10 Ways To Know If You're In The Wrong Job

Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Monday, January 21, 2019
10 Ways To Know If You're In The Wrong Job

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If you don't like your job, it can be pretty obvious. You've told your friends, "I hate my job." You have a bumper sticker that says, "My Job Sucks." Your Facebook feed includes numerous memes about bad bosses. You once stole a printer from work, took it out into a field and smashed it with a baseball bat. Or you frequently repost the video of the guy losing his [beep] and thrashing his computer and cubicle.

For the rest of us, here are 10 less obvious signs you don't like your job.

10. You work at your current job because that's the kind of job you've always done.

Do you drive a Ford today because you've always driven Fords in the past? The same psychology may be the reason why you're still working at the same kind of job right now. Many people seek employment based on their past experience, and there's a lot of value in that. It builds career momentum and also helps you achieve the increased pay that usually goes along with higher experience.

But you may be stuck in a career track that doesn't fit you. We often seek jobs based on experience and not personal fit. When those two aren't equally present in your current job, there can be an inertia that keeps you pursuing a path that is unfulfilling, disengaging, and downright soul-sucking. Being afraid to change can be a red flag that you're in the wrong job.

9. A promotion may feel like a mistake

It's not always a good thing to get promoted. The Peter Principle states that people can rise through the hierarchy to their own personal level of incompetence. As soon as you get good at something, you get promoted out of that position into a new level of advancement that requires a whole new set of skills.

In other words, as soon as you learn the answers, they change the questions.

Although most people seek advancement, it's not necessarily a good thing for everyone. At the core what we want is validation and praise. We want to know that what we do is valued and appreciated. This most often takes the form of a promotion and its accompanying pay raise [hopefully].

However, not all promotions come with the happiness you'd hoped for. You may find yourself in unfamiliar territory. The challenges are new or are experienced at a greater level of intensity — the stakes are higher. Or, the expectations are increased, adding pressure and stress we didn't anticipate.

If you get promoted and find yourself wondering why you're not as happy, you may not be in the right role for you.

8. Lack of connection with others

There are times when a job can make you feel like you are a stranger in a strange land. Although you are competent to do the work, you find it hard to establish connections with your colleagues and coworkers. This is one of those circumstances that can frustrate you because it may not be obvious at first.

You enjoy the work but dread the job, and it's not always clear why. Sometimes it's just a matter of personal chemistry. No matter how nice you are and how nice the other person may be, some people just clash. Most mature adults can find ways to adjust and cope, often by either getting to know each other better to gain emotional understanding, or by implicitly coming to the realization that you just have nothing in common and are better off not engaging outside of a required capacity.

But some work relationships can become toxic to different degrees. When you find yourself stressing over interpersonal issues with coworkers at a frequency or degree that is distracting or even unhealthy, you might be in the wrong job, or at least at the wrong employer or department.

7. Monday mornings are the week's biggest challenge

Sometimes it's really obvious you're in the wrong job. We often blame it on too many weekend activities, but if you realize it consistently takes a lot of will power to get out of bed on Monday mornings, you may be in the wrong job.

The opposite happens when you love your job. You actually look forward to starting your day because you are excited about what the day holds. You have a genuine sense that you are appreciated and that your contribution matters. You feel engaged and enthused and energized. If you feel like that most workday mornings, you are likely in the right job.

If you don't feel that way, read on...

6. Time is not linear

Not to get overly metaphysical about it, but time is definitely not linear. This concept is felt most clearly when we compare the experience of waiting at the DMV to the experience of spending time with someone we love. Time drags at half pace in the former, and goes by far too quickly in the latter.

If you are working at a job that's not right for you, at what speed does time pass? That's right, it slows to a crawl. Closing time seems to take forever to arrive.

Conversely, if you love your job, time goes by very quickly. "Wow, it's lunch time already?" you might hear yourself say. When you are actively engaged in what you're doing, time goes by fast. Sometimes you can even feel a sense of urgency to get back at it when you're away.

5. The 90/10 rule

Marriage counselors have anecdotally said that sex in a relationship matters only 10% when it's great, and 90% when it's not. Working in the wrong job can feel the same way.

If you find yourself spending 90% of your time grumbling about your job, or feeling stressed because of job-related issues, it's probably not the job for you. We spend a very large part of our lives on the job. Do you really want to spend even more time and mental energy on a job you don't like to begin with?

4. The relief of getting fired

There are a lot of reasons our jobs might change. One of the more stressful ways this occurs is when we are let go, either through a lay-off or even getting fired. Have you ever been let go and felt strangely relieved?

Many people have experienced this sort of unexpected emotional reaction. It is often described as a weight being lifted off their shoulders. This occurs when you are in a bad job but you don't have the courage to leave. To put it bluntly, someone else makes the decision for you and you find yourself almost thankful.

Ask yourself this and be honest:

Would you feel a sense of relief if you got laid off tomorrow?

3. Results vs. Effort

Alistair Cooke once said, "A professional is someone who can do their best work even when they don't feel like it." Although it's admirable to struggle through a challenging task and achieve a solid result, it's also inefficient and not sustainable when that effort is required the majority of the time.

We're not talking about the occasional roadblock or challenge that is a normal part of the working world. That will always happen, and in many ways it can add a bit of excitement to our job. It makes our successes feel more rewarding when we have to work hard to achieve them.

What we're talking about is a more constant struggle. Some people are just naturally good at their job and seem to have a constant joy in what they're doing. You might achieve the same level of success, but does it seem to require more emotional effort to accomplish it?

When you are a rockstar in your job, it may not feel easy all the time but it will almost always feel enjoyable. If your job is not a good fit for you, it will frequently feel emotionally draining to reach the desired level of success.

2. How did I get here?

It is surprising how many people find themselves twenty years into a career and wonder how they got there. It can seem as if it was all by chance, or maybe they were even pushed into it by parents or others. The core of these feelings is a sense that it wasn't deliberate and planned, or it wasn't your first choice.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a common question asked of school children. Guidance counselors in high school do their best to guide teens in a successful direction, but their tools and time are limited.

Very few teenagers know what they want to eat for dinner, let alone where they want to work when they're 30 or 40.

If you don't have a strong sense that your current job or career has been a deliberate course of actions on your part, actions and decisions you made genuinely and honestly and joyfully, then it is possible you may not be in the right job.

It's almost like love: you feel it in your very soul.

The dissatisfied opposite is, "Meh, it helps me pay the rent."

And finally the number one way to tell you're in the wrong job...

1. Focus, focus, focus

Experts have determined that two-thirds of workers do this one thing every second:

They think about a different job.

The statistic is hard to comprehend, but when we spend up to a third of our lives doing something, working at a bad job can have a huge impact on our focus and attention.

"I want to be anywhere but here," is a common thought when you hate your job. Are you jealous of other people's jobs? Do you wish you could do the same thing but at a different company? Do you dream about starting your own company or maybe you see yourself in your boss's shoes, and mentally say, "I could do it better"?

If you spend a lot of your time thinking about other places of employment, other jobs, other careers, your focus shows that you are probably in the majority of the workforce that actively dislikes their job.

What can you do about it?

If you are in the wrong job, what can you do about it?

Find a job based on fit instead of experience. Reverse the old way of doing things and determine how you are hardwired first, then find jobs that align with that. It sounds gratuitously simple, but frankly it really is a simple thing to do. Here's how.

First, know thyself. Take a psychometric assessment (a reliable one with easy to understand results) and learn where you are happiest and what you should avoid. With just a tiny bit of research and reflection, you can take that knowledge and easily identify the kind of jobs that are aligned with who you are. You may still be doing the same thing you've always done, but maybe you need to be doing it at a different company. Or maybe even do it your own way as an entrepreneur.

The bottom line is that life is too short to spend a third of it at a job that doesn't make you happy.

Despite its reputation, the first step is actually the easiest to take.

Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.

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Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.

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