Do You Need a New Job or a New Career?

How to Decide Whether to Change Jobs or Careers

A man at his work station trying to make a decision.
Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

Sadly, many studies show more workers hate their jobs than like them. When you dislike your job it can negatively affect everything else in your life. After all, you may spend at least half your waking hours at work each day. It's a shame to spend so much time unhappy, but what should you do about it? 

You have two options: you can find a new job or a new career. Changing jobs isn't easy, but making a career change is an even more involved process that can require a lot of preparation.

You should not make this decision without giving it a lot of thought. Here's how to figure out which choice is best for your situation.

You dislike your place of employment but still enjoy the work you do.

It's time for a job change if you still like tending to the specific duties of your occupation but your boss isn't nice to you, you have difficult coworkers or your commute is getting to you. For example, if you are a retail salesperson you may enjoy explaining the benefits of merchandise to customers but can't stand the other salespeople who work in the store, do not like the store manager or can't take your one hour commute any longer.

You don't like your job but you aren't sure why.

It's hard to know what to do if you don't know if the root of your problem is that you aren't happy with your employer or are dissatisfied with your occupation. If you can't figure it out after giving it some thought, try looking for a new job before you do anything else.

Although a career change is doable, it is much more difficult, particularly if the occupation you choose requires you to get additional training. 

You mostly like your job and employer but you've identified a problem.

If you basically like your work but have identified something about it that isn't quite right for you, finding a new job might help.

Let's go back to the retail salesperson example. In your position, you love interacting with customers but you often feel bored with the merchandise you have to sell. Perhaps if your job involved working in a different retail establishment selling another product, for example in a shoe store instead of a home furnishings shop, you'd be less bored.

You love your boss and coworkers but not your career choice.

If you aren't satisfied with your occupation, a career change will certainly help. Since you aren't unhappy with your employer you don't, however, have to rush. You can stay at your job until you're ready to move on but be sure to make good use of that time. First do a thorough self assessment. It will help you figure out what careers are most suitable for you. Then explore the ones that interest you so you can learn more about them. Once you decide which one to pursue, take care of getting your required training and education while you are still employed.

Your employer gives you less responsibility than you want and know you can handle.

This is a sure sign that it's time to move on to a new place of employment that will still let you practice your occupation but with more challenging tasks.

Make sure, first, that you meet all the requirements of a more responsible job. If not, you should take care of that before you start your job search.  

Your chances for advancement at this particular employer are limited.

You may have a boss who recognizes your ability to handle more responsibility but may not be able to promote you because all the positions above yours are filled. If you want to move up you will have to do it elsewhere.