I recall being on-site with a client for a very short project that didn't last more than two weeks. During the project, we ended up working long hours, getting started early and working late in the evenings.
There was a gentleman who sat near our workgroup but was not part of the project team. Let's say is name is Carl — which is purely fictional for this article. I noticed that every day when Carl arrived, he would reach into his briefcase and pull out pictures of his family and other items to personalize his work area. When Carl's workday came to a close, he would take everything from his personalized desk space and place it back into his briefcase before silently walking out the door.
When Friday arrived on the last week of the short project, I decided to ask Carl about his daily process. I asked, "Why do you take all your things out of your briefcase each morning, only to pack them up when your work day ends?"
His response was simply...
"Because I don't know if I am coming back tomorrow."
Carl was as serious as anyone I have ever seen. I realized that very second that he hated his job.
This was back in the days before LinkedIn or the other social networks that we utilize on a daily basis. The company he worked for has long since left this part of the country and I lost touch with the individuals on the project team for that short two-week project. So, I am not able to tell you how much longer Carl kept repeating that same process or tell you what he is up to now. (I honestly cannot even remember his real name, but I am pretty certain it is not Carl.)
Anyone who has left a job can appreciate that realization when you know it is time for a new opportunity. Most of us are quicker to respond than Carl, continuing to return to a place of employment straddled with disdain and bitterness.
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For those wondering if you are on the path to being Carl, I thought I would share a few signs that may be indicators that it is time for a career change:
You experience a lack of motivation regarding your career/objectives.
You tend to disagree with most corporate decisions — even if you keep your views to yourself.
There is a perceived lack of appreciation felt in your workplace.
Your roles and responsibilities do not challenge you.
You and your manager often do not see eye-to-eye.
If you find yourself struggling with one or more of these, then your gut might be telling you it is time for a change. If you find yourself meeting each of the elements above, you might not be too far from being another iteration of Carl.
In the ideal work environment, weekly one-on-one meetings with your manager should provide an opportunity to talk about the items noted above. Of course, if your manager is disengaged, this can present a challenge to stay in your current place of employment. In these cases, seek out a manager at a similar level as your manager, a team member from the Human Resources department, or your manager's supervisor. If you believe salvaging a position at your current employer is not an option, then certainly make the best of your situation while you seek out new opportunities.
Being that guy in my example (Carl) isn't really helping anyone. Before our short conversation, Carl never told me he was frustrated. If nothing else, he wasn't that guy who tends to be overly vocal and critical in order to bring down the rest of the group. However, I believe Carl's current situation wasn't helpful to anyone involved with his employment at the company where I participated in the short two-week project.
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts. Have you ever been that guy in my example?