When you’re at work, do you have this gut feeling like something is off, out of synch, not right? Listen to that gut of yours! You could be at a career crossroads. And you’re not the only one: Arriving at a career crossroads happens to a lot of women during different points of their trajectories. As I’ve coached them through these tough moments, I’ve found that arriving at a career crossroads isn’t something that happens suddenly — it takes time to build up to this feeling of uneasiness and restlessness.
If you’re unsure whether or not you’re at a career crossroads, here are five surefire signs to look out for:
- You feel out of control at work. This often happens often when there is a lack of leadership, management or communication within your organization. It’s especially tough if you’re at a company that goes through constant reorganizations or you go through a revolving door of direct managers, both of which lead to a sustained level of instability. It leaves you wondering: “What’s my place?”
- You feel out of alignment with your current role or company. You think to yourself: “I’m really good at my job, but it’s not my passion.” Or, “I really believe in the mission of the company, but I know this isn’t the right culture for me.” That’s called a lack of alignment, which can make you feel like you’re at a crossroads.
- You feel stuck in an unfulfilling job. You know you’re capable of more and that you’re meant for something greater, but you’re not sure what it is, where to start or how to make it happen. I often hear from clients, “I accepted the roles that came my way, I never strategically created opportunities for myself” or “I always separated my work self from my core self.” Do you relate to those statements?
- You’re doing all the “right things” at work, but you’re not getting the recognition you deserve. You’re getting passed over for a promotion. You’re not getting the opportunities you desire. You’re not getting the support you need. That can lead you to question, “Am I valued?”
- You’re building a career you thought you wanted, yet when you accomplish your goals, happiness is short-lived. The successes you strived and worked hard for do not bring you the joy you thought they would. Rather, you soon return to yearning for more and seeking fulfillment on a deeper level. That can lead you to question, “What’s my purpose?” or “What’s my personal mission?”
If you nodded your head in agreement to any of the above statements — and it’s OK if you related to all of them! — then you’re probably at a career crossroads. Identifying that is an important first step. Now comes the challenging part: What do you do about it?
Taking action can feel very scary and very risky. That’s normal! Of course, it’s much easier to stay on the course you’ve been on because you know what to expect and it won’t disrupt the lifestyle that you’ve worked so diligently to create. But you’ll likely get the same results that make you feel unhappy and unfulfilled. On the other hand, making a gutsy decision packs the potential for real rewards.
If you’re feeling scared to take action, think about these questions to help inspire you, stat:
- Do you deserve a career that enables you to make an impact and be fulfilled? That’s what everyone wants, yet we tend to sacrifice our personal satisfaction. Doing so will only lead you to another crossroads.
- Is my personal well-being worth sacrificing to keep my life as status quo? A lot of people minimize the intangible cost of stress and unhappiness to not only themselves but also to those they care most about (partners, family, friends, etc.). Intangible costs sometimes don’t make a pro/con list when considering a bold move, but they’re absolutely as important as the tangible costs.
- Will I find more peace and fulfillment by taking action or avoiding action? Most women who are at this crossroads have a lot of fear, which leads them to staying put. However, the chances of finding peace and fulfillment are far greater if you take action than if you avoid it. Continuing to do the more of the same will only bring you more frustration.
- Do you think you’re at your best when you’re bringing some of who you are forward or all of who you are forward? If you’re at a crossroads, something is being sacrificed. It may be that you’re in a job you’re good at, but you don’t love. Or you may be in a job that you love, but you can’t afford the lifestyle that you want. But when you apply your whole self to your work, inclusive of your intellect and experiences, emotions and passions and personal style, you can’t help but feel better and more empowered. You limit yourself when you’re only bringing some of who you are to the table.
- If I don’t take action, will I regret it? Are you OK with wondering, “What if?” The answer is likely no. And if other people’s reactions are what’s holding you back, pay attention to this: No one cares! There’s no need to worry what anyone thinks about your decisions because they most likely aren’t paying attention anyway. Title and levels and compensation are helpful indicators but they don’t provide fulfillment. What really matters is that you’re making choices that are right for YOU — that’s what draws people to you, and people will respect you for following your personal truth.
Ultimately, it’s not worth sacrificing your well-being to be in a position that does not bring you fulfillment. The first step is realizing that you’re at a crossroads; the next step is pushing yourself to take action (which can be as simple as defining an outdate for yourself). Only when you decide to make a gutsy move will get you out of a situation that’s problematic and into a position that truly makes you feel empowered.
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