16 Signs That The Career You Thought You Wanted Might Not Be What You Really Want


You’ve worked for years, trying your hardest at school, working unpaid internships, clawing for every scrap of employment in your chosen field and putting in long hours trying to make your dream job come to fruition. Now you’re a successful investment banker/artist/teacher/ostrich groomer. But you still feel unfulfilled. You wonder what you’re doing wrong. Are you working too hard? Not hard enough? Have you still not reached the pinnacle of your career? Or was this never the right career for you in the first place?

If any of the following thoughts, feelings or scenarios sound familiar to you, it’s possible that the career you always imagined for yourself isn’t the career you actually want now. And remember that it’s OK to change your priorities and goals — go for whatever you want right now, not what you wanted five years ago.

1. You’re bored.

“Being an ostrich groomer will be so great!” you used to think. “It’ll be the coolest career ever. I could never be bored grooming ostriches.” Now, the ostriches barely hold your attention. Your daily tasks feel repetitive and you wonder why you ever thought this would be a good career.

2. You don’t actually care about what you’re doing.

Your former love for ostriches has withered away into nothing but bitterness and apathy. In fact, one day you realize that you really couldn’t care less about ostriches. These formerly majestic-seeming birds are not that important to you.

3. You don’t feel like you’re doing anything useful.

You thought that once you broke into the career you’d always dreamed of, you’d feel a daily sense of purposefulness. You’d feel like you were contributing something to the world and making your mark. Instead of feeling those things, though, you currently feel like if you quit your job, the world would be completely unaffected, and in fact might be better off.

4. The thought of advancing in your current career makes you shudder.

You used to have a bright-eyed eagerness for advancing in your chosen field. You welcomed the challenge and wanted to be one of those people who worked hard and reaped the rewards. Now you feel like if you were given more responsibility and had to dedicate even more effort in this area, you might jump off a cliff.

5. You dread getting up in the morning.

This goes way beyond normal morning sluggishness; when you lie in bed dreading the day and can’t force yourself to get up even though you know you’ll be late for work, you may be experiencing a professional crisis.

6. You feel like you’re constantly struggling to ‘make it,’ but you don’t know what that means.

In your eager, more ambitious days, you imagined that once you were in your chosen career, you’d be happy. You’re not happy now, so you think you must not have really made it yet; there must be more to do, higher levels to reach, more satisfying goals to achieve. But when pressed, you can’t actually articulate what those levels or goals are — you’re just struggling ahead in the hopes that something will magically click for you if you keep working.

7. You can’t picture yourself doing this for another year, let alone several years.

When you think about the future, you don’t picture yourself in your current career. If you do, you imagine that you will be a soulless, dead-eyed zombie who no longer cares about anything beyond breathing and putting food into its face.

8. When you think about why you’re doing this, you come up with a big blank.

You used to have great reasons for wanting this career. You wanted to save the world! You wanted to help people! You wanted to be famous or rich or contribute to the awesome new technology of tomorrow. Now you don’t want any of those things — or at least, you don’t want them from this job.

9. Your false modesty is actually just disgust.

When you tell people what you do and they say things like “That’s so cool” or “Wow, that must be great,” you downplay your accomplishments. This isn’t because you’re modest (or faking modesty); it’s because you don’t really view your accomplishments as accomplishments. You’re sick of and unimpressed with your own skills and experience.

10. You spend most of every day not working.

What used to be occasional goofing off is now the main activity of your day. The most accurate description of your job would be “wasting time on the Internet.”

11. You don’t like talking about your job.

When people ask what you do, you roll your eyes and make disgusted noises or quickly steer the conversation in another direction. Talking about your work shouldn’t be excruciating, but it is for you because you don’t like facing the reality of what you do. You’d rather talk about your most embarrassing moments from 6th grade than discuss your current place of employment.

12. You feel like a robot.

As soon as you get to work, you put your brain on autopilot. Nothing challenges or engages you; you don’t even care enough to try to be engaged. You go about the entirety of your day like a mindless robot, lending the office your physical presence but little brainpower and no enthusiasm or creativity.

13. You’re jealous of friends’ careers.

Your friend Joel is a cinematographer, and you’re insanely jealous. Every time you hang out with, talk to or talk about Joel, all you can think of is how that bastard has the best job in the world and you don’t. You always scoffed at cinematography, thinking it wasn’t a viable career path, but is it possible that you secretly really wanted to do it, too? It’s very possible. When you’re constantly coveting other people’s careers and hating your own, it’s time to make a change, even if it’s to something you’d never considered before.

14. You make more and more excuses.

You’re always telling people at work that you’re tired or not feeling well or didn’t get enough sleep last night, when at the heart of it all is the fact that you just don’t care. You feel trapped by your career but don’t want to admit that this might not be the right fit for you.

15. You only chose this career because other people expected you to.

Maybe you come from a long line of lawyers, and it was just expected that you’d be a lawyer, too. Maybe you never questioned this until you actually became a lawyer and realized that you hated it. Now you’re stuck in a career that you always assumed you’d spend the rest of your life in, and the worst part is that you can barely imagine doing anything else because you’ve spent so much time preparing for this specific career.

16. Your main reason for picking this career path is because it’s what you got your degree in.

Studying something in college and doing it in the real world are often vastly different; even if you enjoyed your college major, that doesn’t always mean you’ll like the career that it leads to. If you feel like you should start a different career but are hesitant to do so because it’s “not in your field” or you don’t want to “waste” your degree, that’s a red flag. You’re only there because you feel like you have to be there, not because you want to be.