You’ve got to get your foot in the door somehow. So perhaps you took an entry-level job to get a start in the industry of your choice. At first, you can convince yourself that you’re gaining valuable experience and contacts. But, after a while, the same old, same old feels more like a chore than a stepping-stone. If this feeling lingers, you may have outgrown your job.
“Look at how long you’ve been feeling this way,” says career coach Sumayya Essack. If it’s a short bout of the doldrums or a touch of burnout, you may just need a break, but “if you see yourself having a consistent experience of feeling bored or unchallenged or disengaged, then you know that there’s something going on.”
How can you tell the difference between a week or two of feeling disengaged and a job that’s no longer a good fit? These are four telltale signs.
1. You’re constantly bored
While a little boredom creeps into most jobs now and then, chronic boredom may be a sign that you need something more. It’s not uncommon, of course. Respondents to a 2017 survey by staffing firm OfficeTeam said they were bored an average of 10.5 hours per week. Two in five employees said they’d quit their jobs if they felt bored at work.
If you’re doing the same things you’ve been doing for a while—and you feel like you can do them in your sleep—or if you’re not being challenged, that’s a good indicator that you’ve outgrown your job, says career coach Jessica Sweet. “A side effect of not learning often is boredom,” she says.
2. You’re not moving toward bigger career goals
Even challenging jobs can be outgrown, Essack says. “You want your job to be challenging, but the right kind of challenging that strategically prepares you for your next move.” Think about the kind of experience you’re going to need to achieve your longterm goals. Is your current role helping you get that experience? Are your current projects filling in skills gaps?
“If the role is no longer laying the groundwork for your longer-term goals, you may have outgrown it,” she says. In other words, if the role hasn’t given you anything to add to your résumé in a while, it may be time to look at other options.
3. You’re “coasting”
If you feel like you can do your job with little effort or thought, you may be coasting—another sign you may have outgrown your job. When you’re coasting, you may get to the end of your day and realize that you went through the motions without a lot of focus or thought. It’s the workplace equivalent of driving home and not remembering what route you took.
“We get energized by growing, just like that feeling of feeling a little bit uncomfortable as we’re learning. If we find that we’re just coasting through the job, and we’re not really being stretched, then we probably have captured what the job has to offer in terms of knowledge, competencies, and skills,” says executive coach Michael O’Brien, author of Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life.
4. You’re angry
Feelings of anger and frustration may be another surprising sign that you’re ready for a new challenge. “The signs of anger and frustration are very slight at first, such as brief email responses or silence of an individual in meetings,” says Nick H. Kamboj, CEO of Aston & James, a consultancy for prospective MBA students. He says he sees these feelings with his clients. Usually, they stem from feelings of being marginalized or ignored. “At this juncture, it is important to assess why someone is feeling this way and more importantly to change the environment such that these feelings of workplace anger and frustration are gone,” he says.
If the signs are clear that your job isn’t a good fit anymore, here are three actions that may help:
1. Talk to your boss
Seek your supervisor’s counsel to help you make your job meaningful again. Finding a stretch assignment or learning what you can do to prime yourself for a promotion could be as simple as talking to your boss. “A conversation with management about realigning your assignments could get the job back on track,” Essack says. Share your goals and keep an open mind about opportunities that may help you learn and grow professionally.
2. Make use of the downtime
The upside of coasting a bit at your job is that it may allow you time to take advantage of learning and development programs at your company. You can also use the time to take classes outside of work (in person or online) to improve your skill set and position you well for new opportunities.
3. Get your résumé in order
If all else fails and your job doesn’t offer any path to growth, it may be time to make a move. Use your extra time to get your résumé in order and begin the process of finding a new gig that will make use of the talents and skills you’ve developed.