Tell us if this sounds familiar: Your job — the one you once saw as an exciting leg up on a promising career path — now seems like a rut that your feet are glued to, rather than a career-propelling rung into that corner office.
But with a staggering number of employees unhappy over their current gigs — Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workforce survey found that 70 percent of workers are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" from a job — how do you know if it's just a bad week or a larger problem?
We spoke to career experts to help us suss out the seven surefire signs that it's time to clean out your cubicle.
1. You're habitually contracting the Sunday blues
If you find yourself losing sleep over job-related anxiety and dreading that elevator ride up to your office each and every Monday morning, it's time to take a closer look at exactly what's bothering you.
"It could mean that Mondays are particularly stressful due to a recurring event — like the weekly budget meeting that afternoon," says Janine Moon, a master certified career coach and author of Career Ownership: Creating "Job Security" in Any Economy. "But if the depression is continual, and nothing seems to shift it, then it's likely time to be honest with yourself about finding a work environment that energizes you... even on Sunday evenings."
2. You spend way more time daydreaming than doing your job
If you routinely breeze through the bulk of your workload by 11 a.m., only to spend the rest of your day clicking through Grumpy Cat slideshows on BuzzFeed, it's safe to say your job is no longer as fulfilling as it once was.
"When boredom or frustration replaces your ability to produce good work or serve your customers, you may need to start planning how you can move on," says Moon. "This isn't to say that you shouldn't try to relieve your boredom or add challenges to the work you're assigned by speaking to your boss about taking on new projects — but if you've spoken to a supervisor about what you can do to increase your contributions, and it's been ignored or denied, another organization may provide a better partnership opportunity for you."
3. You just passed the 10-year mark at your company — and it's been just as long since you picked up a new skill set or a promotion
Sure, having a steady gig is great, but complacency can also be dangerous. You need to make sure that you're still growing your expertise with new tasks and assignments, rather than just going through the motions.
"You should be learning at least one new transferable skill — such as client relations, public speaking, marketing, finance, or sales — every year, as well as gaining new responsibilities and management opportunities with time," says career expert Alexandra Levit, author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can't Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. "If you are stuck at a plateau in your position — and you've talked to your boss about it, but neither of you can come up with a solution — you've outgrown your situation."
4. Your co-workers secretly refer to you as the department's Debbie Downer
When colleagues start to avoid you in the break room because your irritability has spiked due to constant stress or bitterness over the last round of promotions you were excluded from, it's time for a change.
"If you're so unhappy that you've entered a spiral of negativity, pay attention to how much that attitude is impacting the people around you," says Michael "Dr. Woody" Woodward, an executive coach, organizational psychologist, and author of The YOU Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy. "When you're not acting like yourself, and you're getting shorter and snappier with peers, thanks to a conflict with a co-worker or new boss, ask yourself if it's worth staying at a place that's impacting your mental health, your self-control, and possibly even relationships at home."
5. You're one of the last ones standing
You survived the latest round of layoffs within your company — but to what end? "Even if you were able to keep your job, survivors of massive layoffs often find themselves in a position where fewer employees mean that their own duties have doubled to pick up the slack — usually with less resources to delegate tasks, and occasionally even for less pay," says Dr. Woody. "As companies strive to operate leaner and leaner, those new responsibilities are often ones you'll never get rid of, so if you're consistently overwhelmed and there's no end in sight — such as new hires — look for other employment options before it becomes a toxic environment."
Another reason to put out feelers for a new place of employment: If your company has just been bought out and there's rumblings of merging similar positions, it's time to start the job hunt. Pay attention to what isn't being said, advises Moon. So, if senior management has suddenly gone mum on what the new changes mean, even after you've requested updates — such as a lack of discussion on new strategies or budgets — the outlook isn't positive."
6. Your relationship with your boss resembles that of a bad boyfriend or girlfriend
If you find your self-esteem so beaten down that you no longer feel like contributing in meetings for fear of saying something wrong, thanks to an emotionally abusive boss, head for the exit — and quickly. But if the breakdown in your relationship with a supervisor has been more subtle, try talking it out first.
"The fact is that most people leave their jobs due to a bad or disappointing relationship with a direct manager," says Moon. "As people grow and change, sometimes that can be threatening to managers and cause strain in your relationship — even without them realizing it." Moon's advice: If you've noticed a sudden shift in a previously good relationship, try for a "heart-to-heart" with your manager. "If the person denies there's anything uncomfortable going on," she says, "then it's time to look for something that satisfies your current and future needs."
7. You often find yourself asking, 'What weekend?'
If work stresses are relentlessly bleeding into your evenings and weekends — or even vacations — well after you've tried to set personal boundaries, start the search for a job that can offer a more fulfilling work-life blend.
"You have to find a healthy balance outside of work, so you can relieve job stresses before they become overly draining," says Dr. Woody. "Some people get so consumed by their job — especially in today's 24/7 world, where every time an email notification beeps, we pick up our phone like a Pavlovian dog — that they burn out quickly." Dr. Woody suggests checking in with yourself every month, or at least once a quarter, and ask: Am I accomplishing what I need? Am I still passionate about it? "If you're not enjoying the journey or having fun along the way," he adds, "once you reach your so-called career 'destination', you'll only be disappointed."
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