Unhappy at Work? Answer These 7 Questions to Determine Your Next Move

Unhappiness at work is a personal and professional growth opportunity.

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By John Boitnott

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Roughly 64 percent of Americans are disengaged at work according to a study conducted by Gallup. To many professionals, this condition is unacceptable. They are working diligently to modify so they can get more joy out of life and more progress in their careers.

Others struggle in this area, floating along uninspired at jobs they dislike. Perhaps convenience, fear of change, obligations or laziness block these folks. Are you one of them? If you are, here are seven questions you should ask yourself to figure out what you should do next.

1. What does success mean to you?

Let's tackle the hardest question first. If you know what success means for you, you'll be better equipped to know if your current job, company, and profession are likely to help you be successful.

Often success is coupled to things you are passionate about. For example, if your passion is being a great parent, then perhaps professional success is having a job that gives you the income and flexibility to provide for your children.

If you're unsure of what success means for you, answer this question first before moving on. Otherwise, you'd be considering a career change without first understanding how a career change can best serve your long-term goals.

Related: How to Be Successful and Live the Life You Want

2. Do you find your work rewarding?

Go with your gut in answering question number two. If you find your job rewarding, you'll answer affirmatively right away. If you hesitate, the answer is probably "no."

If you find the work rewarding, then you may be feeling disengaged because of the organization for which you're working. If that sounds right, you can either work to fix your organization, or you can jump ship.

If the answer is "no," then consider question three.

Related: Taking a Job Overseas Is Challenging, But So Rewarding

3. Are you excited about your career prospects?

While not ideal, it is sometimes the case that early professional dissatisfaction can lead to long-term contentment. This is often true for professions, such as law or finance, where tenure is a meaningful component of advancement. If your long-term career prospects are exciting, then find a way to grind it out by working for an organization that makes your early years as bearable as possible.

On the other hand, if you aren't excited by your long-term prospects, and you aren't satisfied with your work as it is today, it's time to contemplate a career change.

Related: 4 Reasons Employees See a Bleak Career Path and Quit

4. Is your manager equipped and motivated to help you advance your career?

Personal and professional growth is considerably harder without a knowledgeable and attentive professional mentor to rely on or look up to. Ideally, this person is your direct manager.

It's a red flag if your manager isn't taking time out of his or her day to meet with you weekly, or at the very least, bi-weekly. Similarly, if your one-on-one meetings with your manager feel more like a status report than an opportunity for you to ask questions and receive feedback, your manager probably isn't helping you grow.

If this sounds like the problem, the first step is having a candid conversation with the manager, and with the manager's supervisor. If that isn't possible, or hasn't worked, consider switching to another team within the company, or to another company.

Related: What Bad Managers, Good Managers and Great Managers Do

5. Are you confident your company will be successful in the long run?

It is dispiriting to work for a company with poor long-term prospects. Why strive for excellence when your company is not and will not be successful?

If this sounds familiar, you'll need to understand whether or not your lack of enthusiasm is related to the work (your responsibilities, and prospects), management or company outlook. Otherwise, you may find yourself just as dissatisfied while working for a more successful company.

Related: 8 Telltale Signs Your Company Is Going Under

6. Do your colleagues help you to grow professionally?

The best organizations hire and retain world-class talent. As a result, employees at successful companies don't need to rely just on managers to grow professionally. They can also receive feedback from peers.

I have found some of my greatest "mentors" to be people who I work with who are 10 years younger than me.

It's easier to feel motivated at work when colleagues are motivated and successful themselves.

Do you feel as though you are surrounded with "A" players who care about what they do?

If you answered "no," and would like to continue working in your current field, consider investigating question seven.

Related: Can Peer Feedback Lead to Better Self-Awareness?

7. Would a degree help you to meaningfully advance your career?

Though it may be a misguided hiring practice, companies that hire and retain the best people often use degrees or higher-degrees as a sorting mechanism to focus only on world-class professionals.

It may be that you would find it more beneficial to surround yourself with elite colleagues, and managers at more successful companies with a particular degree in hand.

A simple trick to answering this question is to turn to LinkedIn the next time you hear about a superstar in your industry. Do that a few times and look at their education experience.

As part of your research, use tools like Glassdoor or Payscale to see if a particular degree meaningfully increases your salary. And look at education requirements associated with your dream jobs.

Unhappiness is an opportunity.

Unhappiness at work is a personal and professional growth opportunity. Use your discontent as an excuse to investigate the cause, or causes that are keeping you from feeling professionally satisfied.

In conducting your research, remember that answering yourself honestly is the only way you'll be able to make the changes necessary to find yourself feeling happy at work.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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