Many of us have been in difficult work situations — ones where we feel stuck, lost or even completely miserable. Perhaps you feel like you’re in a dead-end job. Or maybe the workplace is toxic. It’s also possible that you like the role but don’t like the organization or vice versa.
When you’re in this situation, it can take a toll on your entire life, from your relationships to your health. But how do you know when you should stick it out and wait for things to change — better yet, try to effect change yourself — and when it’s time to say goodbye?
The following 15 signs are proof that you need to start your job search ASAP:
Pretty much every conversation you have with your family and friends always comes back to something you hate about your job. Your boss did this today. Your coworker did that. You were tasked with a new, mind-numbingly boring responsibility.
That means your job isn’t just affecting you but also the people around you, who are probably getting pretty sick of hearing you complain. Of course, it’s fine to vent from time to time, but if all you’re doing is complaining about work, then chances are, people aren’t going to be super excited to hang out and listen to you.
Sure, we all have days where things feel a little slow or projects aren’t quite as exciting as we’d like them to be. But if this is getting to be a regular occurrence, it could be a sign that you need to find a new opportunity — one that keeps you on your toes.
After all, when you’re frequently bored at work, you’re probably also not doing your best work. You need something that will engage you and prevent you from feeling like you’re just a cog.
Once upon a time, you cared about the company and your unique role in it. But lately, you have nothing propelling you forward. These days, you lack all motivation to keep you moving in your job. That drive that made you excited about your job has all but disappeared, or perhaps it’s gone altogether.
Perhaps you’re still plugging along, getting your work done. But you don’t care like you used to. Again, if this is an occasional occurrence, it’s probably not an issue — we all have off days from time to time. But if this is happening every day or most days, it’s a sign that you need to look elsewhere.
On Sundays, you’re plagued with thoughts of having to work the next day. As soon as you wake up in the morning, you think, “Oh no, I have to go to work.” You can’t wait until Friday. You stare at the clock all day, every day.
Yes, we love our weekends. We love being able to wind down at the end of a long day at work, whether we’ve been doing our jobs remotely or in a workplace setting. But enjoying our free time and dreading work are two different things.
Sometimes — maybe all the time — you think to yourself, “What if I just quit?” This has become more than just a fleeting thought; it’s a fantasy, one that’s becoming increasingly realistic. You daydream about walking into your boss’ office and dropping your two weeks’ notice. When you think about it, the thought doesn’t give you anxiety — it gives you satisfaction.
Maybe this daydream is seeping into your actual dreams, too, where you’re thinking about quitting even when you’re sleeping. When you wake up, you’re disappointed that it’s not real.
Instead of actually doing the work you’re supposed to be doing during the day, you’re spending time combing social media, staring at pictures of your friends and strangers whose lives seem better and more fulfilling than yours (hint: their lives aren’t perfect, either — nobody posts the bad times).
Ignoring your job, however boring it may be, is impacting your entire career, not just this one role. You’re leaving a bad impression by letting responsibilities fall by the wayside, which will more than like come back to haunt you later, when, say, you need a reference from your manager or work alongside a current colleague at another company.
Since day one, you’ve been plugging away at what has definitely been feeling like a thankless job. Your responsibilities have barely changed or not changed at all. You haven’t received new, more challenging assignments, and while you feel confident in your long-held tasks, you crave more exciting opportunities, ones that allow you to gain new skills.
If you haven’t asked for more challenging assignments — perhaps taking the lead on a big project, for example — then you absolutely should. This could be enough to reinvigorate your passion for your job. But if you have and the answer has always been “no” or “maybe later,” then it’s time to look elsewhere.
Maybe a lack of excitement isn’t the problem. Your job is exciting — too exciting. So much so, in fact, that you’re constantly stressed. Your assignments are overly challenging, and you feel like your work is never good enough. You’re always checking your email, and you’re working overly long hours. You can never, ever relax. The pressure is eating at you. While you appreciate a fast-paced environment, this is too much.
Being sick all the time could be a sign that there is something wrong with your physical health. And if you frequently have headaches, colds, general malaise or other physical ailments, it’s a good idea to get yourself checked out, especially given the pandemic.
But frequent illness can also be an indicator that there’s something wrong in another aspect of your life, such as your job. Stress and other problems with your mental health can adversely affect your physical health, too — and that’s just not safe.
Are you frequently irritable? Do you snap at people over the littlest things? Are you more annoyed than usual? You may not even notice that you’re angrier than you used to be yourself, but your friends and family members are commenting on your behavior and attitude.
Your frustration with your job could be seeping into your personal life and making you angry about things that wouldn’t have upset you at one time in the past. That’s because you never really feel totally separate from your work — it’s affecting everything, including your overall mood. And if you feel more at peace and less angry on weekends? Well, that’s an even clearer sign that you need to leave your job.
You’ve tried inviting your colleagues out to lunch, but they say no. Or, there are after-work happy hours, but you’re not invited. Maybe, you hear chatter and laughter at the breakroom, but you’re not a part of it, as much as you want to be. You feel a little like you’re back in high school, facing the mean-girl cliques.
There are work cultures that just aren’t for everyone, and if you’re in the wrong one, then it will impact the rest of your work life. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you; it just means your current employer isn’t necessarily the right fit for you.
You’re not the only one who’s frustrated at work. You notice your colleagues leaving in droves, left and right. It’s not just less-experienced employees getting better offers — it includes top talent, people who are considered invaluable to the company.
Apparently, others feel the same way you do — this just isn’t a good place to work. If you’re not clear on why everyone is leaving, it’s probably time to investigate. It’s normal for companies to experience some turnover, but if it’s so frequent that there are always empty desks or you’re frequently having to train new employees, there’s something wrong.
When was the last time you had something to look forward to at work — an opportunity for advancement, a presentation you know you’re going to kill, a bonus or something else? If you can’t remember, and it doesn’t seem like there’s anything to be excited about on the horizon, that’s not good. You need something to keep you motivated.
A lack of quality sleep could be creating a vicious cycle. When you’re unhappy and stressed about part of your life like your job, it can affect your sleep and your sleep hygiene. And when you’re not sleeping very well, it will interfere with your mental health, your satisfaction and your ability to do your job at full capacity.
Of course, poor sleep or a lack of sleep can have other detrimental effects, too. For example, it can cause problems to your physical health and wellness. So, if you think your job has something to do with your sleep, then seriously consider how to remove yourself from a bad professional situation.
At the end of the day, you’re just plain miserable. You hate your job. You feel lost. You’re depressed. You want out.
In most cases, it’s better to stick it out until you can find another, better job. But there are some situations in which it’s fine — encouraged, even — to quit without having a backup. For example, if you’re being harassed or abused at work, you absolutely should not stay in an unsafe workplace. And if you’re really, truly suffering, it could be time to leave without having something else lined up. (You should be the judge of your own limits, though.)
Once you’ve decided to leave, how do you secure that new job? It’s no easy feat, as anyone who’s ever been in a position to look for a job will tell you (and you probably have firsthand knowledge of how difficult it can be), but it’s a situation where efforts often translate into results.
As discussed, if you can, stay until you’re able to secure a new job. (Again, this may not be possible in all circumstances.) It’s easier to find a job when you already have one (in this case, the cliche is true). For instance, if you’re in an interview, you won’t have to explain employment gaps.
Start by putting out feelers wherever and whenever possible. Tap your network — friends, family, colleagues, former managers and so on. Attend networking events, in-person or virtually. Look for connections where you can, such as connecting with people you’ve worked with in the past, however distantly, who now work at your dream employer.
And don’t forget about job boards and job-search sites. Most successful candidates secure jobs through a combination of active applying and networking.
To successfully extricate yourself from a difficult situation, you’ll need to put in effort every day. It may feel a little overwhelming, but it’s far better than staying in a job that’s hurting you. Even just creating a plan to leave may give you a boost — you’ll know you’re taking the steps you need to to make your life better.
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