On many occasions, my friends and I discuss whether we've picked the right jobs or careers. We second-guess our college majors, think about other professional possibilities and assess the reality of going back to school.
We're only half-serious, because such conversations help us vent about our work situations.
But at what point do you know you're at the wrong job, company or career? How do you distinguish between everyday work blues and burnout?
Alicia Rodriguez, a Severna Park-based executive and leadership coach, works on career makeovers. In most cases, Rodriguez says, there are emotional and behavioral signs that your dissatisfaction with work is more than a phase.
"The emotional indicators are what I call disengagement," she says. "You don't want to get up for work and go to work. You feel like you're going through the motions. Sometimes, there is anger."
Or you start missing deadlines, avoiding meetings or even calling out sick more often.
"Your behavior starts changing," Rodriguez says. "The thing is that typically people sort of check out of the job before they know they've already checked out."
Sometimes, there is a catalyst or a life change, such as motherhood, or a company reorganization where your position changes or is even cut.
Once you recognize these signs, the challenge is figuring out what new job or career may be the right fit.
"People want to immediately send out resumes but they don't know what they're looking for," she says.
Start off by asking: What kind of a lifestyle do you want and what potential careers match your desires?
Set professional criteria for that lifestyle. For example, Rodriguez says if you want to spend more time with the kids, one criteria may be flexible hours or a shorter commute.
Here's another tip: Talk about your options to friends and family, who can help clarify your choices and maybe even offer job opportunities.
For Alexa Zaledonis Winters, a combination of factors led her to seriously re-examine her career and life.
Her job as a certified public accountant was becoming too stressful while she was recovering from a broken engagement. Winters says she realized that "all I had in my life was my job."
At first, Winters was set to take another accounting job at a different firm, but her friends suggested a different idea: enroll in massage school. Since college, Winters had used massages to help relieve stress.
After getting her certification, Winters worked as a massage therapist while doing some consulting work on the side. After six months, she ditched the consulting work and opened her own business, Even Keel Wellness Spa in Annapolis.
It's been three years. And Winters is happier. Her business is doing well and she got married two years ago.
"For me as a person, the stress was too much," recalls Winters, 39. "I choose to go into a profession where I could help people who have these issues."
Have you made some drastic changes to your career? Send your stories, comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and your city.