As you lock the door, another 12 hour work day passed by and you wonder: when will there be an end to this?
You want to stay motivated, but the work seems to drain your life dry.
In fact, you don’t know how long you can sustain.
You can’t help wondering…
Am I whining and complaining too much?
With the bad economy, I should try a little harder and be grateful, right?
It’s a decent salary and it keeps your family well fed, and in the back of your mind, you still remember how proud your dad was when you first landed the job.
But deep down in your heart, you know you don’t belong in your job.
I understand because I used to be just like you
Two years ago, I was in your exact same shoes.
I’ve stayed with my previous company for one year, and I was really good at my job. Shameless to say, I was one of the most trusted new stars in the company.
I’ve always been a quick learner, absorbing all the necessary skills and experiences in order to stand out among my peers. But suddenly, I wasn’t that smart, fast-learning guy anymore.
I started to take seven, eight, or even nine breaks a day just to stay focused.
I started to make the same mistakes over and over again.
It became harder and harder to keep up with my meetings.
My inbox and voice messages started to pile up.
Instead of the smart, energized professional everyone thought I was, I felt like a zombie day-in and day-out. The work － which used to be so easy － was now not only difficult but life-draining.
However, I had noticed that there was a part of the business I was excited about. I loved studying how different marketing systems can impact everyone in the company. It felt like Christmas to me every time I discovered a new strategy that could shape the company in a new way. I realized that marketing is not only a means of getting more customers but also a potential gateway to a whole new world – one that can transform the existing industry landscape.
And then, during my annual performance review, I couldn’t hold the idea any longer. When my supervisor asked me for suggestions, I told him “We should explore new marketing strategies that will make our company stand out from our competitors.”
He politely listened to me and said he’d think about it.
Months went by, and nothing happened.
It suddenly struck me that they didn’t believe in me. They were polite to ask for my feedback but what they really wanted was for me to stay humble and do what I was told.
Isn’t that what all jobs are like? You do what you’re told to do.
So I did what anyone would have done
I buried myself in never-ending work and gave up on the idea.
Who was I to make bold suggestions to the senior who had over thirteen years of experience?
It must have been a dumb idea.
Deep down, I knew I was not living up to my potential. There was so much I could bring to the table. If I only had the opportunity…
I wasn’t happy, but the economy wasn’t great, and half of my classmates was still struggling to find a job － any job.
So I should be grateful already, right?
I kept telling myself to try a little harder. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the opportunity. The time would come when the company would be ready and I’d be able to perform to my full potential.
Sooner or later, the time will come, right?
But it never did
As I persuaded myself that the time will come, I grew to be “satisfied” about where I was.
I wasn’t not happy with my job, but I knew I’d get paid every two weeks and my retirement plan was growing steadily.
I was making a decent living and my life was in a good balance, so everyone told me I shouldn’t make any risky decisions.
Suddenly, I understood the baker in The Alchemist who wanted to travel but gave up his dream because it was more “important” to everyone to have a baker. It feels like your dream is slowly fading away forever.
But I don’t want to be the baker. Life is short, and I shouldn’t be wasting any minute of it living like a dreamless zombie － no matter how important it is for everyone else.
So I asked myself is it time to move on?
If you do a Google search on “Signs that I should leave my job,” this is what you’ll see:
“Are you worn out and exhausted?”
“Are you visualizing yourself in a different job?”
“Are you working only for the money?”
Stop asking these misleading questions
While these are all legitimate questions, they are also pretty useless. Asking, “Are you worn out and exhausted?” is a misleading question because there’s never a work that is always rainbows and unicorns. Following Pareto Principe, 80% of any job － even the one that aligns with your passion － will involve tedious tasks that you do not enjoy, but the 20% you do enjoy keeps you excited to hustle more.
The right question you should be asking is, “What is it about this job that continuously wears you out? Is it something that can be dealt with or is there nothing you can do about it?”
Perhaps it has nothing to do with the company and the true problem is yourself? Or perhaps it is something about the company. If so, they may be willing to make changes for you. If you don’t figure out what the real problem is you’ll run into it again even if you do change your job.
“Are you visualizing yourself in a different job?” is also a misleading question. Just like when you landed your first job, you actually have no idea what the job is really about. What you should be asking yourself is, “What are the characteristic I want in my career and how can I figure out if my ‘dream job’ actually has these characteristic?”
Look for ways you can test and measure the new job. If you dislike being in the office all day, find a way to measure how often people in this job are staying in their office. Interview people in this job and see if it encourages the lifestyle you value. Don’t just interview successful people, remember to interview the struggling people as well.
Working for money is nothing in which to be ashamed. The real question you need to answer is, “Are you willing to work on something else for even less money?” If you’re not desperate enough to work for even less money, I seriously doubt your chances of sustaining the tough periods when you don’t see an overnight success.
What if you’re still not sure?
Be ready, no matter what
Opportunities only come to those who are well prepared and ready to take advantage of them.
Even after telling myself I wanted to move on with my career for over a year, I was terrified to pull the trigger.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was forced to make a rapid transition － rather than elegantly. In early 2015, when I was taking a two-week vacation, I fell sick and ended up going through three surgeries － all in one year. To make things worse, multiple family members were diagnosed with cancer and required immediate surgery. Overnight, my life fell apart.
The company politely offered me a chance to take a temporary leave of absence, but I knew it was now or never.
I wasn’t ready, so it was extremely hard. I felt enormous financial and emotional pressure. Not just from yourself, but sometimes from my closest friends and family. As they congratulated me for moving on, I could see in their eyes the disapproval of my “rash decision.”
But how can you be ready if you don’t know what might happen?
Start by understanding your definition of success
When a life-changing event occurs, you’ll be forced to make challenging decisions in a short amount of time. If you haven’t defined your own definition of success, you’re likely going to follow the “easier” path.
The easier path may not be what you truly want, however, it’s human instinct to choose the smoothest curve while avoiding challenges. Make no mistake, this instinct is what kept you alive and I’m not saying that you must leave your job and move on immediately. But the situation will never improve if you don’t take action toward your dream.
To understand your definition of success, start by answering these questions:
What aspects of life do you value most, and what are you willing to sacrifice for this?
What does freedom look like to you, and what are you doing to make it possible?
What are the obstacles stopping you from pursuing your dream, and which ones are you challenging today?
Reevaluate your existing knowledge
Often, we are our biggest obstacle to pursuing our dreams. Who are you to pursue such a daunting dream? After all, you’re not an expert in the field yet.
Don’t overlook (or undervalue) what you already know. If evaluated carefully, you’ll realize that your collection of knowledge is surprisingly abundant.
What are some skills and techniques you’ve developed?
What are some abilities and talents you’ve uncovered?
What are some unique events or personal stories you’ve experienced?
And most important of all, how can this knowledge be related to your dream?
Try it out…on the side
Trying out a new path is risky, and I would never recommend you to stubbornly push forward without careful evaluation.
Set a plan to scientifically test and measure all possibilities with a small budget before diving in head first. Strategize your learning to acquire all necessary knowledge to pursue your dream. Systemize your mechanism to turn setbacks into comebacks. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help and build connections with trusted mentors.
Start a side business with a preset milestone. When you reach your milestone, you’ll know you’re ready to move on.
Now it’s your turn
Imagine finishing another long day of work, but this time you’re excited about all the new projects you are starting and you almost feel like you don’t want to stop working.
Instead of feeling dreadful each morning, you find yourself waking up an hour earlier and cannot wait to tackle the day’s challenge because you know you’re going to be rewarded with good money for doing what you love.
All because you’ve carefully reviewed your situation and started taking action toward manifesting your definition of success.
Not only are you motivated by your vision, but you’ve laid out a practical plan and are step-by-step moving closer to your dream.
Seem too good to be true? It’s not.
Ask the right question, and dig deep into the problems that stand between you and the career you so desperately deserve.
You know it’s time to move on － no more hesitation.
Now all you need to do is take action.