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Knowing When to Fold ’Em: Five Signs It’s Time for a Career Change

True Story:

I used to dread Sunday nights. Starting around 7 p.m., I would begin to get a headache, an upset stomach—just a general disease emotionally, spiritually, and physically. My symptoms weren’t a result of something I ate or a side effect of any medication; they were a response to thinking about what I was going to have to face on Monday morning: a job that drained my spirit.

What awful job was I facing Monday through Friday? I was a fifth-grade teacher. And I was a good teacher—I liked teaching, I liked helping people learn, I enjoyed seeing people grow in confidence and knowledge, and I loved being in the role of change agent. But with all the things I loved related to being a teacher, there were too many things on the flip side that just didn’t line up with my true values, desired work style, and passion. I felt stifled, with no opportunities to grow as I needed. At the end of the school year, I decided that I would not return to teaching. It was both a hard and an easy decision at the same time. On one hand, I knew that I couldn’t successfully live another year like doing the same thing. On the other hand, I considered how much time and money I had invested on the education and certification process. I had even relocated to a new state to begin my teaching career.

Since then, I have found myself at that crossroads a few more times, trying to decide whether to stay or go. Each decision required lots of careful reflection and exploration as to what my next move should be. As a coach, I have clients that find themselves at the same crossroad regardless of age, experience or income. In most cases they know it is time for a change—they just ignore the signs, choosing instead to struggle with depression, low self-esteem, self-pitying attitudes, and to employ unhealthy coping strategies. If you are at a crossroads, trying to validate the urge you feel to make a change, here are five signs to look for:

1. You are suffering physically: Sunday-night anxiety attacks, head aches, knotted muscles and tension— your body is giving you a sign that it is time to change. How loud will the physical symptoms have to get before you listen to the message and make the required changes.

2. It is impacting your self-esteem: If you are not there already, you will begin to feel more worthless than what you are and take on a victim mentality. The longer you stay the more crippling your situation becomes. And the harder it becomes to even see your purpose let alone move towards it.

3. Your mental and emotional health are suffering: You can only fake it for so long. If you are ignoring how you really feel, and ignoring the insanity of sowing into soil that can’t produce, it is a matter of time before you will find yourself depressed. It will be a daily struggle to focus mentally on even the smallest of tasks.

4. It’s all about the money or title: This is the official ego trip. Reflect on this: Title and money have very little to do with true contentment. So if you are holding onto those two at the sake of following your passion and calling you will never find rest no matter how much your title or bank account grows. You can’t buy enough material things to meet the requirement for contentment as long as you are in denial about your purpose.

5. Your heart longs for something else: There’s a proverb that reads: “Hope deferred  makes the heart sick.”  Your career isn’t marriage—you can leave to pursue the thing that fulfills you, no strings attached.

So what now? The power of acknowledgment.
Do any of those five signs resonate with you? And if so, does it mean that you jump today?  Not at all, especially without a plan or the support you need.  But there is tremendous power in just acknowledging your desire to do something else. This is a situation where even the smallest of steps that you take toward your passion and purpose will reap great reward. I came across a quote the other day that read,” what ever you give attention to or feed, will grow.” If you are not sure of what the vision is for your life, start paying attention to the passion that wants to be expressed. And if you have already have a vision, give it the proper attention, opportunity, and resources to make it grow.