Some people seem to know exactly what they want to do the minute it’s time to enter the Real World—or sooner—while others have no idea and spend years exploring different jobs, refining their preferences, and figuring out what feels right. Neither way is wrong, and each has its own challenges. (Sure, your friend who’s known she wanted to be a neurosurgeon since age 17 might seem like she has it all together, but trust, she’s probably had her moments of fantasizing about being a food critic, too.)
Whether you’re looking to figure out what to focus on for your first job, weighing your options at a current gig that feels “meh,” or considering whether to jump ship into an entirely different industry, these seven questions can help. Career satisfaction guru and International Emotional Strategic Consultant Shiran Raz shared a few questions you can ask yourself to shed light on whether 2017 is the right time for you to consider making a major career move.
Do You Feel Energized at Work?
If you constantly feel fatigued and blasé when you’re at the office—but not when you’re at happy hour with friends or at the gym on Saturday morning—it’s a sure sign that your current job isn’t infusing you with passion or motivation. “If you don’t feel like getting up in the morning to go to work, and feel tension and exhaustion once you do get there, those physical symptoms betray an underlying disinterest and divestment from your job,” says Shiraz. Obviously every single hour of your days on Monday through Friday aren’t going to be a thrilling roller-coaster ride of passion and excitement, but if you never perk up in meetings when your coworkers are talking about something interesting or feel a shot of motivation when your boss assigns you a challenging new project, you’ve lost your mojo and should be looking to make your next move.
Do You Have Room to Grow?
If you’re not sure whether your current job or company is the right place for you, odds are, you’re experiencing boredom or dissatisfaction of some sort. Shiraz’s first advice in that case is to do everything you can to grow in your current role—you might find that you’re much happier once you do. “Initiate, be proactive, explore, discover, learn, and engage in new projects,” she says. “If your company or manager doesn’t allow or facilitate any of this, it’s definitely time to start looking for something new.” And when you do leave, you can feel good knowing that you did everything you could to make the situation work—and have no regrets when you give notice.
Do You Feel Like a Victim?
Often, unhappiness at work can be channeled in unproductive ways, like water-cooler gossip, complaining, or perceiving yourself to be a victim of your unsatisfying job, company, or boss. Not only are these behaviors unprofessional and unproductive; they’re actually self-destructive. Realize that your energy would be much better directed toward the hunt for a new job and remember that you’re the only one in control of your career. “If you always tell your boss you’re doing fine even if you feel overworked, if you procrastinate and feel taken advantage of with every new assignment, and if you feel generally out of control, you’re only contributing to your own unhappiness at work,” says Shiraz. Yes, if you’re this unhappy, it probably means you’d do well to go elsewhere, but at the same time, it’s important to realize when you’re the one sabotaging your success—in case you can salvage the situation and end up being content right where you are.
Does Your Job Reflect Your Values?
Take some time to meditate on what matters to you most in life. Naming these priorities will give you important clues as to what you need in a job. Is travel your biggest life goal? Then you either need a job that involves business trips, pays well enough that you can take your own trips, or has the flexibility for you to take time off to travel or work remotely. Are you most invested in being creatively fulfilled? Then salary may not factor in as much as a stimulating, innovative environment. “If you work more hours than you’d like, your job isn’t as challenging as you’d hoped, or you feel that the company’s mission is at odds with the things you care about most socially or politically, you may have no choice but to seek another job,” says Shiraz.
What Does Your Gut Say?
In case you hadn’t heard, your intuition has the power to give you super-important intel about whether you’re on the right life path. That means that one of your most vital tools for making smart career decisions is already built into your brain and body. “If your gut, or your inner voice, tells you a current or prospective job isn’t good for you, don’t ignore it,” says Shiraz. “Research has shown that when your inner voice tells you you’re in the wrong place, you probably are, and would be happier elsewhere, so don’t drag your feet!” Ultimately, if that niggling feeling says something just isn’t right, listen, and start applying.