Have your thoughts recently wandered to the future and what change in your career might look like? Did you feel that weight lift from your shoulders when you considered a different future? The odds are, you have.
According to a recent Gallop study of almost 200,000 employees, almost two-thirds feel disengaged in their jobs. When one considers how much time is dedicated to our careers, this is an alarming statistic. Unfortunately, it's one that hasn't changed markedly in the last 10 years.
Why then do people languish in jobs that are unfulfilling?
While the idea of a career change may be very appealing, pragmatically it can seem very overwhelming. Moving out of that safe, defined career box to the wild expense of the Unknown can be downright terrifying.
Fortunately, for many, the conditions that contribute to a sense of low fulfillment are situational. Anything from a poor manager, to times of change or uncertainty, to being passed over for a promotion. Often, simply putting one's head down and waiting out the circumstances leads to a change for the better.
I've certainly been there myself. When I look back on my own long career in corporate life, sure there were times when I felt less fulfilled than others. And usually, they were blips in time. I'd learned to control what was mine to control and to weather the storm.
But, at some point, something changed for me.
It didn't happen over night. It was a sea swell that gradually grew over time. An orchestra's crescendo. Something had shifted deep within me. That je ne sais quoi bubbling up with the suggestion that all was not right.
This was the starting point. And as I endeavoured to place a finger on what exactly was wrong, I struggled. At least at first.
As I was spurred on to better define it, I realized the following 5 indicators were there, just waiting to be noticed. The impetus for me to pull myself timidly out of my comfortable four career walls and venture forth into the wilderness of possibility...
1. My 100% was not what it used to be
For many, as it was for me, giving 100% is a normal state of being.
However, when you begin to feel that "your all" is no longer up to snuff, it's time to question what you're doing.
In my case, as a leader with employees who depended on me, less than my normal best was not good enough. It weighed on me that I wasn't offering what I felt they deserved. And that self-imposed weight began to take its toll on my fulfillment in my work.
2. I'd lost the fighting feeling
When you're committed to your work, standing up for what you believe in and fighting for what you (or your people) need is crucial. I was always willing to go that extra mile because my principles demanded it. But a point was reached when I felt that my zest for the fight had left me.
I came to the realization that while I had been changing and growing, my career environment had not in concert with me. The pitched battles seemed to have morphed into an all-out campaign, and I simply no longer had the resources to wage it.
Which leads me to my next telltale sign that it's time for change...
3. I'd realized that the benefits were not worth the price
Our careers offer us so much. Not only the tangibles, like money and benefits to support our families, which are of course big drivers of what we do.
But we also derive benefits from the strong relationships and sense of community that our jobs provide; the opportunity for growth and challenge. Even a sense of real purpose, if you're fortunate.
However, for all of these things, you pay a price. For me, I travelled a lot and I missed a good chunk of my children's experiences. My job could be quite stressful at times, and emotionally draining. Yet, I made the decision to do it. Why?
Because it offered me a sense of satisfaction - that feeling that I was making a difference for my team members, for our customers, and the patients they served.
My career also afforded my family a quality of life that they would not have enjoyed otherwise. My family always come first. And, so, while it took me away from them on a regular basis, it was a price I'd been willing to pay.
Until it wasn't.
At some point, that price became too high. The impact on my physical, mental and emotional health had reached unhealthy levels. Deep down, I knew it was unwise to continue as I was. It was time for change.
4. I felt trapped and lacking control
If you've reached a point where you feel all control has been stripped from you, it's worth it to reconsider what you're doing (especially if this is accompanied by some of the other telltale signs noted here).
It's important to remember though that a sense of feeling trapped can be simply circumstantial.
As humans, we can sometimes allow ourselves to be swept up in circumstances, our thinking turning inwards and disempowering. If you're there, it's worth seeking some assistance such as a coach to explore this further. Shifting one's perspective can oftentimes make all the difference.
However, if you continue to struggle with this over an extended period no matter what you try, there may be something deeper at play.
5. My intuition was telling me, "There's something more for me"
I happen to be a believer of the power of intuition. Call it the soul, the sub-conscious mind, the 6th sense - if it's speaking to you with an insistence and growing fervour, you should listen. It was this very voice for me that forced me to take stock of my career - more precisely, the role of my career in my life.
Through working with my own coach and reassessing my core values, I came to understand that my needs had changed. Probably had been slowly changing for quite some time. What my career provided me 10 or 20 years ago - and what drove me to commit all I had to it - simply no longer existed.
I had changed. My core drivers had changed.
My gut was telling me in no uncertain terms that my future lay elsewhere. That I still had much to learn in life - needed to learn in life. That, out there somewhere, there was a greater difference I could make. No longer did my current career provide those things to me.
It was time to go.
So it was that I decided to leave my safe, comfortable box of a corporate career. Absolutely, it was scary.
But what really drove me was the deepest understanding that it was the right thing to do. Right for me. Right for my family. Right for the world of which I am a contributing part.
I now have my own business about which I'm deeply passionate. As a Coach, I am following what speaks to me and I have a renewed sense of purpose. It's easy to say I should have done it earlier. Truth is, I should have. But here I am - doing it now! And I couldn't be happier.
It was this very voice for me that forced me to take stock of my career - more precisely, the role of my career in my life.
Making a career transition - whether to a new career, to entrepreneurship, to retirement, or to new purpose of any kind - is a daunting prospect. But if you pay close attention, you can recognize the signs that might be providing the direction you're needing.