Perhaps you’re a recent college grad, a few months into a new career. Perhaps you’ve been plugging away at your company for a decade or more. But something isn’t right.
You feel drained at the end of the day–more than normal post-work tiredness. You’re anxious. The start of the weekend, for you, means a slow and steady countdown until you have to get up and start the work week all over again. You’re no stranger to the Sunday night blues.
It’s time to face the facts: maybe your job doesn’t fit your personality.
This can be hard to admit. After all, you probably spent good money on a college education preparing for that very job. And the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. You may have a family to support. You may be convinced that your skills won’t translate to another industry, or fear starting all over in a new workplace with a new set of colleagues.
There are plenty of reasons to stay put.
But what if the work week didn’t have to be a slog? What if you were engaged in meaningful employment? What if you jumped out of bed on Monday mornings, excited for all the opportunities in the week ahead?
It is possible to view work this way. If you’re tired of getting “nervous stomach” every time you think of your 9 to 5, it’s worth your time to do a little self-examination as to why this is. Is there another career that would fit your style better–make you come alive rather than wring your hands with worry?
You bet there is. Here are five ways to find it.
1. Dig deep into self-study
If you want to really get to know yourself, there are no shortage of personality profiles you may find helpful in coming to a more full understanding of how you operate. From the DISC test to CliftonStrengths Finder to the Enneagram to the Myers-Briggs–if you’ve never taken the plunge into your personality, choose one and start there.
Let’s take the most popular test as an example: the Myers-Briggs.
Did your results reveal that you’re an idealistic INFJ? Then you’re going to be miserable in any job that seems to exploit people or harm the environment.
Are you the “commander”–an ENTJ? Then an office in which the CEO and upper management seem to be flying by the seat of their pants without any long-term goals is going to drive you up the wall.
According to your Myers-Briggs type, are you in a workplace that goes against who you fundamentally are? If that’s the case, you need to break up with your job–before you lose another Sunday night’s sleep or sprout another gray hair.
Say it’s not them–it’s you. (It really, really is).
2. Make a list of pros and cons in your current position. (Check it twice)
Even if it’s not a perfect fit, everything in your current position can’t be that terrible. (Or why would you have wound up there in the first place?)
It’s time to take stock. Make a list of the things you hate about your current job.
For instance: you’re an accountant, but find the work soul-crushing. Tax season makes you break out in hives for four months. That one client who’s always breathing down your neck, micromanaging and undermining at every turn, has you wondering why you’re subjecting yourself to the abuse.
But the pros make it hard to pull the plug. You got into accounting because you love numbers. You enjoy problem solving, are detail-oriented, and contrary to the accountant stereotype, like interacting with people.
So how do you minimize the things you hate while emphasizing the elements of the job that get you jazzed? One answer could be as simple as taking calls with that terrible client in the office courtyard whenever possible–enjoy the sun on your face as a condescending jerk screams at you over the phone.
Can you make small tweaks to increase your work happiness? And what does “work happiness” mean to you, anyway?
3. Get honest about expectations
Is it necessary to leave your job in order to get the fulfillment you’re seeking? Author Simon Sinek points out that you should use your current position for field study: learn everything you can about yourself, so that if/when you leave, you’re leaving for something better.
Not just running away.
Get honest with yourself about how much you’re expecting from your job. Do you want your job to be your “passion,” colleagues your best friends, to derive your main sense of purpose from your workplace?
Or, can core needs of your personality be met outside of the office? Perhaps in a special class, or among your core friend group, or through trying a new skill?
Be clear about what your needs really are. Think outside of the box and get creative in order to see if a balance can be struck between a job that’s just okay and a life that’s truly awesome.
4. Start looking where you are
If if you’ve taken stock and decided that, indeed, your job is crushing your soul, it’s time to start looking for something else. But you can start right where you are.
Boss got you down? Perhaps there are openings in another department that seems interesting. Even if it’s a lateral move, moving departments could be a great opportunity to connect with others, learn new skills, and experience a different style of management. (All while gaining a fuller understanding of your company’s operations, which will make you extra attractive to the CEO).
Is it possible to use the skills you’ve learned in your current position to pick up some freelance work on the side? Perhaps you’re the solo-preneur type and can’t stand the confines of an office job. How long would you need in order to build a big enough portfolio to support yourself and go freelance full-time?
If you’re looking for more satisfaction in your job, It may not be necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Start right where you are and figure out how to get somewhere better.
5. Plan to make the leap
After all this, if you’re ready to make a major leap out of your current career, you’re not alone. (Especially if you’re a millenial. One study found that millenials change jobs four times their first ten years out of college.)
Your job is where you spend most of your waking hours. You needn’t be a slave to your soul-crushing nine-to-five just for a paycheck.
There are plenty of options when it comes to making money–with a little looking, you’re bound to find something more in line with who you are.
Take, for example, the miserable accountant. She could leverage her financial smarts into a job she finds more meaningful, such as CFO for a small business or nonprofit, or financial adviser. Or make an even bigger leap–focus on her people skills and look for a position in HR, in her company or someone else’s.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to have a degree in a field in order to make a successful career.
The old saying is popular because it’s true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Some estimate that up to 85% of jobs are found through networking. If you’re continually maintaining and building a strong network, it will serve you a lot better than an extra (expensive) degree. You’ll be able to call on your personal network when it’s time to find your next opportunity.
The bottom line is this: there’s no reason to stay stuck. With a little self-knowledge, creativity, and active networking, you can find a career that aligns with your fundamental self.
In fact, it may be closer than you think.