss your kid’s soccer games, haven’t had dinner with a friend in ages, etc.), or feel your health taking a hit, money isn’t what’s in short supply. Life is.
5. You’re frequently jealous of the people you care about
It’s easy to be green-eyed when you’re feeling unfulfilled or frustrated at work. If you’re often more envious of your friends’ and family’s work successes (e.g., promotions, new jobs, raises) than you are happy for them, one obvious answer is that something’s missing from your career.
6. Your career keeps you from having a personal life
Perhaps you still love what you do, but have begun to resent the schedule that goes along with it. Things change, and everyone needs to regroup now and again when it comes to work. If you like your industry but can’t work with the same schedule you used to, you may want to consider looking for new challenges in your chosen field.
7. You hate explaining your job to people
If your work with NASA or the CIA is hard to detail to strangers, that’s one thing. But if you’re ashamed of your job or you glaze over when asked what you do for a living, you may be not-so-secretly psyching yourself out about your career. Generally, that’s a good indicator that something’s wrong.
8. There’s something else you’d rather be doing
There’s rarely a good time to shift gears completely and begin anew in your career. But if there’s a (semi-realistic) dream you’ve wanted to chase for years, or a job you haven’t pursued for fear of failure or a pay cut, it’s a good idea to make time to at least reevaluate your options. As with the rest of your life, if you don’t ask for what you want in your career, you won’t get it.