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If you're feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied in your current job, know that you're not alone: around 60% of working Americans feel similarly. The reasons behind this slump in job satisfaction are varied, from stagnating wages to a profound detachment between work and a greater purpose.
That said, there is hope. With the right mixture of self-reflection, realistic goals, and powerful tools like our career testing, it's possible to rediscover your passion and find success and fulfillment in your work life.
Below, we'll show you not only how to take control of your professional happiness and prepare for a potential change, but also how the right career test can help you get where you want to be. By the end of this article, you'll have the tools you need to decide for yourself whether it's time to make a change.
Dissecting the Reasons Behind Job Unhappiness
Before making any major career changes, it's important to take some time to deeply examine the root causes of your workplace dissatisfaction. Once you understand the specific elements of your current career that you dislike, you can begin building the clarity you need to affect real change.
Identifying the Sources of Dissatisfaction
As you begin the process of taking control of your success and satisfaction at work, start by identifying the main sources of your unhappiness. To help, we've compiled some valuable questions to ask yourself:
- Am I frustrated with my day-to-day duties and responsibilities?
- Or am I frustrated with the organization, management, or my colleagues?
- Do I feel like the work I do conflicts with my values or lacks purpose?
- Is my work environment toxic or chaotic?
- Does my job fail to engage my talents and interests?
Pinpointing the issues that lower your job satisfaction will point you toward potential solutions.
Once you've identified the pain points of your job, the steps you need to take will often become much clearer. If a repetitive task bores or frustrates you, for instance, seeking a role with a greater variety of responsibilities and challenges may provide more job satisfaction. Conversely, issues with office politics may mean a fresh environment is necessary.
No matter which of these problems you're experiencing, taking the time in advance to "diagnose" your dissatisfaction can set you up for a more productive career change later on.
The Psychological Impact of Job Dissatisfaction
Work is one of the greatest time investments and most impactful aspects of your life, so prolonged dissatisfaction at work often takes a mental, emotional, or physical toll. As you continue grinding in a position or career you don't love, it's common to experience growing feelings of resentment, insignificance, and even depression. This link is so significant, in fact, that several studies have strongly linked high job dissatisfaction with lower overall well-being and health.
In many cases, deliberately surrounding yourself with positive personal relationships can help buffer these effects, but the only true way to combat job dissatisfaction is by changing the things about your career that are making you unhappy.
Personal Career Expectations vs. Reality
One of the key drivers of job dissatisfaction is a mismatch between a person's expectations and the reality of the job they step into. If you're feeling that dissatisfaction now, think back to what you expected your work responsibilities and environment to be like when you were first hired. Do those expectations differ from what you've experienced now? If so, are the differences positive or negative?
Maybe, for instance, promotion opportunities or compensation isn't what you were told coming into your job, in which case it might be productive to have a frank (but respectful) conversation with your boss.
The silver lining of this mismatch between expectations and reality, however, is its tendency to reveal the things you value most in a job. Once you've identified how your expectations differ from the day-to-day reality of your job and how you feel about those differences, consider talking them out with a mentor or trusted friend. Whether you ultimately decide to manage expectations or look for a job that aligns better with your values, the first step always requires clarity.
Strategies to Improve Your Current Situation
When you find yourself stuck in a role you hate, there are some tried-and-true strategies to help improve your situation. Below, we've compiled some of the most successful methods for finding greater career success and satisfaction in your current role.
Seeking In-Job Solutions
Before seeking a more nuclear solution, consider looking for in-job solutions to improve satisfaction and happiness. For individuals feeling underutilized or seeking more challenge, reaching out to your manager to ask for more responsibility or new opportunities to contribute can help keep your job fresh. Not only do you open yourself to new experiences and training opportunities, but you also get to demonstrate your value to your colleagues and senior employees.
Beyond job duties, volunteering for committees, event planning, or special projects may help you feel more involved and fulfilled at work while also developing value connections.
No matter which route you choose, make sure to set realistic goals with clear, measurable metrics. That way, you can enjoy a more reliable sense of growth and achievement as you progress toward your goals. If you have a good relationship with your manager, scheduling regular check-ins can also help keep you up-to-date on how you're doing—and any potential opportunities for advancement.
Improving Your Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is important with any job, but doubly so for those feeling drained by work's demands. If you've been feeling exhausted by your work responsibilities or work environment, consider setting firmer boundaries about your work hours and setting a hard stop for when you "unplug" for the day.
Additionally, less than half of all American workers use all of their vacation days, so make sure you're using your vacation and sick time to the fullest—even if that means taking a mental health day now and then.
Rather than simply reacting to moments of fatigue, however, try to build proactive rituals to encourage a healthier work-life balance. This can include regular exercise, planned family dinners, or any activity that helps you decompress and unwind after work.
Building Professional Relationships
Even in a job you love, loneliness or isolation at work can worsen feelings of dissatisfaction. If you're feeling cut off or isolated in the workplace, try making an effort to intentionally connect with coworkers. This can be something as informal as lunch, coffee, or virtual hangouts or something more work-focused, like collaborating on projects to build camaraderie.
If you have a task or project you've struggled with, tapping a colleague who may be able to help can improve your performance and give you the chance to connect. Similarly, seek out opportunities to ask more senior employees in your company to mentor you—the guidance of an experienced mentor can change your professional life for the better.
Also, don't limit your networking to your own team or department at work; reach out to people in other departments or roles to expand your perspective, skill set, and professional "social circle."
Even outside of your company specifically, following the LinkedIn or social media accounts of professionals in your field you admire can help lessen feelings of isolation. Also, consider working with a career coach who can guide you in building relationships and your career goals while making you feel supported.
Strengthening workplace relationships may take effort, but it's well worth the time for its potential to offer crucial support when you're struggling with career doubts. Rather than struggling on your own, taking the initiative to form new professional bonds and strengthen existing ones can steer you in a more positive direction.
Should I Quit My Job Without Another One Lined Up?
Quitting your job before securing a new one is risky but may be necessary if you simply can't stomach another day in your current position. Before deciding to make this kind of decision, there are some crucial factors to consider.
Assessing Your Financial Situation
While there are several factors to consider before leaving your job, your financial situation is perhaps the most important. Before you make any decisions, take a hard, objective look at your savings, expenses, and overall finances.
Specifically, can you cover your bills, rent or mortgage, and other fixed costs with only your savings? If so, for how long? Depending on the specifics of a person's situation, the job hunt can either take very little time or stretch on for months.
Finally, consider other sources of funds, such as those from a working spouse, a side hustle, family support, assets you can liquidate if needed, or moving somewhere with a far lower cost of living in order to stretch your savings further.
Emotional and Mental Health Considerations
Beyond the financial ramifications of quitting a job without having an immediate replacement, it's wise to consider the emotional and mental health considerations that come along with unemployment and a job search. While the initial rush of quitting a job you hate can be powerful, many people find it difficult to manage the stress and self-doubt that often comes later.
Before making the jump, take an index of your personality and how you handle stress. Do you tend to feel discouraged or purposeless without having something productive to take up your time? If so, deliberately pursuing a hobby or some other pastime while you search for a job may help improve your emotional health.
Is your self-esteem tied to your job? Consider scheduling therapy, check-ins with a trusted friend or family member, or planned self-care days to boost your mental health. Regardless of how you might handle temporary unemployment, it's important to be honest about your own stress levels and the risk-to-reward ratio of making a serious career change.
Understanding the Job Market
The job market is constantly changing, so it's of the utmost importance to have a firm understanding of it before quitting a job without something better lined up. And while there's an enormous amount of data available to fuel your research, not all of this information is accurate or trustworthy.
When planning a change, make sure to look into statistics about your ideal job's competition, openings, and the average amount of time it takes to find a position in the field. While it's always a good idea to tap any professional connections you have for this kind of research, getting a little help is also a smart decision.
Luckily, our career test compiles all of the information you need to understand the job market, from salary ranges and benefits to the skills or education you need to land your dream position. Rather than having to comb through job boards and news articles on the state of the market, consider letting a service like JobTest.org lend a hand.
No matter which route you choose, however, make sure to trust only high-quality sources when collecting information about potential careers.
Strategic Exits: Planning Your Departure
While we understand that terrible conditions or toxic company culture may necessitate leaving a job unexpectedly, it's almost always best to strategically plan your exit. In addition to giving you more time to research new positions and save up funds, this kind of planning offers several other advantages.
For example, waiting until you've completed any major ongoing projects or milestones can help preserve your reputation in your field. Giving proper notice (especially if required by your employment contract) also goes a long way toward maintaining healthy business relationships after your departure.
Finally, consider drafting a professional resignation letter or offering to document any important processes for your eventual replacement. Remember: don't burn bridges unless it's completely necessary to do so.
Paving the Way for a Career Change
If you try out the above options for finding greater happiness in your current position and see little or no change, it may be time to consider a more dramatic career shift. When the time comes to say your goodbyes and start looking for a better job, here's how to pave the way to success.
When to Consider a New Job or Career
For most people, there are clear signs when it's time to leave a position—many of which we probably don't need to tell you. If any of the following apply to you, it may be time to seriously consider a change:
- You dread the beginning of each workweek
- Your job drains you instead of energizing you
- Your work conflicts with your values or priorities
- You feel like your talents and strengths are underused and under-appreciated
- You feel like your professional growth has stagnated
- You're emotionally exhausted or stressed
- Your physical health has begun to suffer due to work
First Steps Toward Transitioning
We know better than most that a career change can be daunting, which is why we suggest breaking it down into actionable steps. If you've taken career tests in the past, consider revisiting your report to gain insights into your needs and strengths. If not, think about taking an aptitude test in order to refresh your perspective and give yourself the information you need to start transitioning careers.
Once you have that information, research roles and fields that align with your test results, whether that means new companies or transfer opportunities at your current organization. If you aren't quite ready to make the jump, consider volunteering as a way of networking. On top of building experience related to your intended future role, you can also build contacts and let them know that you're thinking of making a transition.
When things begin to feel overwhelming, remember to focus on one small step at a time.
Financial and Educational Considerations
Many of the most significant hurdles when it comes to making a major career change are financial in nature. For those who leave a bad job without a new position immediately lined up, consider saving extra leading up to your departure in order to carry you through until you find something better.
If your potential dream job description requires more skills or schooling, that should also be factored in when setting aside savings. Additionally, make sure to think about things like car insurance, healthcare, debt, or other bills that will need to be taken care of while you look for another job.
Even if you already have your next job lined up, many career pivots are lateral moves or even involve temporary pay cuts due to the need to accept an entry-level role. With the right planning, however, you can chart a course that helps you find success in all areas of professional life, from the salary you need to the job satisfaction you deserve.
Escape the "I Hate My Job" Cycle with JobTest.org
Despite how common it is in the 21st century, severe job dissatisfaction can often feel like an insurmountable challenge. The truth is, however, that there are real steps you can take and tools you can use to break the cycle.
If you've decided that a career change is in your future—either by improving your current role or seeking a new job altogether—JobTest.org has several features that can help you make those changes with confidence.
Discovering Your Ideal Career Path
In order to achieve an ideal career, you first have to discover what an ideal career path looks like for you. A well-designed career test can help you achieve this clarity by honing in on the things you value most in a job, whether that's a certain level of compensation or responsibilities that align with your values and interests.
When you take our test, you'll be given comprehensive insights into your work personality, the things that are most likely to energize and invigorate you, and specific careers or roles that match your profile.
Navigating Career Uncertainty with Professional Guidance
Powerful though it may be, writing a roadmap for success is only the first step: you also have to follow that map. As you begin taking steps to improve your career, JobTest.org can be there every step of the way to guide and support your choices.
For some, all that's needed is the right information and insights. For others, services like our career coaching or more advanced testing can help put you on the right track. No matter what level of support you deem necessary, we're dedicated to helping our customers find greater career satisfaction and happiness in every phase of their professional lives.