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Not Satisfied at Work? Five Signs It's Time to Change Your Career

One in three people who switched jobs last year changed their career, helped in part by online learning and social media. Is it time to change yours?
Businessman resting head on table in meeting room, view through door
Is a career change in his future?Getty Images

There’s a famous saying — sometimes attributed to Confucius — that if you choose a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. But the reality is that over half of Americans don't feel that way at all.

The latest edition of the Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey reports only 48.3 percent of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs. The good news is that it looks like they may be starting to do something about it. According to LinkedIn’s new job change report, one in three people surveyed who changed jobs in 2015 changed their careers entirely.

Career and executive coach Maggie Mistal isn’t surprised by those statistics — she’s excited by them. She says she feels like people are starting to realize that as much as it’s important to pay the bills, that’s not enough of a reason to stay in a career for a lifetime — and that’s a change from generations past. “There’s real opportunity in terms of change,” she says. “It’s easier with platforms now, like social media, to reconnect with people you don’t know and reinvent yourself.”

Wade Burgess, vice president of the talent solutions business at LinkedIn, agrees. He says the improved job market, access to technology (for salary searching as well as connectivity) and rise of the gig economy have made career change much easier.

If you're nodding along and thinking all of this sounds pretty good, that's sign number one that you're due for a job or career change. Here are four more:

You Have Somewhere Else You Want to Go

A kneejerk reaction to feeling unhappy in your current job is changing to a new one quickly, but it’s important to feel confident you’ll be happy in your next position (and industry). And that means having a specific idea of where you want to go and what you want to do next.

“Get to know yourself and the elements of your ideal career — what they look like — so you can sift through what’s out there with a more deliberate eye,” says Mistal. Then, think about your ideal job, no holds barred, recognizing there are going to be disappointments as well as victories. Write them down: Is the salary trajectory slower? Is it more isolating? Is the industry in retreat? If at that point you still want to proceed, go ahead.

You Have Something Specific to Contribute

There's nothing more frustrating than feeling your current job isn't making the best use of your talents. So take inventory of the skills you want to use — not just the skills you’ve been using — and think about how and where you could apply them.

Another key tip? Get specific. You might love to help others, but unless you get into detail, that could mean anything from a healthcare career to a career in technology, says Mistal. Talk to others in different jobs to see where your talents might find the right fit.

You Can Read the Writing on the Wall

You don't have to work for a public company that's issuing one disappointing earnings report after another to realize that your future isn't in your current job. Among the worrisome signs: A bad performance report, you're close to (or mentored by) a boss on the way out, the industry is on the decline, the community is on the decline (and won't be able to support companies like yours).

There are others of course, but any one of these should make you polish your resume and LinkedIn profile and start scheduling lunches and coffees.

You Look Out 10 Years and Don't Like What You See

Finally, even if you're happy where you are right now, you might have a feeling that this is not what you want to do or where you want to be in the long term. If that's the case, you don't have to approach changing jobs or careers in a hurry, but you can start amassing experience and contacts and even skills (take a class or two) to help you maneuver down the road.

One thing to try: Even if you’re not sure how to make your dream job happen, start sharing that dream with others. “When people know what you’re trying to do, it plants a seed in their brain, and it plants a seed in your own,” says Mistal.

Your brain filters everyday life in a way that gets you what you want. Other people can only help you if you let them in.