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When you started along your career path, you approached each day with enthusiasm and dedication. Your work made you happy and fulfilled.
But now, something isn’t right. You begin each day with apathy — or worse, dread.
You hate that something once precious to you has turned into a source of boredom or misery. You aren’t sure what to do.
Don’t worry. We’ll help you sort through these feelings — and figure out your next career move.
Get at the Root Cause
Before you take any action, you need to determine the source of your feelings.
Is it possible that another area of your life is suffering and impacting the way you view your job?
Are you feeling down, in general, these days?
If either is the case, it could be the cause of your career unhappiness. Addressing it could help you fall back in love with your work.
Important note: If you suspect depression or anxiety over significant money or other personal issues is sapping the joy out of your profession (or any other area of your life), it’s a good idea to have a candid conversation with your doctor or therapist.
When your unhappiness and job dissatisfaction are solely linked to your career or current company, you still have some digging to do.
What is it about the work that’s bothering you or causing you to be dissatisfied?
You must be honest and specific here. Your answer(s) will determine the most effective next steps.
Create a Plan for Change
Regardless of why you’re singing the career blues, something has to give. You need to make some sort of change to get your professional spark back.
But, there’s hope.
Depending on why you’ve fallen out of love, you may rekindle the romance without making a significant career transition.
Common Reasons for Career Unhappiness
Let’s look at some common sources of fixable career malaise and ways you can address them:
1. You’re Suffering from Job Burnout
When you throw yourself wholeheartedly into your work, spend many hours working, or both, it’s very easy to get burnt out.
Burnout can cause you to feel tired, disinterested, disconnected, and even resentful of your work.
It also comes with a host of other negative physical and mental impacts that can disrupt your whole life.
When you suspect you’re suffering from burnout, the best thing you can do is take a time out and step away for a little while.
Depending on how low your batteries are, a week’s vacation might do the trick. Or, you may need to look at taking a sabbatical.
Either way, some distance between you and your career may help you come back to it with fresh eyes and a tender heart.
2. You’re Bored with Your Career Choice
When you’ve been doing the same thing day in and day out for years with little to no professional development, career boredom can easily creep up.
Boredom can cause you to feel like you’re just going through the motions, like your work doesn’t matter, and like your talents are being underutilized.
It can sap your happiness and passion as you gradually lose interest in something you once loved to do.
When boredom is the culprit of your career woes, it’s time to shake things up!
Start by having a candid conversation with your boss. Maybe they can assign new tasks or responsibilities to you.
Perhaps you can spearhead a significant project – or at least have an active role in it.
You might also ask your direct supervisor, team leader, mentor, or someone higher up in the management layers about helping you create a strategic plan for your long-term professional development and career advancement.
The goal is to make your profession feel fresh, new, and meaningful again.
Reestablishing a career partnership with your current employer has its benefits.
It can help you achieve continuous growth and reach long-term goals while also helping them avoid employee turnover, impacting their bottom line.
3. You’re Underpaid or Underappreciated
While you didn’t get into your profession solely for the paycheck and the pats on the back, you should be fairly compensated and duly appreciated for your efforts.
When that doesn’t happen, your job satisfaction and commitment to your career understandably plummet. You stop putting in 110% because you’re hurt, angry, and resentful of the poor treatment.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to ask for a raise.
Compare those numbers to your current salary and decide how big of a bump you’re going to request.
Then, put together a list of all of your hard work and accomplishments since your last pay increase to strengthen your case. Armed with this knowledge, book a meeting with your boss ASAP!
4. You’re Dealing with Interpersonal Conflict
When you struggle to get along with your coworker or disagree with your boss's management style, it can really sour your workday.
If the conflict gets terrible enough, you may dread punching in for your shifts and avoid working with this person.
Arguments and tension among existing teams can make it hard to focus and affects your enjoyment of tasks you’re generally excited about.
A toxic work environment may also impact the employee engagement of the entire team.
If this is sounding a warning bell, take heart. It may be possible to repair this broken professional relationship.
When you’re not upset, calmly tell the other party how their behavior is impacting you. Make it all about their behavior, not about them.
Examples: “I find it hard to work when ____ is happening” or “I feel ____ when there is conflict about ____.”
Be sure to let them know your goal is to improve the dynamic between you, so everyone is happier. Ask what you can do to help resolve any issues.
When it’s Time to Bail
Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, your job may no longer be a fit for you.
While it’s painful to deal with, recognizing and accepting the fact you need a career overhaul allows you to start a new, fulfilling journey.
The key here is to create a plan to make your upcoming employment transition smooth, worry-free, and, most importantly, happy.
Your career switch plan needs to identify where you’re going next and what preparation you need to do to get there.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
- Would finding a creative outlet outside of work bring back my spark?
- What attracted me to my career in the first place? Does that factor exist in other professions?
- Would changing companies be beneficial, or am I over the industry as a whole?
- If switching employers might help, what successful companies in my industry would I like to work for? Who is currently looking for career prospects?
- If it’s time to make a substantial career shift, what else do I like to do? What piques my interest?
- Would becoming a freelancer fit my goals and needs?
- Do I need to return to school for higher education, obtain a professional credential, or have specific experience to make the switch?
- Do I have a large enough cash cushion to quit now, or should I wait until I land another opportunity?
Related reading: Should I Quit My Job if it Stresses Me Out?
Talk it Out
No matter what route you take for increasing job satisfaction or better career opportunities, it may be helpful to talk with a neutral third party.
A career-savvy, empathetic friend can be a great sounding board as you work through your feelings and craft your plan.
They may be able to see things in you that you can’t see in yourself, making them a big asset to this process.
Depending on your budget and preferences, you may want to consider working with a career coach or counselor.
Some coaches and counselors focus specifically on career progression or on making a major career change.
The guidance and support from a career expert could help you discover your next move faster than you could have on your own — and implement your plan more efficiently.
Pro Tip: A recruiter may be able to assist you with your job search.
Final Thoughts on Being Unhappy in Your Career
It can be devastating to fall out of love with your career. After all, you devote a big chunk of your life to your personal and professional growth.
Sometimes, there’s a way to bring the spark back and see your career progress again with just a few small steps.
Other times when you're unhappy in your job, you'll need to make a real change in your career plans or work environment. Just remember: we’re rooting for you either way.