It’s possible to outgrow a dream job. This is something that professionals don’t talk about enough. Many people stay far too long in roles that they aren’t thriving in because they feel like they’re “supposed” to be happy. What happens when you stop loving your work?

It’s not as bleak as you think. In many cases, deciding that your dream job isn’t enough can open the door to finding the dream job you didn’t even know existed. Yes, it would be best if you were strategic and systematic. However, you also have to be prepared to be unconventional. There are steps you can take once you own up to the fact that you are no longer in love with your job.

Know the Signs of Discontent

How can you know if the malaise and misery you’re experiencing are tied to your job instead of simply being part of a phase in your life? “Knowing” – which may start as a gut-check –  requires some honesty, soul searching, and self-examination. Here’s a look at some telltale signs that you’ve fallen out of love with your job:

  • Lack of interest in both your specific role and the larger field
  • Irritability
  • Putting off important work
  • Feeling easily distracted
  • Taking more time off than usual
  • Almost all thoughts you have about your job/workplace veer toward the negative
  • Work challenges now feel like obstacles instead of challenges
  • Boredom
  • Feeling that your expertise has no real value for the world
  • Idealizing other jobs/fields that are very different from yours

For some people, falling out of love with their jobs can turn into a pattern of self-sabotage. They may not even realize that they are doing it until they have received reprimands from superiors,  missed deadlines, or called in sick a little too much.

Whatever the clues in your situation, heed them and take these steps.

Own Your Feelings Without Guilt

It can be hard to admit that you don’t love your job and especially difficult if you also feel appreciative of the responsibility entrusted to you. Many people convince themselves that they don’t deserve to have complaints because they are being compensated and treated fairly. You still need to embrace your feelings.

Permit yourself to be unhappy with your job. It’s okay to admit that you are experiencing discontent. It’s healthy to examine and prioritize your goals when your feelings about your career have changed. You may decide that you can do things to increase your happiness and satisfaction without leaving your company or organization. You may be able to negotiate a multi-year pivot into a new role that won’t require any drastic moves. A career transition coach can help you weigh your options without doing damage to your career.

You could say, “I have spent years developing contacts, handling crises, motivating others, and building financial security so that I can finally do what I really love.”

Frame the Situation

When we’re unhappy in any situation, we’re likely to frame our position as stuck, pressured, or misplaced. That can lead to thoughts of having “wasted” your life with a spiral down from there. What if, instead of thinking, “I’ve thrown my life away on this job…”, you reframe the story you tell yourself into something more positive.  You could say, “I have spent years developing contacts, handling crises, motivating others, and building financial security so that I can finally do what I really love.” Focus on reframing the story to be one of forward movement instead of stagnation.

The Next Steps

If you’ve fallen out of love with your job, you’re in a place of decisions. You need to get serious about determining if you want to change, how immediately you wish to make a change, what you want to gain from the difference, and how much you’re willing to risk/lose for the change. You also need to learn how to get your skills aligned to successfully move to your next role if you decide that it’s time to leave. If you’ve invested years of effort and training in getting into your current position, handle this process with thought, planning, and care to ensure that you can get through it without regrets.

It can be essential to seek help to build up a smart, safe strategy for getting to the next place. Emotions like fear and optimism can make it hard for us to make good decisions. Seeking career coaching can make all the difference.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.