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WORK-LIFE BALANCE

5 Signs It's Time for You to Change Careers

Sometimes you just end up following the wrong career path and it takes someone else to objectively point it out. Here are 5 signs you can identify on your own.
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Many people hate change; contemplating the unknown is scary. So many stick with familiar things even though they no longer fit. This is especially true of careers. Sometimes people get stuck in a career direction or work environment that makes them terribly unhappy, and they stay there because it's tough to change careers once you have gained experience, power, and good compensation.

People often end up in the wrong careers by accident. They start out with a job and become proficient, so they advance and make a good living. They may even start a company in that field. They get so focused on growth, meeting objectives, or making the money to support their lifestyle, they don't realize how toxic their life has become.

No one deserves to be miserable, especially the people around you--when you're constantly sharing your dissatisfaction with them. You may be expressing your unhappiness unknowingly. You may not even realize yourself how unhappy you are.

These signs will help you determine if it's time for a major change or you just have small problems to resolve. I've included some remedies as well.

1. You go to sleep and wake up dreading the day.

Most people have stressful times in their work life. And many will bring the office home with them. But if you are taking work stress to bed every night and losing sleep, it may be time to rethink your role. A sure sign you are in trouble is when Sunday afternoons are the hardest part of the week, because you know Monday's going to hurt. You don't look forward to any part of the job or to interacting with your colleagues. You just wish Saturday would never end. Make a concerted effort to give your brain a rest. Find an escape that relieves the pressure. If you can't overpower the edge, it may be time for a change.

2. You only work for the money.

Money can do great things and lack of money creates its own stress. But rarely is money fulfilling in its own right. Most people want job satisfaction from creating value, camaraderie, and self-growth. If you find there's no real satisfaction in your activities, you may need to change your path. Try scaling back on your lifestyle so you can take the money pressures off the table. If you still can't find the joy in what you do, explore the things you love and chart a path to revenue in those fields.

3. Every email you read sounds sarcastic or condescending.

If every time you get an email you cringe, something is wrong. Have you lost perspective in company communication? Do you not give people the benefit of the doubt that they are honest and pleasant? Email is a great barometer. Because it doesn't transmit emotion and tone, it often reflects your own positive or negative feelings when you read it. You may read someone actually being kind and genuine as being nasty and vindictive because that's how you would respond in your current state. Try reading everything with a positive manner and see if communication improves. If you still feel insulted by everything you read, go find a place where you can work with people you like.

4. You have little good to say.

People get so wrapped up in the activities of the day that they often don't realize the negative tone and vibe they share with their colleagues. And since most people don't want to offend, they just take it in stride, especially if the boss is the one spreading the vitriol. See if you can hear your own negativity in meetings, on the phone, even at the water cooler. Take a notepad and make a mark every time you communicate something negative. If you are running out of paper to mark up by lunch, you may need to adjust your situation. Perhaps you can see that it disappoints or upsets the colleagues you still like and respect, but you just feel so frustrated. If you know you sound angry, bitter, or resigned, and you wish you could be more positive, but just can't, it's time to make a change.

5. You don't see light at the end of the tunnel.

When you look into the future of your career, what do you see? Are you excited about where it's going or are you craving that big bonus, exit, or retirement? Perhaps all you see is a long, straight road of the same old drudgery. If you are afraid that policies will remain the same, relationship dynamics will be as dysfunctional as ever, and everyone seems complicit in maintaining business as usual, you are heading down a bleak path. Either take control of the situation internally or shorten your exit and embark on a promising future.

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Last updated: Jul 19, 2014

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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