In this day and age, most of us want to focus on doing what we love rather than looking at work as a means of income, or watching the clock from 9-5. Just as important as doing what you love? Killing the curiosity. Even if you’re happy where you are, the idea of starting over, or building up your resume can be pretty appealing to some. It seems like there are so many unspoken rules in the professional world. You have to stay in a job for one year, don’t leave after a promotion, you can’t make good money if you stay with the same company. It doesn’t end. How do you know if it’s time to take the leap? Of course, there’s no foolproof approach, but I asked myself a few questions when faced with this wandering, confusing and somewhat intimidating idea.
Are you being challenged in your job?
The main thing to consider when you’re on the fence about your career, in my opinion, is the amount of challenges you face on a day-to-day basis. I don’t mean trivial challenges like battling the copy machine, or printer (seriously – why are they so difficult?). I mean the challenges that force you to grow beyond your perceived capabilities. It’s pivotal in any career to be present in the work you’re doing, but to always be mindful of the next opportunity to level up. This is true if you’re part of a large corporation, or doing your own thing and starting a business from the ground up. It’s important to fight off complacency.
For those of us in a traditional corporate setting, I think it’s important to mention that this isn’t something your boss is solely responsible for. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from three and a half years in the professional world, it’s that you’re not always going to have someone watching out for your professional development. Even if you have mentors throughout your journey, in the end, the journey is with yourself. You’re ultimately responsible for your trajectory. You have to actively seek out those opportunities to grow and speak up if you feel like they aren’t available. Realized potential often withers away in complacency and redundancy, so if you’re not seeing the path forward, it’s probably time to check out those job listings.
Are you appreciated?
This is a big one. Because we spend such a large amount of our time working (because let’s face it – even if you’re doing what you love, it’s still takes work), it’s so very important to feel respected and valued. Are you just another necessary tool in the function of the organization? Do the people you’re working for really care about you holistically? I’ve found that appreciation can manifest in several ways. It can be a nice “way to go” email, a bonus, or a title change, of course. But appreciation is also a consideration of your mental wellbeing and your work life balance.
To me, working for an organization that encourages you to have a life outside of work is such a sincere form of appreciation. We all need that time to unplug and to get more fuel for our creativity. Whitney Cummings once said, “for art to imitate life, you need to have a life”. Truer words have never been spoken.
Another major consideration when it comes to assessing appreciation is trust. I’ve been lucky enough to work for companies that believe failing forward is part of the process. We all need the freedom to mess up and then learn from it. Constant fear, micromanaging and critique can really diminish creativity and confidence. Of course, there should be an expected level of performance and we all strive for perfection, but we’re only human. At the end of the day, we all have families, friends, hobbies and thresholds. Feeling appreciated enough to make mistakes is so important.
If you’re feeling like your work is all consuming to the point where you can’t put down the laptop, or your job is inducing more anxiety than triumph, it might be time to expand your professional horizons.
Are you on board for “the vision?”
One of the final things to keep in mind when considering a new role or career is your overall belief in what you’re doing. Like I mentioned, your trajectory is your responsibility, but it’s still important to feel like your job breeds and cultivates those opportunities. Your organization should be future-focused, and taking an interest in a growth plan is crucial. We all need something to believe in, right?
Regardless of what you call your job, it will most likely be a part of the legacy you leave behind in this world. The things you produce and the people you touch along the way become part of your story. In other words, you have to do cool stuff with your life. Seeking challenges, appreciation and inspiration is a good way to start. You know what they say – if you feel like the smartest person in the room, you should find a different room. If you feel complacent, taken advantage of, or unmotivated by your craft – it could be time for a change.