How do you know if it’s time for a career change

woman going through a career change
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In today’s digital world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to switch off after a day in the office.

Many people are regularly expected to work past their contracted hours or be available on email at evenings and weekends. The rising prevalence of freelancing and the gig economy also brings with it challenges relating to separating work and downtime as more people choose to work from home. As our career is such a big part of our lives, any negative feelings can have ramifications on other areas, from relationships and finances through to mental and physical health. It can be tricky to accept that career confusion may be causing stress in other areas of your life, especially if you are perceived as ‘successful’ in your field, but it is essential this is addressed. You will see improvements in all areas of your life if you switch to a career that leaves you fulfilled, but how do you know when you’re in need of a career change? This article will demonstrate some of the warning signs that suggest you may be in need of a career reboot.

Mental health 

Sometimes we will feel despondent if a project doesn’t go the way we want it to or apathetic towards work if there are things going on in other areas of our lives, however it is important to check these feelings regularly as prolonged negative moods, not just in the workplace, are a sign that a career change may be required. Mood changes can come in many forms; some people will react to workplace stress angrily and lash out at colleagues but others may turn the other way and internalise every emotion, distancing themselves from others in the workplace. This is also why it is so important to develop meaningful relationships in the workplace as it provides an important check on the mood of those around you. Any slight changes can be picked up and anyone struggling can be supported much earlier on in the process..

Physical health

Feelings of prolonged stress and confusion can permeate all areas of your health. Sometimes you may not feel stressed mentally, but your body is still feeling the effects. Noticed early it can be resolved, but sometimes stress-related conditions can be fatal. Gut diseases, migraines and muscle tension have all been known to be caused or worsened by the feelings of stress. If you are experiencing some of these issues it may be a sign that your career is causing you way too much stress and an audit may be required to ensure these stressors do not worsen. After all, a career is never worth sacrificing your health for.

How do you deal with stress?

Some feelings of stress are inevitable in the workplace. Sometimes you may be working to a tight deadline or on a big, demanding client and this can cause you to feel stressed, but it should only be for a short period of time and the feelings should pass after the task has been completed. It is when these feelings are a constant that you need to take a step back and consider whether this really is the career for you. Being scared of what could happen if you make a career change is what often holds people back, but is this fear greater than the stress you are currently experiencing? If your feelings are no longer manageable it is vital you address these with someone else in the business to see if these can be lessened, but it could be a sign that the career as a whole is not working for you. Your work should leave you feeling fulfilled, not constantly on edge.

No time for relaxation

For us to be most productive in our careers, we need to ensure we are giving ourselves adequate down time. Without this, you will quickly become burnt out and unable to do your best work. A tell-tale sign of career stress is a lack of separation between relaxation time and work time; a balance of the two that works best for your should always be prioritised. The dynamics of this balance will be completely up to the individual – for some people they like to relax with family and others it is with a hobby or exercise. Whichever is your preference, always make time for it each day. If your workload does not allow you time for switching off, it is time to consider whether this really is the career for you and take steps to re-address the balance.

Relationship strain 

When we feel stressed or under pressure, we often take out these emotions on those closest to us. This could be your partner, family or friends. Even when we are spending important quality time with those who mean a lot to us, it is easy to be not completely present and find our minds drifting back to work. If you are neglecting the important relationships in your life it is time to take stock of your work-life balance and the demands of your job. Most importantly, do not forget the relationship you have with yourself. There is so much more to a person that just their job so make sure it doesn’t stop you from expressing other areas of your personality. This could be sport, charity work or volunteering for example. Relationships with others help us to feel fulfilled and supported so if your career is preventing you from investing in these, it could be time for a switch.

Many people choose to just carry on with their career when they are experiencing excessive stress either out of fear of what a career change could entail or just acceptance that this is what a career ‘should’ involve. It may be a big step to accept that a career you have invested in may be causing stress and tension on other areas of your life but making this change will ensure you focus on looking after yourself, investing in your relationships and pursuing a career that is completely right for you. Good luck!

Sarah JonesAbout the author

Sarah Jones is a published author, leading speaker, and accredited leadership, talent development and team productivity coach. Born with an entrepreneurial spirit and an insatiable drive to help others find their happiness, accelerate leadership and executive performance, Sarah founded her coaching business, Sarah-J Coaching, after a successful career in PR to help people find purpose, meaning and direction in their lives and careers. Sarah is an NLP practitioner and holds diplomas from the Coaching Academy, accredited with the International Coach Federation, and Institute of Leadership Management — the Personal Performance Coaching Diploma, and a Corporate and Executive Diploma (both Merit). More information can be found here:

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