1 You don’t ever read anything in your field outside work
If you’re a professional in a career you love you will, without really trying, pick up books, magazines, or follow blogs in your field.
If you’re say, a project manager in a software company and you find yourself reading about alternative energy solutions and green economies all the time you’re in the wrong job. True story – a friend was managing a group of techies and not liking it much, after much soul searching he figured out he was more interested in the environment.
He’s off to Africa next month to manage a project that will bring sustainable energy solution to a village. It’s a huge change, but the right one.
2 You really don’t like the environment
Animals and plants specialise to suit particular environments, transplanted they don’t do so well unless you can recreate something of the environment they are used to. People are the same, we function best in particular environments. Some like natural light, some like chaos, some like the certainty of the same desk every day.
Many years ago I was writing a thesis project in a tiny office on the top floor of a 17 century canal house in Amsterdam. I got a kick out of the location, but the building was a little wonky, and there was a very gentle slope from the door to the window. I had a chair with wheels on it, so I either had to keep my feet on the floor, or roll slowly down to the view. Quirky. A friend visited me and experienced the roll, and told me he could never work there. He shouldn’t. The sloping floor was just one sign of the service level in the building, one sign of how things worked. I took it in my stride because I had what I needed to work. He would have been frustrated at so much of what the place offered. He belongs in a different environment.
3 You don’t like how people dress, your personal style is very different
The way people dress is part of the company culture, I work in the corporate office – most of the people around me are in suits, if you’re a jeans and whacky t-shirt kinda guy this won’t be the right environment for you.
It’s not that clothes themselves are so important, but the clothes say something about your personal brand, it’s the visual expression of your values.
If your personal style of clothing is very different from the company clothing standards, then your personal values might also be very different from the company values.
4 You find ways to avoid doing what you were hired to do
Avoidance can take many forms;
- you’re late arriving and early leaving, or stretching your lunch hour
- you’ll take sick leave for more minor complaints than usual
- you find yourself taking on more and more projects in other departments, partly to do something different, but also with a long shot – just to get out of the door
- you’re happy to schedule dentist appointments in the middle of the day, just to get you out of the office
Sometimes it’s temporary but a long term pattern of avoidance is a sign that you’re just not that into your job. I’ve seen it in a member of my old team, he’d arrive late and later – but rationalise it by “work home”. Work that did not seem to get done. There was a lot more going on but it was a clear sign that things were not going well for him in that role. He’s now started working for himself, I hope that’s a better option for him.
5 you loathe questions on your job in social situations
If a stranger asks what you do, at a party or event, do you mumble and answer and shift the conversation back to them?
As a professional you should be able to speak with pride about what you do, you should be able to say something interesting about it. If you shy away from these questions ask yourself why.
And if all you do at parties is talk about work you need to find some better parties to attend.
6 You’re doing the same work you were doing when you were hired, 6 years ago
In most professional careers there’s an expectation that you’ll move up on a regular basis, if there’s been no change in your job in terms of the content of the job or the level or responsibility you need to look at why. Maybe you’re not ready for the next step – in which case look at coaching or training. Perhaps there just aren’t further opportunities at your company – in which case are you prepared to change company? Or maybe you’re just never going to make the grade for further promotion and you really need to rethink your career plans.
Of course in some jobs, such as artisans or highly specialised roles where depth of knowledge is hard to acquire, this is not an indicator that you’re in the wrong job, you’re deepening your expertise and loving what you do.
7 You feel like a different person at work
I think we all adapt ourselves a little for work; but if you’re really not yourself at work, if you are acting or putting on a persona all the time, then there’s something wrong.
This is perhaps the hardest sign to read. We’ve got vested interests in staying where we are including money invested in education, time spent acquiring knowledge, a network and a reputation.
Not seeing this sign, and not acting on it, costs a lot of energy. It means, sadly, that we won’t be able to reach our full potential.
Yet, this might be the clearest sign of all.
books Book collection/Louise McGregor/ CC BY-NC 3.0
office chair Office chair, office chairrrr. /Ollie Crafoord/ CC BY 2.0
backwards suit ?
avoid train IMG_1656 /Sir Mildred Pierce/ CC BY 2.0
pool party Third Annual Pool Party /Peter Dutton/ CC BY 2.0
hour glass Falling time /Samuel John/ CC BY-SA 2.0
Venetian maskVenice-mask-2 /Simone/ CC BY-ND 2.0
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