10 Signs It's Time for a Career Shift in 2020
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10 Signs It’s Time for a Career Shift in 2020

Charlotte Grainger Charlotte Grainger Last Updated:

Illustration: Annelise Capossela

The bells have chimed, the clock has struck, and now we’re in the grips of the new year. As we welcome the roaring twenties once again, you might want to reflect on the changes this new era will bring. If you’ve recently been toying with the idea of a career shift, here are ten telltale signs that there’s no time like the present. 

1. You lack enthusiasm each morning 

The sharp buzz of your alarm wakes you from your slumber. You roll over, check the time, and feel that familiar pang in the pit of your stomach. The thought of jumping out of bed, getting ready, and heading to your workplace hangs over you like a black cloud. Regardless of how many pep talks and morning coffees you down, you’re devoid of glee. 

If the above scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. 14% of U.S. workers reported being ‘very dissatisfied’ or ‘somewhat dissatisfied’ with their jobs, according to results from the CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Index. While the odd bout of Monday morning blues may be normal, long-lasting feelings of discontent are a red flag. 

Changes to make: 

Pinpointing the cause of the problem is crucial. Do you lack enthusiasm for your job because you’re bored at work? Or, have you lost your passion for a career you once loved? Would a simple change of scenery make a difference in your mood?

You may find that making small career shifts — such as taking on more responsibility or moving departments — transforms your attitude. Take some time to consider what you desire from your career and whether your current role can be molded to fit your needs.  

2. Your work/life balance is nonexistent 

All work and no play could make you a stressed-out professional. When you head home after a long day at work, do you mentally and physically ‘switch off’? Having an effective work/life balance, i.e. detaching from work, is essential in combating job-related stress, according to research from Kansas State University. Finding ways to detach from the pressures of your career is essential to your overall happiness and well-being. 

Changes to make: 

Before you begin searching for a new role, consider ways that you could improve your work/life balance. For example, could you avoid checking professional emails outside of work hours or take up a new hobby? These minor tweaks could help, but make sure to re-evaluate after making changes to ensure you’re actually achieving balance. 

3. You’re constantly tired and burned out

You’re tired during the day, yet struggle to get proper sleep at night. You feel anxious, stressed, irritable, and tend to get ill more often than usual. These issues could be symptomatic of workplace burnout, a common problem affecting modern-day professionals. In America, 77% of workers have experienced burnout in their current role. 

More worrying still, a  2013 study from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University found a link between job burnout and coronary heart disease (CHD), which can lead to heart attacks and other conditions. Put simply, everyday workplace stressors could lead to burnout and put your general health in serious danger. 

Changes to make: 

The first step here is to see a medical professional. There are certain lifestyle interventions you can make, such as taking up mindfulness, which could help you cope. However, if you work in a stressful environment, these changes may not be enough.  

Research undertaken by Leeds Beckett University suggests that organizational interventions to combat workplace stress are more effective than an individual’s lifestyle changes alone. With that in mind, if the management team is unable to make significant interventions, it could be time to look for a business with a healthier company culture. 

4. Your work affects your self-esteem

Believe it or not, your work life and your confidence levels could be intrinsically linked. Research into the relationship between burnouts and self-esteem in nurses suggests that the more stressed a person is, the less faith they have in themselves. The point is that when you’re feeling overworked and under pressure, it’s hard to have a positive outlook. That may mean that you start seeing everything in a negative light, even yourself. 

When you have low self-esteem, being productive and progressing in your career can seem impossible. Research from the University of Melbourne suggests that high self-confidence could help you level up in your role. Of course, you will also find that this change affects other areas of your life, such as your social life and downtime.  

Changes to make: 

First of all, consider how your profession is affecting your self-esteem. If burnout is to blame here, you can reflect back on the advice from point three. Alternatively, you may find that other factors, such as a toxic culture or bad boss, are to blame. Looking for a new role elsewhere or speaking to your HR department could be two starting points. 

5. You feel undervalued in your role

Working hard and getting no thanks for your blood, sweat, and tears is tough. Perhaps your boss is using the stick technique over the carrot, i.e. reprimanding you for mistakes rather than commending you for achievements. Not only is this disheartening, but research suggests it also fails to motivate workers

Feeling undervalued in your position is reason enough to make a change. Before you take any action, take a moment to consider whether you’re being oversensitive. It’s natural to remember criticism and forget commendation. Research from the Case Western Reserve University suggests that not only do bad events and emotions make a larger impact on us than good ones, but we are also likely to remember them more too. Reflect on whether your boss or manager has previously noticed your hard work and showed appreciation. 

Changes to make: 

Ultimately, there are two courses of action you can take. Firstly, you may want to broach the topic with your boss. Explaining that you’re motivated by positive reinforcement could shift their managerial style. Be sure to have evidence of your achievements as evidence for this conversation. However, this may not work in all circumstances (see the following point). Your other option is to simply look for another job. A massive 79% of employees cite a ‘lack of appreciation’ as their main reason for leaving a role. If you’re not valued in your current position, the right career shift could take you to another company.  

6. You have a bad relationship with your boss

Relationships are difficult to manage, especially in a professional setting. If you and your boss rarely see eye-to-eye, it could be endangering every aspect of your role. Working beneath a ‘toxic boss,’ i.e. someone who lacks empathy or is self-involved could hinder your mental health and work, according to a British Psychological Society study. Employees in this position are more prone to undesirable behaviors at work.

Before you know it, this problem could snowball. If your boss’s actions are causing you to misbehave and undermine your role, you could put your job or professional reputation on the line. Dealing with a difficult boss is a real hurdle. Remember that you should always put your own needs first and take the steps that are right for you. 

Changes to make: 

You may not need to make a career shift since the duty lies with your company. If your boss’ behavior is unacceptable, speak to the HR department and work toward a solution. Aiming for a promotion in a different department or a lateral move is another savvy idea. Your negative experiences may help. Research suggests that staff that previously worked under ‘bad bosses’ are likely to treat their own subordinates better than they were treated.

7. You’re jealous of your peer group

Do you have a green-eyed monster lurking inside? When you hear of your friends’ professional achievements, how do you feel? While a healthy response would be to feel genuinely pleased for them, many of us have an altogether different and darker reaction. Feelings of envy are not always as negative as they seem. If you’re jealous of your peers, it simply means they have something you want. Perhaps it’s time to go out there and get it. 

Changes to make: 

Identify what it is that they have and you want. For example, if a friend lands a new promotion, are you jealous of their financial gains or the role itself? When you have figured out what you desire, implement changes to help you get it. If you’re hoping to make a complete career shift, you should start by making an action plan of steps toward it. 

8. You’re bored when you’re at work

You’re sitting at your desk, watching the clock on your computer screen. You could swear that time hasn’t changed in the last ten minutes. There’s only one word for how you feel: bored. Your everyday work tasks have become mundane, and you struggle to feel enthusiastic about them. Ultimately, you’re just going through the motions. 

Feeling less than challenged in your current position may mean that you’re counting down the minutes until the end of each workday. Since the average American spends more than 90,000 hours of their life at work, you owe it to yourself to make a change. Let’s face it — that’s a whole lot of time to whittle away in boredom when life is so very short. 

Changes to make: 

Unchallenged and unmotivated in your current role? A career shift could be on the cards. Upgrading your resume and searching for your next job is the next step. In the meantime, while you’re hunting, you could use your boredom to your advantage. Research from the British Psychological Society suggests that being bored at work can actually make people more creative. Use your daydream time productively to think about your next career move.

Moreover, you might consider a side job or hustle. When you’re working in a role that fails to inspire you, spending your free time on something that does will help you build new skills. You may be able to use this experience to land your dream job down the line.

9. There’s no opportunity to progress 

It’s human nature to strive toward progress. According to a recent Gallup poll, 59% of millennials, 44% of Gen-Xers, and 41% of baby boomers cite learning and progression opportunities as a key factor when applying for roles. 

Perhaps you’ve started at the bottom and worked your way up to the highest position in your department. You may be employed by a small company in which there are no upper echelons. Whatever the reason, if you’re certain that you will never get promoted within your current company, you should consider looking into other career options. 

Changes to make: 

If you can’t move up, you might want to move across. When you’re certain that you’re never going to progress in your existing role, you should consider a career shift. Look for a similar position in a larger company or one with more learning opportunities. Be aware that you may have to retrain on the job or undertake e-learning courses to level up. 

10. You dream of another career

Do you have a dream job in mind? If you spend every working hour wishing you worked in a different industry, that’s a surefire sign that you need a career shift. While landing a position in your chosen sector may mean retraining or gaining more experience, it’s a worthy pursuit. You deserve to give it a shot. 

What’s more, research suggests that your love of the industry could play a major role in your ultimate career success. One study from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University suggests that passion is more important than talent when it comes to progression. If you’re interested in a certain field, the chances are that you will work hard to reach your goals. 

Changes to make: 

Look at the possible pathways toward your dream job and see what suits you. If you’re applying for a low-ranking position in the sector, show employers that you have a willingness to grow. Research suggests that job seekers with a ‘learning attitude’ are more successful than other candidates. 

Is it time for a career shift?

Now that you’ve got the inside scoop, the choice is yours. Do you think it’s the perfect time for a career shift? Remember, you don’t have to completely overhaul your work-life overnight. 


This article is part of our series on change: why do we care so much about it, what do we get wrong about it, and is it really as great as we make it sound?

In our series, we’ve chronicled personal change, change in the workplace, and a handful of experiments on changing behaviours. In so doing, we hope to elucidate why we care so much about change.

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