How do you know if you need to jump ship or just take a vacation? Read on for five tell-tale signs you should head for the hills—or at least the job postings.
1. YOU AREN’T USING YOUR SKILLS.
They’re called career paths for a reason—they’re all about the journey. When you’re not applying your unique talents and not being challenged, you’re not growing. And when you’re not growing, you’re falling behind. You're sacrificing your personal happiness, too: A 2007 analysis by Gallup found that employees who feel like they use their particular talents and strengths at work are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life.
If you’re bored or frustrated with the work in front of you, if you feel your ideas are being ignored, or if you see no opportunity for advancement, talk to your boss. Often, bosses may not realize when an employee who wants to be challenged isn’t being challenged. But if the response amounts to “tough luck,” start looking for a place and a mentor that will appreciate your talents and invest in you.
2. YOU HAVE ZERO WORK/LIFE BALANCE.
Yes, good jobs can be demanding. And in the best-case scenario, you’re always challenged. But when a job takes over your life, it can cease to be worth it. Studies have found that employees who have greater control over their schedules are happier, sleep better, have lower stress levels, and better mental and physical health. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with work spilling over into the rest of your life, that’s a hint that you’re probably ready to go—employee retention is higher at companies where workers have greater flexibility and feel like supervisors support their personal lives.
If you’re spending less and less time with friends or family, or if that time is compromised because you’re expected to work extra hours at home or jump at your boss’s demands whenever she emails, that’s a pretty good indication your balance is off. And if you literally can’t get enough sleep because you’re working too many hours—or are too stressed or anxious to sleep well—listen to your body! Same goes if you’re jumpier or moodier than usual. Try to assess how your health—both physical and mental—may have changed since you joined your company. A job should help you grow, not change who you are.
3. YOU WORK IN A TOXIC ENVIRONMENT.
Your boss is overly critical of you—or others. Your co-workers like to gossip. You’re expected to perform at all costs and are frequently under duress. These are just a few ways an office can be toxic. The environment you work in can deeply affect you, so just like with a toxic relationship, the best thing to do is get out. Research has found that people who complain about their job and stew over the negative aspects of their office life have lower moods not just at work, but into the next morning—meaning, your bad office vibes bleed over into your personal life long after you clock out. That said, no matter the circumstances, don’t burn bridges when you leave. Even if your boss seems difficult, he may be well respected in the wider industry, and word travels. Take the high road.
4. YOUR COMPANY (OR INDUSTRY) IS STRUGGLING.
You can see the signs: layoffs, budget cuts, and lowering profits. Don’t go down with the ship! It’s easier to find a job when you have a job. And if things do go south, you don’t want to be around for the layoffs, even if your job remains intact. A decade-long study of Boeing workers found that those who survived layoffs had higher stress levels (measured through factors like rates of alcohol abuse) and double the depression rates of employees who lost their jobs.
So leave before your company crashes or gets sold, and you’ll be one step ahead. If it’s your industry that seems to be taking a hit, start figuring out how your skills translate to other fields. The world changes, keep up with it! As long as you have a career narrative—that is, an intentional path and solid reasoning behind your moves—acing future interviews will be a breeze.
5. YOU FEEL BLUE EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT.
Finally, if you dread Monday mornings (or all weekday mornings), or if you just feel in your bones that you lack passion for what you’re doing, you need a change. These may seem like such simple signs, but they indicate your job either isn’t the right fit or you’ve outgrown it. A 2012 survey from Gallup found that employees who are disengaged at work experience a significant downturn in their moods come Sunday night, while engaged workers feel as good during the week as they do on their days off. When it comes to your career, you should like what you’re doing, at least on some level. So listen to what your body is telling you—and start looking to move on before your apathy affects your performance.