Are you mopey on Sunday nights because you dread going to work the next day? If you've lost the passion for your job and feel like you are in a professional rut, it's time to take stock and assess what you really want out of your career.
When Is It Time to Change Jobs?
If you know you've hit the salary ceiling or perhaps you just don't feel gratified by the work you are doing, you should ask yourself if this could be remedied at your current place of work. Sometimes, career reinvention can happen within your organization. Schedule a meeting with your boss after you have come up with a plan about how you can use your strengths and interests differently to engage in the organizational mission. If the powers that be are not willing to utilize you in a new way, then it's time to seriously consider where you can do your best work.
Burnout is becoming more and more common in the workplace, and professionals are experiencing exhaustion and chronic stress, which can be extremely debilitating to your health. Burnout often leads to lack of motivation, frustration, cynicism and other negative emotions that can take a professional toll on job solvency and promotional opportunities.
If you are feeling burned out, it's imperative that you define the cause of your malaise. Perhaps you are working unrealistic hours or spending more time on your daily commute than with your family, or you simply find yourself in the wrong career field.
Listen to your body and know that the signs of burnout are a precious warning that you need to make some life changes immediately. If you rely on sleeping pills to get a good night's rest and caffeinated drinks to keep you energized by day, then your body is screaming for help. Take relaxation seriously, get enough sleep and cultivate non-work activities that re-engage your passion for life. If your career is the culprit, then it's time to take a closer look at the cost benefit analysis of your health and your career.
Many people suffer from poor leadership at work and dysfunctional professional environments that stifle their effectiveness. A great leader can take you upward with them inside or outside of your current organization if you prove your value. If you have the trust of the rising star in the company, keep it and maintain it, for this is your ticket for growth. If your current boss is not star material, it's time to look for one that is.
If your boss just doesn't get it and there is no hope of a change in mindset, you need to stealthily devise your exit strategy. If there is no system in your organization that will empower your boss to become a better leader, then you deserve to be in an environment where you can grow and develop your career.
When to Leave?
I wouldn't advise leaving a job unless you have another to go to, especially in this economy, where jobs are still scarce. You are far more employable when you are employed and eliminating a gap on your resume is always wise. Of course, if your situation is truly egregious or if you are financially able to take a break while looking for your next opportunity, then consider it, but be ready to explain the gap.
It's imperative to network before you need it and continuously build and steward professional relationships. Even in the most blissful job environment, you should be thinking about your exit or growth plan and where you see your career going in the future.
Plan C Professional
Many professionals are enjoying the option of a full-time job with a steady paycheck and benefits plus an entrepreneurial venture on the side. Dr. Erin Albert, author, professor, entrepreneur and lawyer wrote the book: Plan C: The Full-Time Employee and Part-Time Entrepreneur.
Dr. Albert has redefined the American Dream, giving professionals a freelance option that can often grow into a full-time career. The good news is that you never have to pick one lifelong profession. With Plan C, you have the chance to test drive new options while keeping a stable day job and flexing your entrepreneurial muscles. So, even if you don't love your day job, you can focus your professional passion in an entrepreneurial venture.
In this economy, having an additional income stream can also be a wise financial investment and may allow you to tap a creative side that is not being used in your full-time job. Plan C may empower you to generate some extra income and gratify you on a level that you never imagined possible.
The truth is we don't always have the luxury of a fabulous career opportunity that allows us to play to our strengths and honor our career passion. With debts to be paid and the realities of life, sometimes, we have to work at jobs we hate. I have been there myself, but it's essential to keep your eye on the prize and always be planning for a career situation that honors what you envision as a great opportunity. Don't ever relinquish your dream and nourish the goal with actionable steps that will help get you there.
When Opportunity Knocks
... you must be ready to answer the door! For the lucky professionals who find themselves recruited to new opportunities, we can learn a lot from their behavior. Most likely they were managing up so their boss knew the value of their great work, or their reputation for excellence went beyond the walls of their organization and they were wooed away to another company altogether.
A new opportunity often requires taking a risk on something new and provides a chance for you to expand your comfort zone with new tasks and responsibilities. I urge you to take advantage of new professional options so you can grow your skill set and learn new things that can distinguish you in the future. Always be ready for change since new leaders emerge in these scenarios and your career can catapult in a new direction that will allow you to thrive.
Where Can You Do Your Best Work?
At the end of your next work day, ask yourself if you are in an environment where you can thrive. If you find yourself singing the Sunday Night Blues and it's not because Downton Abbey is on season hiatus, then you really need to evaluate if you are in the right role or in the right career field. You deserve to be happy in your career and it's up to you to design your own career destiny so it doesn't happen by default.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name www.carolinedowdhiggins.com She is the Director of Professional Enrichment at the Indiana University Alumni Association and hosts the national CBS Radio Show Career Coach Caroline on Tuesdays at 5pm ET. Caroline also contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, and More Magazine online and is working on a 3-part series for Public Television on career empowerment for women. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook