A few months after college graduation, I found myself working as a middle school Spanish teacher. Despite the fact that I was pretty good at my job, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
In short, I dreaded going into work each day. It felt like a monumental struggle to actually get myself to walk into the building, and I came home each day feeling exceptionally exhausted and drained. I tried to talk myself into liking my job, but it never worked. Why was was I feeling so dissatisfied and unfulfilled?
Finally, I figured it out: my job was not aligned with my purpose.
While the notion of your "purpose" may seem kind of abstract, there are actually concrete ways of recognizing that your job may not be right.
Of course, everyone's purpose is unique, so there's no "one size fits all approach." That said, here are three signs that your job isn’t aligned with YOUR purpose, no matter what that purpose may be:
1. You simply don’t feel like yourself in your job.
I remember having a moment of profound clarity while lecturing some misbehaving students. In the middle of venting my frustrations to them, I stopped and thought, “Wait a second: Who am I, and who has taken over my body? This doesn’t feel like me at all.”
When a job isn’t right for us, we often have to put on a mask to make it work. It's the same situation with a relationship, or friendship, that doesn't work: something just doesn't quite fit. For example, I am naturally a quiet, reflective person who loves harmonious, peaceful environment. Not exactly a description of your typical middle school classroom, right?
To be successful in that job, however, I felt like I had to become someone else — a person who loved being around people all day and felt comfortable disciplining students. This caused me to feel disconnected from myself, and switching between my true self and this persona was confusing and exhausting.
When you feel you have to suppress your true self at your work, it will feel painful. Plus, the only way you can truly live your purpose is by being your authentic self. Your deepest gifts and talents can only emerge when you are authentically YOU.
2. You would never do anything you do at work in your free time.
You might read this and think, Duh. Who would ever want to do work in their free time?
But try and consider the nuances here, and get honest with yourself. If you weren’t getting paid to do your job, would you ever do any aspect of it in your free time? How you answer this is really telling.
When I asked myself this question, it became really clear to me that the answer was a solid NO. Yes, I loved the Spanish language and enjoyed speaking it, but this was about as far as my interest went.
Fast-forward to today: I find myself in a completely different situation. If I weren’t getting paid to coach, write, and teach about personal growth, I would do it anyway because I love it so much.
3. You have a deep, inexplicable knowing that you are meant to do something else, something greater.
This one is simple, but harder to explain. You just KNOW this is not your path. This deeper knowing does not come from your intellect, but from your very soul.
Some people may call this "intuition," or "a gut feeling." It may even feel impractical or illogical, which usually means you are on the right track. This inner knowing will be a constant, underlying feeling — even if it's just a quiet hum of discomfort. No matter how much you try to talk yourself into liking your job, that feeling is still there: "This just isn't right for me."
So ... what next?
If you do find yourself in a job that isn’t aligned with your purpose, don’t panic! It’s actually a good thing. Your current job is showing you what you DON’T want, so that you can get really clear on what you deeply desire. Trust that the job you currently have is actually an important step along your journey, whether you can see the big picture or not.
The best thing to do now is to start taking action towards a job you DO love. Your current job will feel much more manageable once you know you are on your way to bigger and better things. You'll feel relief knowing this isn't your "forever job." Research new careers, schedule informational interviews, shadow someone you admire. Take those first steps towards a job that is aligned with your beautiful purpose. You've got this!
Click here to access my free E-book “7 Signs You’re In the Wrong Career...and What to Do About It"