In an ideal world, our work lives would be completely fulfilling, full of meaning, and intrinsically motivating. But what if they’re not? What if you’re stuck in a job or a career that you once loved, but your heart isn’t in it anymore? And truth be told, there could be any number of reasons for this sense of malaise. Many have gotten to this point without trying to figure out why it is really happening. Can we say too much familiarization or new challenges aren’t often like before? You might feel stuck doing the same thing over and over again. You might question the ultimate meaning of the work you’re doing. You might feel micromanaged or that company leaders don’t know or care about your learning and growth. Or maybe your own growth and development since starting your career have caused you to change your passions and priorities in life.
According to research by Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, people tend to fall into one of three categories: Some see their work as a career; others see it as just a job; and still others see it as a calling. It’s this third category of people, perhaps unsurprisingly, who exhibit higher performance and a greater sense of satisfaction with their jobs. The key for you is to determine what you care about now — what drives you, what you’re passionate about, what truly motivates you — and build from there. It’s quite possible that what drove your career in your 20s is no longer appealing. Don’t force your 40-, 50-, or 60-year-old self into your 20-year-old sense of ambition. Even if you don’t find your true calling, you will at least increase the odds of finding a meaningful work experience.
Of course, if you choose to change your career, you’ll want to think it through and prepare yourself before jumping in with both feet. Network with people in professions you might be interested in, get your finances in order and test out the new career (perhaps on the weekend or at night) before making the change. It can feel daunting to change everything so suddenly, but it’s important to consider the option if you’re truly feeling a deep sense of malaise at work. Good luck!