I often meet people who are actively employed – but completely unsatisfied – with their jobs.

A sense of dissatisfaction can creep in on at any stage of a person’s career, but the most practical times in life to actually do something about it is during the beginning or middle of the career lifecycle. This is not to say that it’s impossible to do something about career dissatisfaction toward the end of a career, but it may not be as easy or rewarding.

Nevertheless, when I meet people in this situation they always ask this question: What can I do next?

That’s actually the simplified summary of the many questions that are asked by the people I’m describing and often, they include questions like the following…

What jobs have you seen others with my background transition into?

How much should can I expect to make if I change my job to “x”?

Do you think going back to school will help?

Reasons for Unhappiness

In a recent conversation that I’ve with a younger woman that was a looking for a change, the issue was that she had studied and earned a degree with an ideal career path in mind.

After graduating from college she was not able to find a company willing to hire her even as an assistant without any formal experience, and she found herself having to take a position that’s not even close to what she envisioned.

Like others in her same situation, she’s not enjoying the position she’s in.

With a few years of work experience under her belt, she may not have to give up on her dream forever but she knows that she needs to find a job that she at least doesn’t hate.

There are many stories like hers. In other kinds of career-dissatisfaction cases, reasons listed for not enjoying one’s line of work include:

  • Loss of passion or faith in their field
  • Inadequate pay
  • Geography
  • Praise Addiction

And yes, the last thing is a thing. Just check out the article that says it’s the number one reason for career unhappiness.

The question is, what can you do about being in this kind of predicament? And a question that comes directly after that is should you do anything about it?

If you don’t have one already, it is usually now that a Plan B should be contemplated, and in many cases put into action.

Why Go For Plan B

Nobody wants to be a quitter. But is there anything wrong with being an opportunist? Sometimes, circumstances signal us toward a direction different than what we expected and we need to know how to weigh out whether or not we should yield to them.

Some examples of signals toward change we should follow are:

Subconscious Signals – It could be a recurring dream or theme, it could be a feeling of excitement, or a feeling of something being really off. Your subconscious is programmed to send you signals toward the right path and direct you away from danger. Pay attention to it and try to decipher its message.

Physiological Signals – Stomachaches, headaches, and feelings of illness without a medical explanation could be signs that you are not in a good situation. I once had a job where I felt nauseous every time I sat at my desk. I stopped wondering if the building had mold when after I gave notice that I was leaving, all of a sudden, the recurring nausea disappeared.

Spiritual Signals – People have different beliefs and spiritual experiences. It could be a psychic experience, deja vu, symbols or signs like talking about an idea for your future right as a rainbow appears. Some people chalk these things down to scientific phenomena, others say they have more meaning. If to you it feels like something more, let your soul speak to you.

External Signals – Industry news, your manager’s behavior, your bank account, financial predictions… You need to be able to take a hint when changes out of your control might be on the horizon and take action preemptively.

I’m not saying to read into every little thing, but you should not be oblivious either. Analyze your feelings, thoughts, and surroundings while paying attention to causes, effects, and logic. If there are valid reasons that are triggering your intuition; making you feel like you have a different calling, you should probably act.

Following the subject of logic a little further, is your Plan B practical? If executing your Plan B would be a huge leap of faith, can you afford the risk?

For example, if you’re married with children, will your household suffer if you employ Plan B? Or are you totally commitment-free and with a bit of savings to get by on if your plan is, e.g., to travel the world and work remotely as a digital nomad?

In general, if your plan will not inconvenience the lives of your loved ones in the short or the long-run, and if it holds a high possibility for future enrichment, then I say, go for it.

Some tools of logic you can use to make this decision are:

  1. Budgets and Projections
  2. Pros and Cons Lists (composed by you)
  3. Conversations with loved ones
  4. Feedback from mentors like professors, a trusted manager at work, a career coach or recruiters in your current industry or area of interest

One last thing- consider if your Plan B is really Plan B. If it’s actually Plan C, D, E, or F, you may want to examine if the change you need to make is internal. Stability and consistency are needed to achieve success in just about anything. If there a is a failure to sustain either with a recurring pattern, you may need to work on you.

Final Words

There are too many different possibilities the vast number of careers and skills existing today can branch off into. For that reason, I’m going to refrain from making suggestions here. If you’re looking for some personalized answers, check out the US Department of Labor’s Skills Matcher.

But to recap, I’m going to make a few suggestions for you to make some positive changes.

Number one – Figure out what the source of dissatisfaction in your career is. Is it the company? Is it your boss? Is it the location? Is it you? This is the first step toward knowledge and as the cliche saying goes – knowledge is power.

Two – Once you’ve identified the core of the issue, assess the career stage that you’re currently in. Beginning? Middle? End? This will help you know if the pursuit of your dream job should really be the pursuit of a hobby, or if you need to take serious action.

Three – Logically take stock of your situation by reviewing your finances and involving any family members or other individuals that your decision will affect. Don’t be selfish to them and treat yourself well, also.

Four – Have a real plan, and don’t do anything haphazardly. Time and money are precious. You want to avoid wasting both. Mistakes can happen but this is your future and it deserves nothing less than your taking the time to make a calculated decision including creating strategies, a roadmap, and the whole kitten caboodle.

Five- Enjoy the ride and enjoy your life. It’s a great thing that you have your sights set on better things, and I 100%, wholeheartedly wish you the best of destiny and of luck.