How to Tell if You've Outgrown Your Job

By Alyssa Laffitte on October 26, 2019

Having a job should give you a sense of satisfaction and purpose. It should make you happy to know you are contributing something to the world, even in a small way. Although we all have “off days” at work, it should not be the norm. But what if you begin to have more “off days” than good days at work? What if the pressure becomes too much? How can you tell if it is time to move on to something better? What if you started out enjoying your job, but now you hate it? Even if you have been at your job for a long time, people change. Is it acceptable to move on? In this article, we will discuss how to tell if you have outgrown your job.

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It’s taking a toll on your health

Stress can definitely manifest itself physically. Being overly stressed can cause you to become literally sick and tired more often and more easily. If you find yourself catching colds more often, or if it’s becoming more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, consider the effects of stress your job is causing you. These physical symptoms could be a sign you have outgrown your job. You will not be a good employee if you are sick and stressed all the time, and you might even find yourself using up many sick days because of it. When your job causes you so much stress, to the point that it’s affecting your physical health, you should move on.

You procrastinate more than you work

Another sign you have outgrown your job is if you procrastinate more than you work. Sure, your work won’t be completely exciting all the time. There will be days when you would rather scroll through social media or daydream instead of addressing the big pile of work in front of you; that’s normal. However, you should not be so disinterested in your job that you procrastinate more than you work. There should be something about your work that keeps you engaged. That “something” should motivate you to keep working hard. If you can’t find anything remotely exciting about your work or anything that will motivate you, that’s a sign you need to move on.

There is no room to grow

Something many job applicants seek in a company is the “room to grow”. “Room to grow” could mean different things to different people. For example, to one person, it could mean climbing up the corporate ladder to eventually manage or lead a team. To another person, it could mean the ability to try new things and grow their skill set. Having “room to grow” is important in job satisfaction, as it will show you that you are working toward something. It is discouraging if a job will have you stuck in the same position for an extended period of time. A good company will encourage employees to better themselves. However, if you find that there is no room to grow in your current job, you might have outgrown your job.

You are not using the abilities or skills you were hired for

You were hired at your current workplace because you have certain abilities. When you find you are not using those abilities at work, it may be time to move on. It is a bad sign if you end up working on projects that don’t involve the abilities you were originally hired for. Of course, this is distinct from working on a different project for the purpose of picking up a new ability or building a skill you are not super strong in (these are good because they are actually signs of growth!). On the contrary, if you find yourself spending more time fetching coffee or making copies rather than doing the work you were hired for, you have outgrown your job. You are better off at a workplace that allows you to use and grow your abilities.

The work environment is toxic or not enjoyable

A toxic work environment is a sure sign you need to move on from your job. You definitely don’t want to stay in this environment because it will only drain you even more than you already are. Common signs of a toxic workplace include:

  • Bad leadership- if the bosses are constantly taking advantage of employees, dismissing others’ ideas, or demanding everyone tell them they are right, it’s a toxic work environment.
  • No enthusiasm- if your co-workers are not enthusiastic, the conversations are unproductive, and everyone is miserable, it’s a toxic work environment.
  • No communication- you should receive frequent feedback from your boss or from your co-workers. You should also be recognized for your achievements. If you are not receiving any guidance, recognition, or support from your workplace, it’s a toxic work environment.
  • High employee turnover- employees don’t like to work in toxic workplaces. A big sign that a workplace is toxic is that people often leave. If there is a big flux of employees, it could be a toxic work environment.
  • Selfishness- if people are gossiping about each other, “stabbing each other in the back”, and forming cliques, it is a toxic work environment.
  • A culture of overworking employees- if employees are constantly expected to be overworked, it’s a toxic work environment.
  • Bullying- unfortunately, bullying is not limited to middle school gym class. If employees are constantly picking on each other, it is a toxic work environment.

Even if the environment is not toxic per sé, but you simply find yourself not enjoying it anymore, that could be a sign that you’ve outgrown your job. If you find that your relationships with your co-workers are no longer meaningful, if you do not enjoy company events, and if you just aren’t excited about it anymore, it might be time to quit your job.

You feel you can’t share your ideas at work

Continuing from the previous point, being intimidated into silence is a key trait of a toxic work environment. In a positive work environment, everyone should feel free to share their ideas, no matter how wacky the idea might be. However, in a toxic environment, people are often shamed for doing so (or they are intimidated out of it), so they don’t. This could present itself in many ways. For example, maybe one person always takes charge during a meeting and doesn’t give anyone else a chance to speak. Similarly, maybe people are constantly undermining everyone else’s ideas. If you feel that you can’t openly share your ideas at work, that’s a sign that it’s a toxic work environment, and you should consider moving to a better one.

You are no longer a good fit for the job

There is a good chance you were hired for your current job because you were a good fit for the position and/or the company. Perhaps you are passionate about the company’s mission, or maybe your skillset and interests align well with the position you applied for. However, companies, positions, and people do change. It’s possible that you are no longer a good fit for your job. You might decide your interests lie elsewhere, or the company begins to lean in a direction you do not agree with. If you are no longer a good fit for the job, it could be time to move on.

You feel like you are not contributing anything

Part of being satisfied with your profession is feeling like you are contributing something to the company (or to the world). You should feel like you are accomplishing something, even if it’s something small. If you feel like you are not contributing anything, you might have outgrown your job.

You are bored and unsatisfied

As we said before, your job should be interesting and engaging to you. You should feel like you are accomplishing something. In other words, a job should be a fulfilling experience. While the occasional “off day” when you are bored or overwhelmed is not a reason to quit, a series of many “off days” in a short period of time could definitely be a reason to quit. If you are constantly feeling bored, under-stimulated, wanting to procrastinate, and staring at the clock all the time, that could be a sign it’s time to move on.

Outside the workplace, you talk about how much you hate your job

Be mindful of what you talk about once you are outside your workplace. Do you constantly talk to your friends and family about how much you hate your job? Do you talk about how unsatisfied or bored you are? Do you mention that your work environment shows symptoms of being a toxic one? If you find yourself saying these things, that could be a sign that you have outgrown your job.

When you talk about your job, you feel the need to explain why you still have it

Continuing off the previous point, after you complain about your job, do you quickly follow it up with an explanation for why you are still working there? For example, have you said something like, “Yes, my workplace is toxic but at least I get paid well”? This is justifying yourself for staying at a job you don’t like. If you catch yourself constantly justifying yourself for continuing to work at your job, you might have outgrown your job.

What to do if you decide you have outgrown your job

There are a few things you can do if you decide you have outgrown your job. You don’t need to pack up your office just yet.

Have a conversation with your boss

First, you should have a conversation with your boss to discuss shifting your workload more toward something you enjoy. If you haven’t been using the skills you’ve been hired for, this would be a good time to bring that up. Hopefully, your boss will understand and will let you pursue something more fulfilling. This is also a good opportunity to improve your relationship with your boss. This conversation could result in changes that will make your job more enjoyable.

Take up another project

Second, if your boss allows you, you can take up another project at work. If you can come up with a side project that is both: interesting to you and beneficial to the company, you just might be able to convince your boss to let you spend some time doing it. For example, you can take up a project like starting up a mentoring program at your company. This works because it will be helpful to the company, since the employees will feel more supported, and enjoyable to you. By dedicating time to a project you are actually interested in, you might find that you do enjoy your job after all and you won’t need to quit.

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Improve relationships with your co-workers

Finally, you should try to improve your relationship with your co-workers. Try to get to know them. A good way to improve relationships with your co-workers is to invite them for coffee or lunch. This creates a low-pressure environment to have a good conversation with them. Perhaps making new friends at work could help you enjoy your job.

If all else fails…

If you have followed all these tips, and you still think it’s time to move on, then you are probably right. Having a job should make you feel fulfilled and satisfied. You should be using the skills you were hired for, not doing simple tasks like making copies all the time (unless, of course, that’s what you were hired to do!). You should enjoy the company culture, and feel comfortable talking about your ideas. Of course, there will be the occasional stressful or rough day, but you should be able to push through it because the good outweighs the bad. But unfortunately, it might not always be that way. If you identify with more than one of the signs I wrote about in this post, carefully consider the possibility that you have outgrown your job. It just might be time for you to move on!

23, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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