Often career plans do not work out. You need to be able to recognize the warning signs and know when you need to pivot and follow a new one. Managing a balance between your work and the rest of your life can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but sometimes it becomes impossible. It is vital to recognize the signs that your job is negatively affecting other areas of your life. Moreover, you take steps to bring about a work-life balance.
Unnatural work produces too much stress.”— Bhagavad Gita
Planners vs. Opportunists
Some people have a five- to 10-year career plans. They meticulously try to stick to it. While others choose to take opportunities as they come. Are you a planner or an opportunist?
For opportunists — I previously supplied insight on discovering your micro-motives as a means of finding career fulfillment. Here are the four fundamentals:
- discover your micro-motives
- be open to opportunities and see them
- develop strategies to build your talent stack to capitalize on the available opportunities
- do not pick a destination
This insight is for planners. There are many benefits to having clear long-term goals. However, life does not always follow a clear path. Planners know that there are variables and you need to plan for various scenarios. In your career journey, the two significant variables are the road and the destination. The path that you plan to take to your goal might not be the best way to get there. The target may disappear while you are on route.
After graduating from engineering, I started my career with Ontario Hydro — a great organization. They had a definite talent strategy that included a graduate training program and career planning. As part of the career planning process, we found target jobs and determined the skills, knowledge, and experience we would need to fulfill them. I learned early on that targeting a specific position was of limited value. In my first two plans, my target jobs all disappeared through restructuring. So, I just focused on building my talent stack — including an MBA, volunteering for task forces, and seeking opportunities as they came up. I progressed rapidly to an executive position at age 31.
Here are some of the warning signs where you need to step away from your plan and create (and follow) a new one.
You are not challenged at work
While your job does not have to be the most demanding thing you have ever done, it should at least be stimulating. If you are not challenged, it leads to boredom — a perfect way to lose motivation.
Unfortunately, no motivation for work can easily translate to no motivation in the rest of your life. If you feel like you are stuck in one spot and cannot seem to move forward in any area of your life, it may be time to look at your job and decide whether it is challenging and stimulating enough.
A recent poll shows that 24 percent of people are actively disengaged with their jobs, and a lack of motivation and challenge is one significant factor. If you are feeling unmotivated at work and home, it might be time to make a change. You could take the initiative to add more responsibility to your current position or seek a promotion for which you are qualified. I provide some guidance in How To Make A Career Pivot Without Leaving Your Organization.
If neither of these is a choice you want to pursue, you should start to look for another post elsewhere. Leverage your career capital to find a job where you can achieve fulfilment.
You are overloaded at work
In today’s workplace environment, it is common to try to get more done with fewer employees thereby increasing the bottom line for companies. However, this can be terrible for your work life balance because too many priorities and unattainable goals lead to stress and anxiety, more extended hours, and increased pressure.
If your job demands that you take on the rolls of several positions or that you meet strict performance goals, there is a good possibility that it will affect your life. So, learn to prioritize and manage your time effectively. Concentrate on weeding out the things that are not important rather than making lists of what you need to get done.
Focus on top priorities first, and then work your way down to projects that are less important. Set limits for yourself, and do not forsake them. Be fair and work hard, but also handle your well-being.
Your job is negatively affecting other areas of your life
Job stress can affect other areas of your life — your health, relationships, or emotional well-being. Dealing with stress at work is one of the most common ways your job affects your life. Stress does not stop just because you leave the office for the day. It trickles down into the rest of your life. Workplace stress can lead to mental health and physical health issues which can make both work and life more difficult.
I tell people to try not to bring those problems home because the people at home can’t solve them.” — Colonel Jill Morgenthaler
Your job is taking over your life is that you are continually thinking about it. One recent survey suggests that people spend as much as 19 hours a week thinking about what their boss thinks of them, and that is only one aspect of work life.
If you find yourself consumed with work-related matters while you are home, consider what you are not able to think about during these times. Try to leave your job at work. It may be easier said than done, but the rest of your life will become more fulfilling and more productive if you can give it the attention that it deserves.
The key is to manage stress before it gets out of hand. However, when the situation is severe, you cannot help but let those problems affect you. This feeling occurs when you think that you have run out of options regarding solving them with your employer.
When you reach this state, you may want to seek the advice of a mental health professional to guide you on ways to reduce your stress levels, or it might be best to leave altogether. You can either look for a new job if you want to stay in the same field or think about pivoting to a new career.
Your job or your organization no longer align with your values
Ideally, you are passionate about your post, and it supplies fulfillment. However, if it does not, it should at least give you a sense of pride and meaning.
If telling people where you work makes you cringe, it is a good sign you do not have much respect for the company that employs you. Maybe the company is even doing something that goes against your personal morals and makes you feel uncomfortable.” — Harvey Deutschendorf
You are not building the reputation you want
What you do, and you do not do, builds your reputation. However, you do not control external perception and perception is the reality.
I began to see just how much my reputation depended on the brands I’d worked for. Setting up my own business was as tough as it was gratifying–and that’s still the case. However, early on in my shift into entrepreneurship, I learned that without the name recognition of the big corporations I’d worked for, I went from being a sought-after marketer to some random guy people in certain professional circles overlooked. I was shocked by how quickly my identity could transform.” — Joseph Liu
At times, your long-term plans may need you to switch companies to build your reputation.
You work too much overtime
It might seem obvious that if you are spending extra hours at work, you are not spending those hours at home, but there are other factors to consider as well. Working long hours can cause fatigue, health issues, burn-out, and more. These things will affect your work performance and your life. While the money you earn, working overtime may be helpful, it is essential to consider all the consequences and to balance your work and life schedule to be the most productive you can be all around.
Your dream job might not exist in five years
The workforce is changing faster than ever before. Jobs are disappearing. However, there are also positions and careers that did not exist five years ago. If you are overly rigid in your career plan, you are only hurting yourself by not opening yourself up to opportunities that could equally match your interests and talent stack. The opportunists have a significant advantage over you in these areas.
By focusing on the destination — your dream job —your narrow focus limits your marketability. By being open to change, you create opportunities.
Consider Kyle Walker. He pitched an idea to create “Amazon Exclusives” at an interview for a job at Amazon. He was hired and eventually got to guide Amazon Exclusives.
Your expectations do not align with reality
Your ideal job or career will not always turn out the way you expect. The culture is not like what you envisioned, or the sacrifices you must make is not worth the emotional toll you have to endure.
Few of us realize from the very start that a dream job is like a mirage in the career desert. Once we get to the spot we’d pinpointed, we discover it isn’t what we thought–it’s actually a little further up ahead, in the distance–so we keep searching. We commit even harder to finding it. Even though we’re tired and thirsty for something real, we set out again, our sights on the next target. This cycle repeats itself over and over.” — Suzan Bond
Sometimes you may need to have a few not-so-great jobs to realize that your career is not the one you want. Other times, the economic realities and your priorities do not align with your plan.
I know several folks who left a tough situation, usually a horrible boss or that they were underemployed, to go on their own. Successful freelancers know how to get things done and how to convey results. That is how their work is judged, and their pay is justified. The significant upside is that you are your own boss.
The downsides include,
- time-consuming and stressful administrative elements such as invoicing, taxes, time tracking, drafting proposals
- not having flexibility on your deadlines, with many clients it is hurry-up and wait
- the ongoing need to market and sell your services
- the extra hustle required to be successful means time away from family
To be successful at freelance work, you need to develop solid time-management skills, be resourceful, have excellent communication skills, and have the ability to prioritize multiple projects and deadlines at once. The good news is that all valuable, unique elements in your talent stack, should you choose to return to corporate life.
Managing your work-life balance is a challenge — not an impossibility. It is helpful to use a career map to figure out your career journey. However, allow for life’s realities to intervene. Sometimes they are obstacles to overcome, and other times they are problems disguised as opportunities that lead you down a fulfilling professional path. I encourage planners to take and more opportunistic approach and opportunists to do a little planning. Find the right blend for you and stretch a little beyond your comfort zone.
It may feel disconcerting if you are not successful in a linear career progression. However, it is a significant opportunity for you to take control. You can build a career that is uniquely tailored to your strengths, needs, and interests. It starts with a career assessment and then your development plan. Following these steps will help you proactively shape your professional future. If you need some support, please reach out to me.
Challenge — What's Right For You?
Solution = Leverage Your Talent Stack + Build Your Career Capital
Identify your unique behavioural strengths, build your career capital and leverage your unique talent stack for lifetime success.
- Grow your leadership potential by targeting your critical developmental needs
- Determine your crucial career success factors, allowing for more focused efforts
- Discover your best and most successful career direction
- Find out about your strengths and interests in different career areas
Knowing yourself is the first step to being happy. Moreover, staying happy is an ongoing process of regrounding your long-term goals with your current objectives. When those align, you’re on the path to a job you can adore. Know when to find a better job as your best option may be to fall in love with your job (again) We also offer a personal development plan to help you achieve career success and satisfaction.