Have you ever asked yourself why you go to work?

We can’t all be Sam Smith doing it for the love, and most of us do have money on our minds. But there’s more to work than paying the bills. We spend most of our limited time on this earth working, and it has the potential to make you inspired, motivated and fulfilled - if you’re lucky enough to pick the right job. But why leave it to luck? (Unless you really do want to be a pop star, in which case... good luck.)

Plenty of us were forced too soon to make a decision about our future careers, whether it is by going to university, to college, or taking a job. That first (or second or third!) decision is important, but it doesn’t have to define your career if you don’t want it to. Changing career paths can be stressful, but it may just be exactly what you need to get the most out of your life.

Thankfully, changing careers is not as difficult as it might seem. With the advent of distance learning and online courses, changing careers is now a lot less intimidating and complicated than it used to be. You can earn new qualifications from the grandeur of your exquisitely decorated and expertly organised home office... or the comfort of your bed.

And you don’t have to give up your salary! One of the main benefits of distance and online learning is that you can earn while you learn (although you might have to leave your bed-office for the earning part. Life is hard.)

Plus, adding additional skills and qualifications to your CV will give you more than a road into a new career: it will show employers that you are keen to learn new skills that will help you progress within your chosen field. 

So how do you know for sure that you want to take the plunge?

 1. Your motivation has plummeted

It can be tricky to distinguish normal Monday-morning lack of motivation from real, unhappy-with-your-career lethargy. Are you always late for work, no matter what you do? Do you feel bored within five minutes of arriving at the office? Do you pass the time by playing games or checking your personal email instead of doing actual work? If you’re constantly just waiting for the day to end, and you can’t find any joy in what you do, it might be time to move on.

 2. You're looking for ways out

Somewhere on your hard drive is a draft of your resignation letter. You're looking at job postings on your work computer. You're hoping to win the lottery, even though you haven't actually bought a ticket. You're hoping some distant, wealthy, unknown relative will leave you their money when they die.

You no longer look at your job as something that's useful to you – and you’re looking for anything else.

3. You're getting sick

You've noticed a few changes in your body over the last few months. You're getting sick more often than ever. Your weight is fluctuating, plummeting, or rising. You're losing sleep and your skin is breaking out. Maybe you've even experienced anxiety or panic attacks. Your body has ways of signalling that you are overburdening yourself, and in the long run, it's best if you take notice.

4. You feel like you're spending too much time at work

Do you feel as if you're not spending enough time with your family and friends? If so, chances are that there's an imbalance between your personal time and your work time. When you're missing out on birthdays, holidays, and trips to the beach, it may be time to consider a new job.

Remember: work to live, don’t live to work. It’s a cliché for a reason.

5. You dread going to work

Few people are probably happy about getting up and going to work, but truly dreading it is different game entirely. How does the thought of going back to work on Monday make you feel on Sunday nights? Do you simply wish that Mondays didn't exist, or do you dread the work or the environment itself? When the thought of going to work consistently affects you in a negative way, it’s probably time to start building your qualifications for a career change.

6. You can't stop thinking about money

How do you feel about your salary? Does it adequately compensate for the work that you do? If you're constantly worrying about your expenses, your bills, and your savings (or lack thereof), then you might not be getting paid enough. If your company makes you feel like they're doing you a favour by paying you, or if your reasonable requests for a raise have been turned down, then maybe it's time to look for a company that can value you more.

7. You're stuck in a rut

Growth is essential in a job. You're supposed to learn new skills and develop both personally and professionally. Delve a little deeper into your dissatisfaction – is it coming from everyday boredom, or do you truly think you’ve gotten everything you can out of your job? If you feel like there are more interesting options out there, then maybe you should go check them out.

8. You're going nowhere

How long have you had your particular job? When was your last promotion? Career mobility is key in a job that you want to hold for the next decade or until retirement. No one wants to be stuck in a dead end job. Ask your boss about your opportunities within the company, and make your decision on whether or not to stay put based on the answer.

9. Your co-workers keep leaving

What's the name of that girl in the next cubicle? How many other people have occupied that same cubicle since you've been in yours? A high turnover rate is a red flag. There's a reason that people keep leaving, and you might not be seeing it.

It's time to look. Your company might not be all that bad, but a steady stream of perfectly good employees leaving can be a hint that there are better opportunities elsewhere.

10. Illegal things are happening within the company

You've witnessed or experienced verbal abuse, sexual harassment, or illegal activities. Your boss may be evading taxes, falsifying data, or breaking employment laws. Not everyone is cut out to be a whistle blower, but no one can be expected to stay in such a toxic work environment. The best case scenario is that you get out of this situation unscathed. The worst case scenario is that, if you stay long enough, you can get pulled into illegal or unethical activities that can hurt your career, your reputation, or both.

So you’re ready to make a change. What next?

If one or more of these signs relate to you, then it may be time to start reviewing your current situation. If you do decide that leaving your existing job is the right decision for you, then it’s important that you have options ready. Under most circumstances it’s better to have offers on the table before you leave and a new qualification or two under your belt, lest your temporary bed-office become your permanent place of unemployment.

It can be hard to accept that changing careers might be the best course of action, especially if you’ve worked hard to get to where you are now. It’s tough – but once you make that decision, a whole world of opportunity awaits.