A new job or a new career - which do I really need?

jumping ship

Being unhappy at work is no fun. Whether you are super-stressed, demotivated or just plain unfulfilled there are rarely any benefits to hanging around in a job situation that is making you miserable. It is perhaps time to start planning your next move.

And this is where the conundrum arises for many. When the going gets tough, it is quite natural (and, indeed, sensible) to want to jump ship, but the question mark lies over how far to jump. Are you in need of a whole new career, or just a new job?

I am a huge advocate of the principle of career change but it is not always strictly necessary, even when people think it may be the best way forwards. Learn to distinguish between dissatisfaction with a career choice and unhappiness with a job choice. Try to put aside, for a minute, all the specific annoyances that come with your current company and focus on the role itself. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I largely enjoy using the skills that are required of my current role?
  2. Can I still see myself enjoying using them in 15/25/35 years’ time (allowing room for natural development and growth)?
  3. Could my situation be significantly improved if I were to do the same job for a different employer?

If you are answering yes to these questions then it is perhaps time to put career changing plans on hold and focus your energy instead on identifying what it is about your current role that is making you unhappy. Is it the people, the politics, the culture of the organisation…? Perhaps you would be better suited, for example, to a smaller company in which your contribution is more visible, or a larger one where there are more opportunities to develop and progress? Maybe you took on a job which started off as ‘xyz’ but over time has become very focused on ‘x’ with not much ‘y’ or ‘z’ at all? Sit down and list the things that you want from a new job (both in terms of skills and environmental conditions) so that you are less likely to find yourself, a few years down the line, working for a different organisation but with the same problems. Let the mistakes of your past shape the successes of your future.

When work unhappiness takes hold, it is quite common to go into panic mode and want to make drastic changes. But sometimes the solution doesn’t have to be a whole new career. Tweaking the one that you have, so that it is better suited to what you need, can make all the difference.