Six Signs You’re In The Wrong Job

Life is simpler than we make it. You probably don’t need an assessment to tell you if you are good at your job. If you are honest with yourself at all, you should definitely know if it is time to move on. But many of us are unwilling to say it out loud – especially if spitting out the truth might force us to spend time and effort changing big parts of our lives.

Not everyone in the world can have his or her perfect job. But no human being should have to spend most of their only life doing something they are not good at – and which makes them unhappy.

Here are six signs that you may want to start looking for a new job. If you struggle to get out of bed on a workday or live solely for the weekend, you could be in the wrong job, wrong organization, or both.

1.    Nothing Comes Naturally

As head of human resources for a large manufacturing division I witnessed and documented some workers in the exact same job turn out twice as much as their counterparts – and with far fewer errors. The workers that sped through their duties made it look easy and effortless. For the slower ones, it seemed taxing and difficult.

The successful employees were playing to their strengths, doing what came naturally to them. For the less successful employees it required much more effort and energy. Most of the roles required strong attention to detail and focus, the ability to follow precise instructions, and good hand-eye coordination. Those that did not possess such natural talents were not successful or happy in their jobs.

Even before we had to work for a living, we all had to admit our limitations. When I was a child, I wanted to be a musician. After six years of struggling through private piano lessons, two years of acoustic guitar, and a year of being unsuccessfully tutored by my grandfather on harmonica, I realized I would be crummy at any job that involved playing an instrument. My wife, on the other hand, was born with a natural gift for music. A few Christmases ago I gave her an electric guitar. She had never played one before but, in less than 20 minutes, she was strumming out her first song. She can also play violin, piano and sing like I could only in my dreams.

Be honest with yourself and others about what you do well and what you don’t and seek a job that best fits you.

2.    Consistently Poor Feedback

The clearest clue you can get about your choice of jobs is the consistent feedback you get from others. If your life is filled with negative comments and few rewards, it’s probably not because the world is out to get you. You are just in the wrong job.

I once worked with a waiter that always received bad tips and poor customer comments. She complained about her customers during and after every shift. “This place has the worst and cheapest customers!”

My fellow waiters and I were quite happy with our 20 percent tips. Unfortunately for her, no one told my co-worker that she would receive the same poor tips at any restaurant she worked. So when you receive constant negative feedback, consider the possibility that you are the problem. Be honest and find yourself a better fit.

3.    You Are The Ugly Duckling

Tonight I read the Ugly Duckling to my five-year-old daughter before bed. In the story, a duck that everyone considers ugly struggles through his life until discovering he is actually a swan. Everything was difficult for him because he hadn’t figured out what he really was. A beautiful swan makes a horrible duck. A brilliant engineer might also make a lousy – and unhappy – sales associate.

One of the reasons so many studies report mass worker disengagement is because so many employees fake it. They do a job they really don’t connect with because they don’t know of a better option and need the work.

Believe it or not, I knew a flight attendant that didn’t enjoy travelling. She took the job because it gave her the opportunity to relocate to where her boyfriend lived. When her co-workers were excitedly talking about their next destination, she was calculating how many hours it would be until she arrived back home. She finally quit and is now a happy and successful school teacher.

If you feel like you don’t fit in, you probably don’t. People that are drawn to different types of jobs usually have personality traits in common. Whether it be a payroll administrator, engineer, accountant, sales person, actor, or flight attendant, people that do specific jobs tend to find a connection with others that do the same type of work. Unlike the ugly duckling, they feel like they belong to the “family” and there is piece of mind that goes along with it.

4.    No Desire To Share

The owner of Gooche’s Bakery, a Boston-based health cookie business, is a former actor, personal fitness trainer, and a good friend of mine from my New York theatre days. Interested in cookie baking since he was eight, he has a personal connection to each cookie that leaves his bakery. In fact, he is involved in baking each and every one. When you ask my friend about his business, he glows with pride about the quality of his ingredients, the care of his process, the cleanliness of his kitchen (I have toured his bakery and would eat off the floor) and the benefit to his health-minded and discerning customers. He can go on for hours about what he does and even if cookie baking is not your thing, his passion is truly inspiring.

Most people spend the majority of their waking life in a job or talking about it. If even speaking about your work is not enjoyable or even embarrassing, you are not doing your employer – or yourself – any favors by not looking around for something that you are more passionate about.

5.     Just In It For The Money

A few days ago I overheard the following conversation:

“How’s your new job going?”


“Where are you working again?”

“This uncooked pizza place.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a place that puts tomato sauce and toppings on pizza dough and you cook it at home.”

“Sounds bizarre.”

“Yeah, I didn’t come up with the stupid idea, I’m just doing the job for the money.”

We all need money. However, working solely for money is going to make it a lot harder to enjoy your life. Reset your compass by asking yourself what you would do if you did not need money. Then start looking around strategically for ways to get paid doing what you love – at an organization or working for yourself. For example, a quick web search will lead you to people making a great living full-time and part-time doing what they love – writing, knitting, gardening, cooking, baking, designing, teaching, training, and whatever else you can imagine. Use their examples to try and figure out how you can apply your skills and passion to create a niche for yourself.

6.    You Can’t Be You

The British restaurant chain Wagamama has an employee slogan, “Be you. Be Wagamama.” Underneath the credo reads “a chance to be yourself.” The employees that work at this successful business are unique and colorful . . . they are encouraged to be what makes them great, themselves. Pretending to be someone else while at work or at anytime in your life will not make you happy.

If you find yourself victim to any of the above signs, don’t quit your job today, but start looking for a new one that will make you happier tomorrow. Weekends are great, but they are only two days of an entire week!

Please check out my new book How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love at


Published on Forbes, 8th April 2014

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.