If you’ve got an itch, what do you do? Our first natural response is to scratch the spot of the itch. But what happens if this site is your job?
As careers progress (or don’t progress), levels of job satisfaction can fluctuate and it’s not unusual to feel unsettled. Having itchy career feet is an old problem and it’s not just something you get after 5 or 7 years either!
Serious itching can be caused by allergies, disease, emotions and infections, and whilst all these relate to dermatology, they can also apply to jobs.
Some of us feel like we have an allergy to where we work and when things get under our skin we get irritated. Perhaps the system you are working in isn’t supportive enough and you feel constrained and disillusioned. If your workplace feels toxic and it starts impacting negatively on your wellbeing then it’s time to press ‘shift’ as no amount of scratching will offer relief but just make things worse. Why stay in a place that makes you miserable?
If things aren’t working out then there a few signs you’re ready to move. For example,
1. You are no longer excited about your work
2. You feel overwhelmed, overworked and cannot switch-off
3.Your work no longer aligns with your values, interests and goals
4. You get irrationally annoyed at your students
5. You become bitter, angry, confused, and find it hard to be professional when dealing with some members of staff
6. You can’t focus and you find yourself becoming anxious and stressed
7. You become fearful, feel paralysed, demotivated and burnt out
8. You rebel against meetings and see no value in them
9. You panic at the idea of staying in the same job for the next 5 years
Gloomy stuff but some itches are positive ones. You might love your job and where you work but feel that it makes sense to dip your toe in the waters of a new position, gain new experiences and develop your professional calling so you don’t stick in a comfort zone, stuck in a rut or become stale.
If you get excited about the idea of opening yourself up to new possibilities and opportunities beyond your current position, then this is a positive sign that your career is ready to change gear and change direction. Itching to make a switch for all the right reasons is exciting. But if you do have an itch, don’t be rash and consider carefully the options around what your next move could be. If talking to a career coach and taking a personality profile isn’t up your street, then stand back and identify what you career values and motivators are and make a balanced decision about whether it is time to change.
Career Itch: Five Tops Tips
1. Decide what’s important
We like to think we know what we want but our priorities change and we value different things at different stages in our career. Invest some time in thinking about what is truly important to you. You might be looking for more flexibility, independence and a better work-life balance or you might be focusing on a higher salary and a position with more responsibility.
It’s important to ponder any would-be career change against your own priorities and preferences, not the expectations of others.
2.Compare and contrast
We know that no job can be perfect and there can be soggy days when you get bogged down but it is worth reflecting on the highs and lows compared to the ‘grass on the other side’. Elsewhere might be greener but it might be artificial turf and the level of job satisfaction might be worse.
Make a list of the areas where your present job is meeting the requirements you have for your career, and write down where it could do better.
It’s a sensible idea to have a chat with your line manager and a couple of trusted colleagues about how you are feeling just so that you can be sure you haven’t overlooked any potential internal routes; there could be new opportunities coming up you may not be aware of.
If you don’t ask then you don’t get so if you are looking for a more flexible working arrangement, explore them with your boss and be honest about what you want. Contact colleagues in other institutions and share experiences.
You have a tough job but it could be a question of changing your mindset and learning how to perceive what you do as being less stressful. You may need to invest time in productivity hacks and deliberately infusing your day with positive thinking, meaning and purpose so you can enjoy what you do every day.
5. Keep moving forward
If you have made your mind up to move on then create an action plan with timescales, define your goals and try not to let any rejections puncture your confidence and progress. Don’t sabotage your efforts to improve. If you want to move, then you will but don’t just take anything as it has to align with your professional vision and values.
There’s nothing wrong with getting itchy feet and if the reasons to leave your current job outweigh the reasons to stay then go with your gut instinct and start scratching so you can realise your professional aspirations and safeguard your wellbeing.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.