13 Red Flags That It's Time for a Career Change

Even one of these symptoms could mean you need to find a new career right away.

man in casual wear holding box with personal things and saying good bye to his ex-colleagues
Updated May 28, 2024
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The last few years have contained an abnormal amount of stress, especially for workers trying to stay engaged and productive during the pandemic. While there are some creative steps you can take to avoid money stress, you may be experiencing tension that indicates it's time to switch your career or workplace. 

Some signs tell you loudly and clearly that your mental health is at risk and that it is time to make a fresh start. If any of the following sound familiar, it might be time to consider a change of career.

You have insomnia or nightmares

Pormezz/Adobe asian woman with open eyes while lying on the bed

You may be so wound up that you have problems falling asleep. Or perhaps you fall asleep to escape stress, but find your sleep isn’t restful, and that you wake up panicked and unable to fall back to sleep.

Interrupted sleep negatively affects your health, and it’s not sustainable over the long term. If your job is causing these sleep disruptions, that might be a sign that you need to change jobs or careers.

You suffer increased anxiety or rage

Pixel-Shot/Adobe Sad young man sitting on sofa at home

Everyone feels anxious sometimes, and everyday events can occasionally trigger rage, especially during stressful times such as a pandemic. But it is unhealthy to feel anxiety or rage that lasts a long time or is intense enough to prevent you from engaging in normal activities.

If your job is triggering bouts of anxiety or rage, make a plan to get into a job that won’t be so disruptive to your emotions and health.

Your hair is falling out or your brain feels stalled

troyanphoto/Adobe young woman has hair loss problem

Hair falling out is a classic symptom of extreme stress. If job-related stress causes this symptom, it is a sign that you need to reconsider your life and career.

Another sign of stress occurs when your brain just can’t focus or get in gear. Sometimes, the choice comes down to listening to your body or keeping your job and continuing to suffer.

You are resistant to being asked to do normal activities

fizkes/Adobe African American girl bored at workplace looking at laptop screen

When you don’t feel like you have control in a job, you may experience feelings of resistance to doing normal, reasonable activities at work or at home. Anxiety often causes this type of defiance.

This can make you feel like a toddler who doesn’t want to do what a parent is telling them to do. It’s not a good place to be, and it might indicate that a job change is for the best.

You don’t want to advance

yurolaitsalbert/Adobe tired employee at a business meeting in the office

Maybe you have lost the desire to get better at your job, or no longer care about being promoted. The job has become just a task you perform, and you’re disengaged from the organization and your team, including your workplace’s goals and culture.

If you don’t want to advance at your company, there’s no future in the organization. That can be a compelling sign that it’s time to leave.

You don’t want to tell people what you do

Sanja/Adobe  young woman is talking with a female friend about her problem in a cafe

It’s not a good sign if people you meet ask about your work and you don’t want to talk about it. Such reticence can be a sign that you are disengaged from your job. You no longer see it as part of who you are, and don’t want to be identified with it.

You can’t put a price on your dignity, so get ready to move on to a new career in a new organization.

Your organization is stalled

Syda Productions/Adobe business people having problem in office

Even if you like your job and co-workers, you probably need to get out if the organization you work for is stalled. It is often best to get out before you go down with the sinking ship.

If things stall or collapse, it may be more difficult to get hired someplace else thanks to the tainted organization that appears on your resume. Consider leaving now.

Something illegal or unethical is going on

fizkes/Adobe Millennial businessman rejecting giving interview to journalist

Whether or not you’re being asked to participate in illegal or unethical activity, it rarely makes sense to keep working for a company that tolerates or encourages bad behavior.

After all, the longer you stick around, the greater your chances of getting dragged into the muck and ending up with a destroyed career. In a worst-case scenario, you might even face possible jail time. Consider getting out while you can.

Things are out of balance

Elnur/Adobe Busy businesswoman working in office at desk

Whether you’re putting in tons of hours at work to avoid thinking about your life or using other activities to avoid working and thinking about work, try to avoid getting out of balance. Creating numbness is a way of avoiding having to think about the reality of your daily life.

Instead, consider a new career that you don’t have to dissociate from. If you have a lucrative side hustle that you love, it might be time to take a chance and make it your regular gig.  

Pro tip: Check out this list of legitimate ways to make extra money.

You’re trauma bonded with your job

alfa27/Adobe furious female director dissatisfied with work

“Trauma bonding” is forming an unhealthy, close bond with a person or organization that abuses you. People who work in organizations or teams that are in constant crisis — or who work for abusive managers — may develop a reliance on the adrenaline of the crisis and abuse.

If you find yourself feeling empty and scared about leaving your job or even taking a vacation, you may be experiencing trauma bonding. Consider reaching out for professional help and finding a new job.

You struggle to get moving

Andrey Popov/Adobe young black woman experiencing back pain

Your body aches, you sometimes struggle to get out of bed, and you feel repelled by your office or desk — all of these can be physical manifestations of your desire not to be at your job.

You may not have acknowledged your feelings about your job, but these physical issues are signs you shouldn’t ignore.

You fantasize constantly about a different life

AntonioDiaz/Adobe Thoughtful woman day dreaming

It’s a bad sign if you constantly obsess about having a baby, regularly research a new place to live, or can’t stop thinking about working in a more interesting career.

When you’re always looking for a way to magically change your reality, it’s time to get practical and simply think about changing careers.

You aren’t good at your job anymore

JustLife/Adobe Angry businesswoman yelling at her collegue

If your job performance is suffering and you struggle to focus on or understand the work you’re supposed to be doing, it might be time to rethink your career.

Accept that this might not be the job for you anymore and that it’s time to look for something you can do well instead.

Bottom line

BGStock72/Adobe Young businessman leaves a meeting while other people stay in office

The common thread across all these signs is that something about your job and life just feels wrong. You have a pervasive sense that things aren’t correct.

There is nothing wrong with changing careers. Success doesn’t mean staying in one job or one career forever. Success means doing a good job until it’s time to move on to something else.

If money is keeping you from making a move, try some of these creative ways to boost your bank account while you're looking for a new job.  

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Author Details

Elizabeth Rollins

Elizabeth Rollins has degrees in literature and business, and she's combined these loves into a career in writing about personal finance. Her special areas of interest are debt, value, budgeting, education, and retirement.