10 Danger Signs You Are in the Wrong Career

By MJ Plaster

Cue the ambulance sirens: Your health could be in peril if you dread Monday mornings. Heart attacks occur on Mondays more than any other day of the week. According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, they most often strike between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. While correlation doesn’t necessarily equate to causation, a huge leap isn’t required to make the connection between the start of a new workweek and the higher incidence of heart attacks.

If you can barely drag yourself out of bed at the start of the week, you could be in the wrong industry. If you’ve held multiple jobs in the same field with the danger signs listed below, you could be on an incorrect career path. If those same signs apply only to your current position, the problem is more likely your company or your position rather than your career choice. The earlier you figure out the difference, the better.

1. You Lack Passion for Your Industry
You’ve climbed your way into a middle-management position, but you’re still not enjoying your job. That’s a flashing neon sign that you’ve drifted off course. Even if you’re happy with your income and enjoy the perks, something is wrong.

When the missing ingredient is drive, motivation or passion, and those qualities have been lacking in several jobs you’ve held, it’s time to rethink your chosen career path. Forget what you’ve heard about not doing what you love. Successful people love their work and they’re outstanding in their fields. If you have a primal passion, figure out how to develop it into your life’s work.

2. You’re Bored or Apathetic
Boredom and apathy are flip sides of the same coin. Both lead to underperformance, a hazard to your career as well as to your current position. You’ll be the first to go; if, by some miracle, you’re allowed to stay, don’t expect to advance. When promotions slip your grasp, your boredom and apathy will grow, until one Monday morning… (Hint:You don’t want to finish that sentence.)

3. You Feel No Sense of Purpose
What if you’re making boatloads of money and the job leaves you cold? The culprit could be the absence of a sense of purpose, something we all need to thrive. In the 1990s, I was making inordinate amounts of money writing user documentation and help files and teaching others to do the same. Almost every day, I said to anyone who would listen, “Why am I doing this? No one reads this stuff!” The lure of the money served as golden handcuffs to keep me chained long past my expiration date. I finally retrieved the key, unlocked the cuffs and moved on to more purposeful work.

4. Your Job Represents (False) Security
Money is not the only pair of golden handcuffs—a sense of security binds the hands even more tightly. If your current path is nothing more than “something to fall back on,” your soul will eventually suffocate under the weight of your work.

Sometimes, a new challenge in the same field is the right prescription. Other times, going in a new direction can lead to incredible success. Once you shed the false notion of security, you free yourself to look for opportunities rather than settling for crumbs.

5. You Have a Persistent Negative Attitude
Do you find yourself complaining about work on and off the job to everyone who crosses your path? Constant whining creates a bad atmosphere at work and at home. Once colleagues tire of your act, you can begin to drive away family and friends and take a passive-aggressive turn. When your negative outlook finally costs your job, whose shoulder will be left to cry on?

Before you decide the job or an unsuitable career path is the guilty party, take a long, hard look at yourself. It’s easy for negativity to snowball, but you can reverse it if you want. Once you change your mindset, you might decide to stick with your chosen career—or not. Either way, your chance of making a rational decision increases when you free yourself from mental and emotional stress.

6. You Lack Energy and Focus
Lack of energy has many root causes such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, fitful sleep, etc. If diet and exercise aren’t the causes, and the mere thought of work drains the energy from your body, it’s time to explore a couple of things:

  • What are the specific factors at work that sap your energy?
  • What can you do to remedy them?

7. You Brought False Expectations to Your Job
Once I switched my major to journalism in college, I couldn’t wait to get to class—even on Mondays. During this stage, I fancied myself an investigative reporter one day. In the real world, I discovered most journalists play the part of glorified stenographers.

Editors control which stories get told and which ones die. And advertisers pull the strings of editors and publishers. Still, my training wasn’t a waste of time. After my first misstep into technical writing, I found I could be happy as a magazine editor and freelance business and lifestyle writer.

If your passion lies in a particular industry, sometimes it takes multiple trial-and-error exercises to find your dream job. It’s easy to give up just before you reach success.

8. You’re Green With Envy
It’s Friday afternoon, and you’re enjoying happy hour at a trendy, new bar with friends you see less often than you’d like. Everything is going well until one of your friends starts telling the group about her latest accomplishment at work. Others join in with their stories. You feel the green envy monster begin to rise and settle in your throat. You can barely summon a smile as you congratulate each speaker. You try to find some juicy tidbit to share, but nothing jumps to mind, so you order another drink.

9. Your Industry Has Changed Into Something Unrecognizable
Every industry is undergoing change. Yours has probably already experienced outsourcing or automation, but that’s only a glimpse of what’s to come. Keep apprised of possible changes before they happen, and create a Plan B before you need it.

10. You Live for Time Off
A Friday-afternoon surge of energy is typical. However, if you live for weekends, vacations and escalating incidents of mental-health days, guess what? You despise your work. Conversely, if you can barely drag yourself home at the end of every week, your job is sucking the life energy from you.

My rule is, “When the fun runs out, I’m outta here.” I will not work in an environment where I feel bored, constrained or disrespected. While I’ve only fired a couple of clients over the past 25 years, I don’t feed at the trough of uninspiring work or of passive-aggressive clients. Know your boundaries and stick to them. Once you learn to walk away from a raw deal and land on your feet, you free yourself to follow a career path that leads to a sense of purpose and pride in your work.

Work through the nine questions in this Forbes article. They will help you discover a way to turn your skillset and interests into fulfilling work.

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