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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Three signs it might be time for a career pivot

If you find yourself inexplicably daydreaming about what it would be like to go from a marketing manager to a real estate agent, maybe it’s time to listen to those thoughts.

Three signs it might be time for a career pivot
[zakokor / Adobe Stock]

Just because something served you well at one point in your life doesn’t mean that you can expect it to continue serving you well forever. Your work is no exception. If you’ve been in the same role for a while, it can be tough to leave that behind and dive into the unknown—especially if you’ve reached a high level in your career and are used to the security and status it offers you.

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But regardless of how good your career looks on paper, it’s not worth sacrificing your quality of life and aspirations for. If you find yourself inexplicably daydreaming about what it would be like to go from a marketing manager to a real estate agent, maybe it’s time to listen to those thoughts. Here are three signs it’s time for a career pivot.

1. YOU ALWAYS FEEL TIRED

We all have days where we are feeling groggy after a bad night’s sleep, exhausted after a heavy morning in the gym, or just have a general feeling of burnout. It’s also normal to feel a touch of fatigue when the working day is over. But if you’re spending every day feeling exhausted, that’s a sign there’s something wrong—especially if you’re generally looking after your body and there’s no particular explanation for your fatigue.

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The exhaustion you feel may also be linked to the stress your job is bringing you. Although many of us think of stress as purely mental, it also has a physical toll on our bodies. Chronic stress has a wide range of serious consequences, including muscle tension, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and a feeling of bloating. While every job likely involves some stress from time to time, such as when deadlines are approaching or you have to deal with a difficult personality, you shouldn’t be feeling consistent low-level stress.

The importance of amending this problem can’t be understated—in my experience, nothing is more important than ensuring you’re happy and healthy, not just for the sake of your career, but also to look after other aspects of your life, such as friends and family.

And guess what may be able to help that feeling of perpetual stress go away? Switching to a role with less stress, or one that offers you more enjoyment. I believe the more you enjoy a job and feel motivated to go to work each day, the less likely those minor inconveniences are to result in you feeling weary.

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2. YOU’RE ALWAYS CURIOUS ABOUT OTHER CAREERS

Do you find yourself curious about what the job of just about everyone else you know and meet involves? Maybe you’re always Googling this or that career path out of curiosity and comparing your findings to your own position. Or perhaps you sometimes find yourself daydreaming about what other roles would potentially be like.

While it’s only natural to have some level of interest in how other people spend their working life, it can also be a sign that you’re beginning to explore if there’s something more for you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see what else is out there—just because you committed to your current career path a while back, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to it forever.

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Deep down, you might realize that you’re longing to learn a new skill, challenge yourself in a fresh way, or simply try something new. If so, don’t stop daydreaming, and don’t try to force the curiosity out of you—lean into it and make a habit of asking people you know about their roles. Are any of them doing jobs that leave you excited and thinking you could make a good go of?

3. YOU QUESTION THE MEANING OF YOUR WORK

Humans aren’t robots, and most of us aren’t able to mindlessly put our heads down and perform tasks without questioning what we’re doing or why we’re doing it. It’s only natural to question the value of what you’re doing and whether it’s right for you—especially if you’ve been doing the same job for a long time.

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Some might be able to simply get through the day of work and find purpose in other aspects of their life, but a McKinsey report found that 70% of employees said their sense of purpose is defined by their work. So, if you want your job to offer you fulfillment, you’re certainly not alone.

It’s common for people to start their careers off prioritizing money and security, but once you’ve achieved this, you may start to wonder about “giving back” to the world—maybe leading you to avenues like teaching or coaching. Or maybe you want to stay in the corporate world and learn a new skill, finding fulfillment in this way.

A great way to start is by asking yourself what fulfillment means to you and what you’d be doing if money wasn’t an object. How far does that line up with your current life and job?

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PREPARE TO PIVOT

Many people try to fight the urge to make that career pivot, even if they know deep down that it’s what they need to do. It can be scary to take the plunge, and you may find yourself making up all kinds of excuses to put it off. Take this as a sign that it’s okay to give yourself permission and take the plunge, even if it doesn’t seem like the logical move.

Chances are that after you’ve made the pivot, you’ll realize it’s not as big a deal as you thought initially.

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Tim Madden is an Executive Coach and former Headhunter. Founder of Executive Career Upgrades, he’s on a mission to help accelerate careers.

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