“Am I in the right job?”

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I noticed something funny when I was originally researching this article. I wanted to address being happy in your job because many people are. Google felt the need to correct me, however: “How to know you are unhappy in your job”. It then provided me with a list of articles, each more compelling than the last, about why people should quit their jobs.

I am an advocate for managing your own career, and I do believe that you need to know where you are in order to know where you are going. My hope is that after going through the following four points, you will be able to answer the question “Am I in the right job?”

“What do I spend the majority of my time doing?”

We all have parts of our job that we enjoy and other parts that are annoying, frustrating or that we just plain dislike. This is true for everyone. Ideally, you would want to spend most of your time in responsibilities that energize you and limit the time you spend executing duties that drain your energy.

When we are energized by our responsibilities, there are usually a combination of positive factors which could include:

  • We feel we are playing to our core strengths
  • We have a reasonable proportion of effort and ease
  • We are interested in the subject matter
  • We are growing and developing as a person and as a professional
  • We feel that what we do contributes to the success of the company

While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it points to a pattern associated with being in the right job.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and become overly optimistic or pessimistic, or to simply numb ourselves and daydream about the weekend or an upcoming vacation. If we clearly and objectively assess our daily responsibilities, this can be an initial indicator whether or not we are in the right job.

“Do I work with other departments/business units?”

These days, it is said that the average person will have between three and five careers from the time they start working until the time they retire. In addition to this, we are in an era of transition where we are evolving from the information age. We have seen major companies and entire industries dissolve and seen the rapid expansion in companies and industries that we couldn’t even imagine a generation ago.

As discussed in my article Push your limits: the benefits of cross-functional training, the best way to ensure long-term success in your career is to learn from other fields in order to add value to your work. When you get the chance to work with other departments/business units, you have an opportunity to expand your skill set and understand your environment better. This sets you up for a positive loop where you then increase the likelihood of being selected for new assignments, projects or even a promotion.

While your job won’t be a daily party where you are BFFs with everyone, a good indicator that you are in the right job is that you have exposure to others, the chance to pick up new skills and a better understanding of your business.

“What do I learn from my leaders?”

In an ideal world, the person to whom you report is experienced and invested in your development. They regularly give you constructive feedback and pat you on the back for a job well done.

The leadership crisis we face these days is that many are thrown in the role with little training or support and are expected to advance their team’s interests while meeting the demands placed on them. They fall back on their strengths as an individual and act to the best of their abilities, meaning that you will encounter every shade of grey along the leadership spectrum.

Some people have a great relationship with their boss and consider them a mentor. Some people have a more difficult connection with their boss. Some people have never met their boss in person because they are on a virtual team. While the personal relationship you have with your direct supervisor has a notable impact on your job, what matters more is what you are learning from your direct and indirect leaders.

“How is my company doing?”

Many people feel disconnected from the core business of their company. They base their assessment of the company on how they feel in the day-to-day and not necessarily on how the company is doing in a factual sense. I was once in a general meeting and I overheard someone say “You know, we used to have muffins at the general meetings and now we have nothing. Clearly, the company is going down.” While this made me chuckle because the presence or absence of muffins has no bearing on a company’s performance, it illustrates how some employees’ perceptions can be distorted.

You need to know how your company is doing and what the mid-to-long term growth prospects are. Let’s say you worked at Blockbuster and were aspiring to a promotion from manager to senior manager. Even if you did amazing in your job, worked with everyone and loved your boss, all this vanished when the company crumbled before our eyes. You don’t even have to be in a “disrupted” industry for this to affect you: look at the choices the employees of BlackBerry and Yahoo! face today.

If you don’t objectively know how your company is doing, I would recommend doing some research, then discussing your findings with your boss or a mentor.

So, are you in the right job?

Of course, there are many factors to consider when we think about being in the right job. I hope that this article has provided you with some food for thought to enjoy or tweak your current job if you’re in the right place. If you aren’t, feel free to check out my article How to conduct a thorough job search with less effort.