Right now, with the economy about as stable as a sneeze, the general mood at work can get downright gloomy. Even though you’re thankful you have a job, sometimes it’s hard not to get that hang dog feeling when you see so many around you delegated to the unemployment line. As weird as it sounds, often those left behind after a company lay off suffer their own kind of depression. Not only do they inherit more work (to pick up the slack) but they’re also saddled with the guilt/relief rollercoaster of emotions that come with dodging a downsizing.

So it’s no surprise that many people today are questioning their career choices. Ironically, the slump in the economy has motivated people to re-examine their work situations to figure out if they’re in the right jobs in the first place. But in doing so you have to be careful to differentiate between:

A) Are you experiencing a temporary bump in the road at work? (Meaning, are things are bad now, but will get better later?) In which case, you just wait it out. Or…

B) Do you really need to jump ship and change careers now, before you waste any more time in a job that’s not right for you?

To determine which camp you fall in, you need to ask yourself some pretty pointed career questions, and be honest with your answers, starting with:

1) Am I Good at What I Do?

In your heart, you know if you do a good job at work. So if you don’t feel your work is up to par lately you have to ask yourself “Why?” Is it because the work is too hard? Too overwhelming? Do you find it boring? Unfulfilling? Are there some tasks you like better than others? If you feel your unpleasant tasks outnumber the fun ones, then you’re definitely in the wrong line of work. Honestly, who wants to spend eight hours a day doing something they’re not that good at?

And if you are good at your job, then the next question you have to ask yourself is…

2) Do I Enjoy the Tasks?

Just because you’re good at your job doesn’t mean you like it. Yes, the money might be great, the benefits stellar, and even the people you work with are a hoot, but if you aren’t enamored with your day-to-day work tasks then it’s going to make for really long days (weeks, months, and years). Granted, you don’t have to love everything you do (there’s always going to be those one or two tasks you could do without) but in the long run if you can’t stomach most of your work day, then it’s time to move on.

Still not sure if your current employment blues are simply temporary effects of an ill economy? Then try this next question on for size…

3) Am I Excited to Go to Work?

Okay, so you’re good at your job and you don’t seem to mind the work itself, but then how come you’re not excited to get up everyday and go to work? If your answer is “Well, nobody likes to go to work,” then think again. Most people like what they do, which is why getting laid off comes as such a devastating blow (that and the loss of income, of course).

If you really have trouble getting motivated to go to work then you have to ask yourself why that is. Outside of the work itself, it could be because you don’t click with co-workers, you hate your boss, or your work environment is less than pleasant, all of which contribute to job burn out. Whatever it is, you need to determine if it’s the career or that particular job that’s getting you down. To help you decide which is it, you might also consider…

4) Am I Overly Tired Each Evening?

Sure, we’re all tired after a hard day’s work, but if you come home so exhausted it’s all you can do to get through dinner before you go to bed, then chances are you’re being emotionally drained at work. Even though your job may not include physical activity, mental stress will zap your energy level faster than plowing a field all day by hand in the hot sun. And the funny thing about mental anguish; it sneaks up on you. Plus, it’s easy to justify it if you actually like your job. But if you can’t find a way to eliminate your stress at work, then you may want to change jobs or careers. No matter how much fun a job is, it’s never worth allowing it to add an overabundance of anxiety to your life.

If you answered Yes to any one of these questions, then a career change might be right for you, even if you still have a job. Most of the time we consider career changes AFTER we’ve been laid off, but really the time to make a shift is when you still have a job. Going back to school part time is a good start; apprenticing, interning, even volunteering are also all good ways to break ground in a new career.

Have you recently switched careers? If so, we want to hear about it. What made you decide to do it? How did you get started? Did you go back to school? Have you been happy with the move? Share your experiences so others can benefit from your newfound wisdom!

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