Deciding whether you’re in the right career can be a tricky question. Any job is bound to have both it’s good and bad days, and changing careers is an upheaval that may cause you no small amount of stress! It’s also important to ascertain whether, if you are feeling unhappy, it’s down to your career choice as a whole, or if your feeling is due to the company you work for and the position you are working in. If you feel as though your current position is the issue, you then need to consider whether it’s an environment that you can change, or whether it’s time for you to move on.

Are you learning and having fun?

Learning is important not only for our career development and to fulfill our capacity for progress, it is also important for our wellbeing too. If you spend your workday learning new skills and solving problems, the chances are that you are much more engaged with your work than someone who is not moving forward in this way. This feeling of engagement is vital for making you feel as though your work has a purpose, and preventing you from feeling bored.

It’s also important to have moments of joy at work, even if they come from something as simple as sharing a joke with a colleague at break time.

If you’re finding that you aren’t learning anything new and you aren’t having fun at your job, it may be time to consider a change. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing career right away. Speak to your boss and let them know how you are feeling. Let them know that you are interested in taking on more challenging work and see how they respond. Most employers will be glad of someone who is looking to take on more responsibility. If they don’t come through on providing you with more challenging work, then it could be time to seek employment elsewhere.

Do you feel valued?

If you don’t feel as though you and your work are valued, and that your input isn’t needed, this will make you feel unfulfilled in your work. This can lead to you wondering if you are going to progress in your job, and can have an impact on your self-esteem. After all, if you aren’t being valued for the things you are spending the majority of your life doing, then it’s no wonder that this can quickly translate into not feeling valued as a person in general.

If you are not feeling valued, there are a few things you can do:

  • First, ask yourself if you are genuinely not being valued. It could be that you are expecting more feedback and praise then you could reasonably expect from a busy boss or colleague. It’s a good idea to think about your recent accomplishments and ask yourself if they were worthy of additional attention and praise. If you’re unsure, you could speak about your feelings with a trusted senior colleague who may be able to offer some perspective.
  • Following this, if you think that your efforts are genuinely being overlooked then it is worth bringing up the situation with your boss. If your boss isn’t a person who naturally pays attention to human needs then you can’t expect to change that about them, but you can open up a dialogue regarding your performance. The best way to do this is not to go straight in asking for appreciation, but to be more subtle. Ask if you can have some feedback on the past few months of work, including what you have done well and where you can improve. Come to the conversation armed with a few of the things you know you have delivered well on. This should jog your boss’ memory and get you the positive feedback that you need.
  • A good way to get noticed is to make a point of recognizing others for their good work. By doing this you will plant the seeds of a culture shift, towards one that recognizes the achievements of others. Plus, the person you praise will likely to sing your praises in return.

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Ultimately though, you need to be able to validate yourself in the job that you are doing. Make a point each week of ‘patting yourself on the back’ for the things you have done well.

If you are not able to validate yourself in this way, it could be a sign that you aren’t feeling validated by your work because it isn’t a good fit for you. In this case, it could be a good idea to evaluate what careers might give you the validation you seek, and think about moving on.

Are you progressing as you would like?

If you feel as though you have been passed over for promotions and pay rises, this can create negative emotions about your work.

If this is the only thing about your job that you are unhappy with and you otherwise enjoy your work, it’s worth considering what you can do to make yourself a more attractive candidate for a promotion. Are there any additional qualifications that you could study for part-time to make you more eligible for promotion? More and more universities are now offering courses online, which makes it easier to fit studying in around your work. For example, Registered Nurses can now study for their DNP online, which enables them to progress into a Nurse Practitioner role.

Do you have more bad days than good ones?

Try keeping a diary that tracks your workdays and how you feel about them. If you are having more bad days than good ones, then it is probably time to think about a change.

Try to ascertain exactly what it is that is bothering you: Is it the company, or is it the work itself? This will tell you whether you need to move company, or rethink your career entirely.

How do you feel about your boss and colleagues?

If you have a colleague or a boss who is making your life miserable, this is something that can be addressed. Speak with your HR representative, or with other sympathetic colleagues to try and come up with an action plan.

Some workplaces are unfortunately quite toxic. If you feel that your workplace is one of them, it may be time to consider moving on before the toxic environment negatively impacts you.

Are you dreaming of doing something else?

If you have always dreamed of a particular career, no matter how impractical it may seem, you need to try and find a way to achieve your dream, or at least incorporate some aspect of it into your work. Otherwise, you will likely never be happy in your work, and that’s a lot of time to be miserable for!