Career Dissatisfaction: The Red Flags

Avoid career dissatisfaction by recognizing the red flags of a misaligned career path and acknowledging when it's time to make a change.

Guest post by Brynne Labuzan - Content Writer Intern

In present times, the process of choosing a career has become convoluted by social and financial pressures. Rather than focusing on finding a career that suits our values, interests, and skills, many of us allow external expectations to determine our career path for us. As such, we may find ourselves in a career that leaves us feeling unhappy, uninspired, and ultimately unfulfilled.

If your job causes you to feel any of these emotions, you are probably experiencing career dissatisfaction. While the term suggests that this form of dissatisfaction is confined to the workplace, it often affects all aspects of our lives. In order to avoid career dissatisfaction and ensure fulfillment in both our work and our daily lives, we must first learn to recognize the red flags. While there are many ways that career dissatisfaction can manifest itself, here are five of the most common red flags of a misaligned career path:

1. Lack of Productivity

Most of us go through periods in our career where we feel less productive at work than usual. That’s completely normal – we’re humans after all, not machines. However, for individuals experiencing career dissatisfaction, this lack of productivity is usually the norm.

When stuck on a misaligned career path, you may find yourself having difficulty staying focused and motivated at work. This lack of engagement is often an indication that the work you’re doing does not align with your values and interests. Without a personal alignment to motivate you, it is difficult to maintain focus and meet deadlines. Your work and reputation may suffer as a result, which is all the more reason to acknowledge the issue and identify the source.

If you find yourself in a job that fails to energize you, remind yourself that your ideal career will make you feel excited about the work you’re doing and motivated to do it well. Once you take a step back and consider where the disconnect may lie at your current position, you can begin pursuing a career that fills in the gaps and energizes you. When you’re excited about the work you’re doing, productivity comes naturally. 

2. Frequent stress

Work-related stress is a concept that we are all familiar with. Contrary to its negative connotation, stress can often be rather beneficial for our work ethic. It determines what is important enough to worry about and thus helps us to prioritize our responsibilities. With that being said, work-related stress should not be a constant. It should come and go periodically, allowing us time to relax, recharge, and focus on other aspects of our lives. If you find that your job is causing you to be stressed more often than not, you are probably experiencing career dissatisfaction.

Frequent work-related stress can take a significant toll on an individual’s health and wellbeing. This phenomenon is often referred to as burnout, which Psychology Today defines as, “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” When an individual is experiencing occupational burnout, they often have increased difficulty completing tasks and may find themselves falling behind at work. Their stress levels are then further exacerbated, revealing the vicious cycle that burn out presents.

If you are experiencing work-related stress, it does not automatically mean that your career is dissatisfying. Stress is inherent to the human condition, and it only makes sense that we experience it in relation to our work. However, when stress becomes the norm, you may be at risk of experiencing occupational burnout and the detrimental consequences it imposes on your health. Start paying closer attention to your stress levels, they are quite telling when it comes to recognizing career dissatisfaction and knowing when it’s time to make a change.

3. Monotony

Many of us find comfort in routine. It can help us to plan effectively, work productively, and manage our stress levels. However, there is a distinct difference between routine and monotony. While routine suggests an efficient sequence of actions that are regularly followed, monotony implies tedious repetition, lack of variety, and loss of interest. As such, it is often an indication of career dissatisfaction.

When we choose our careers, most of us are looking for work that will challenge and excite us. We want to acquire new skills and perspectives through our work, increasing our professional value in the process. However, many of us find ourselves years into our careers with little to show for it. Confined to the tedious work assigned to us, we are unable to grow our skillset or gain desired experience. As a result, we can begin to feel trapped in our careers and disengaged in our work.

While employees are often required to master certain required skills before they are allowed to take on more rigorous projects, the onboarding process should be temporary. If you have been in a position for quite some time and still find little variation in your work, it may be time to consider a career change. After all, we spend 1/3 of our lives at our jobs – why would we want to spend that time doing monotonous work that hinders our growth?

4. Lack of appreciation

Like many other aspects of life, a fulfilling career relies on healthy relationships within the workplace. As employees, we should feel appreciated and respected by our coworkers and company leadership. This appreciation and respect allows us to feel comfortable sharing our ideas and communicating our grievances. As such, it is an essential facet of internal communications and should be considered a fundamental pillar of company culture.

Without appreciation and respect from coworkers and/or leadership, you may find yourself doubting the quality of your work and your value as an employee. In relation to your career, self-doubt is often internalized and can affect your ability to remain motivated and productive at work. This manifestation of self-doubt reveals a direct correlation between appreciation and effort – if we feel like our work is not valued by the people we work with, the effort we put into it will inevitably begin to decrease.

While we cannot expect to become best friends with everyone we work with, we can and should expect mutual respect and appreciation. Each employee provides unique value to the company they work for and should be treated as such by coworkers and leadership alike. If you feel like your value is being overlooked and your hard work is largely unappreciated, you are probably experiencing some degree of career dissatisfaction. As social creatures, we rely on the validation we receive from interpersonal relationships and should choose a company culture that fulfills this inherent need.

5. Abandoned goals

When we enter the job market, most of us have a plethora of long-term goals that we aim to achieve throughout our careers. These goals give our careers purpose and guide us towards our vision of success. However, when we find ourselves on a misaligned career path, our long-term goals can begin to fade into the background. Distracted by unfulfilling work, we may end up abandoning our goals or replacing them with less ambitious alternatives.

Your ideal career will allow you to prioritize your goals and implement them in your work. If your job fails to align itself with your vision of success, you may find yourself minimizing the significance of your long-term goals. Your self-awareness can suffer as a result, and your career ambitions may begin to seem like pipe dreams. While financial and societal pressure may lead us to believe that this is an inevitable part of growing up, we should not let external prescriptions convince us that our goals are unrealistic or worthy of abandonment.

The abandonment of goals is a poignant indication of career dissatisfaction. Our long-term goals should be informed by an awareness of our values, what energizes us, what we are naturally good at, and what opportunities in the market align with us. Therefore, a career that distances an individual from their goals is fundamentally misaligned. When we prioritize our goals and pursue a career path that fulfills us, our vision of success begins to emerge and actualize. 

If you resonate with one or more of these red flags, you may be experiencing career dissatisfaction. Here at CareersKitchen, we believe that the first step to overcoming career dissatisfaction is to recognize it. By identifying the reasons why a specific job or company is not the right fit, you will begin to develop an awareness of what you do value in your career and which company cultures motivate you to succeed. This self awareness will guide you towards fulfillment as you discover the career path that is right for you!

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