5 questions to know if you're in the right career
Does Mondayitis last until Thursday? Does the phrase ‘thank God it’s Friday’ fall a little too fervently from your lips? All jobs have their ups and downs, but if yours has more downsides than a ski resort, it might be time to look further afield.
First, you’ll need to work out if it’s just the current job that’s getting you down, or whether you’re in the wrong career altogether. Do you feel as if your career path has stagnated with little opportunity to progress? Perhaps you don’t feel like you fit in, or that your hard work isn’t met with recognition.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to help work out whether you’re in the right career for you.
1. Do I value the work that I do?
This can be a tough question to answer. An easier way to frame is it asking yourself who your role model is, and why?
Who pops into your mind first? Is it a family member or close friend? A celebrity, athlete or other public figure? A mentor, entrepreneur or successful business person? The type of person you choose tells you something important about what you value.
Why do you admire them? Is it because of what they’ve achieved in life, or the values they espouse? Dig down to the core of your admiration for them.
You might have chosen someone who’s skilled at building friendships and contributing to their community. In that case, does your current career give you access to mentors, foster community ties and prioritise relationships?
Is your idol someone who’s travelled the world and thrown themselves into new experiences? If so, you might thrive in a career that involves travel (for work or reward) or that is at the forefront of an industry doing new things that there’s not really a roadmap for.
Or perhaps you admire someone who has dedicated their life to helping others? That might tell you that you’re suited to a role that helps others achieve their goals or be happy in their environment.
Compare these values you have with your day-to-day work. Do they align? If not, it might be time to look at doing something more fulfilling.
2. What is my greatest accomplishment?
Don’t think too hard about this. It’s more valuable if you answer with the first thing that comes to mind.
Is the accomplishment professional or personal? Did it involve external recognition as well as internal satisfaction?
If it was a personal accomplishment, do you get a similar feeling of pride and achievement when you think about your career? If you derive all your satisfaction and sense of accomplishment out of work hours, is your career adding value to your life?
Was it a long time ago?
That’s a sign that you’ve been feeling stagnant in your career for quite a while. A satisfying career should provide regular opportunities for achievement and milestones—like award nights, financial bonuses and overseas sales trips for high achievers.
If you’re eager to rack up a new set of accomplishments, look for a company with mentoring programs plus continuous training and development.
3. Am I in my dream career?
What makes you excited to turn up to work might be quite different from the next person. One person’s passion to help develop young minds and foster a love of learning might be another’s idea of hell: dealing with small sticky children all day long? No thanks!
Your dream career might not be realistic, especially if you dreamed of becoming an astronaut or fighter pilot as a child. But it tells you a lot about what excites you—things you can look for in other roles. Drill down to what really gives you satisfaction about your job. Then, ask yourself whether your current career offers enough of it to make you happy.
The things that excite you could be:
- The chance to solve complex problems
- The ability to maximise your income through great work practices
- The opportunity to innovate
- Autonomy to manage your own work
- Relationships with other people and your community
- Flexibility to work from home, or work the hours you choose
There are plenty of other things you might value above these, of course. Some people prefer to know exactly what they’ll be doing every day: others welcome the freedom of a blank slate. Some people are revitalised by helping others achieve their goals, while others are happier working on their own projects, in private.
By naming the things that make you happy, you can measure your current career against possible alternatives. Does your current job deliver on the things that excite you? No? It’s time to look elsewhere.
4. Can I be myself at work?
Professional etiquette dictates that we’re on our best behaviour at work. We can’t turn up in our favourite paint-splattered track pants, and we’re expected to at least feign interest in our co-worker’s renovation plans. But if you have to suppress your personality completely to get through the day, it’s a bad sign.
If you’re naturally optimistic, curious, determined and people-focused, find a role that leverages those traits. Sales, customer services, project management and communications roles all tend to fit well with people-people.
If you prefer to do ‘deep work’ where you can hone your focus on one project at a time, look for environments with small teams or work-from-home options. A project-focussed role will suit you better than one that requires constant multitasking.
Does your work environment suit you? Can you play to your strengths, or do you go home every day mentally drained from putting on a façade? If you’re exhausted all the time, or you find yourself embarrassed to tell people what you do, it’s a sign that your career does not align with your true self.
5. Is the work I’m putting in worth the rewards?
Not everyone wants the long hours, pressure and bureaucratic expectations that go alongside certain careers, but if you’re putting the work in, you want rewards that match your output. Sales jobs often promise this, but in many industries you hit a ceiling early on no matter how many extra hours you dedicate.
If you’re not seeing a reward that’s reflects the effort you’re putting in, it’s time to re-evaluate your company/industry/job type
If it’s time to switch careers, consider real estate.
A career in real estate sales might be right for you if:
- You have the determination and grit needed to work hard for big rewards
- You enjoy working with people and can provide great client experiences
- You have enough self-discipline to be your own boss