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10 Signs Your Career Is Ready for Transition

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Classifieds are on the breakfast table. Transition is on the horizon. Your spouse is dreaming big about a new civilian career. Is it time you do, too, Military Spouse?

For plenty of spouses, the answer is a resounding yes. "We're finally turning away from the military," says Alexis, a Navy wife. "Now I can think about what I really want to do with myself, too."

Alexis' euphoria about a new dream job was not immediate. She was working in alumni relations at a local college, something she had always wanted to do. But Alexis knew something was off, that something in her professional life was not right. 

How did she know? She read the signs that tell military spouses it is time for them to make a transition, too.  Here are the top 10 signs:

1. Your body is telling you it has had enough.

"I would come home from work tired and wake up tired," says Air Force wife Beth of her job in information technology.

Beth, who has worked in IT for the last six years, explains that she loves her job -- in theory. "I like what I have been hired to do," she says. "But that isn't what I end up doing all day."

Instead of waking up, delighted to go to her dream job, she drags herself out of bed, pours herself into the shower, and then lugs herself into work. "I'm never excited," she says. "The thought of work is just exhausting.

Physical exhaustion and the feeling of being burnt-out can be powerful signs that your job and your life are no longer meshing well. "I don't want to work myself into an early grave," Beth says. "I'm headed there without a change."

2. Apathy settles in and pulls up a blanket.

Even if you are not physically exhausted, the toll of the wrong job may wear you out emotionally, like it did for Marine Corps wife Stephanie. "I was really unmotivated in my last job," she says.

She pursued a teaching career straight out of college, and while she always loved the idea that she was helping to educate the next generation, at some point, the enjoyment in her day-to-day just stopped.

"I wasn't excited about the mission," she says. "I wasn't enjoying it. I wasn't disliking it. I just was there. Phoning it in."

Stephanie admits that the last thing parents want is a teacher just "phoning it in." "Where I was emotionally, that was the best I could do. It wasn't the job, the problem was me."  

Stephanie says that looking back, much of her motivation to change careers came from her students themselves. "They deserved more. It was time for a change."

3. Passion slips away.

Maybe you relate to Stephanie, but to a lesser extent. Do you feel like you have lost your purpose and passion at work? 

"Not everyone feels so fully distant from the work they thought would mean everything to them," Stephanie says. "There was a while there when I just struggled to get excited."

While not full-on apathy, feeling like you are missing the drive and delight you used to find in your work may be a warning sign that you need to assess your options. You cannot grow or thrive in a position that squelches your desire to succeed.

4. Envy digs in its claws.

For many of us, holding down the domestic side of the military relationship has meant watching another career bloom while ours has been stagnant, lackluster, less than what we wanted, or possibly non-existent.

Because of that, transition can prove a tricky time. Suddenly, the person whose whole career we have been supporting is getting to think through new options. New, exciting options.

If you find yourself looking through the classifieds and wishing it were you sending out the resumes, it may be time to rethink your plans for yourself.

"For me, it was when my friend got my dream job," says Marine Corps wife Elizabeth. "She was great for the job, of course, but it was the one I always wanted. She wasn't married to the military, so she had the right resume. I'm happy for her, of course. I wish it could be me though."

5. Self-esteem goes down for the count.

We are not talking about your boss calling you out on the TPS report you never turned in. (We can't help you there.) We are talking about the eight bosses, TPS reports filed, done well, and on time job -- and someone is still making it clear you are not good enough.

"I had a boss who was a bully," says Alexis, a Navy wife. "It wasn't that I needed a career change, but I needed to rethink my résumé. How I could reach my professional goals. Working for this woman was not going to work."

Alexis says she cried in the car every day on her way home from work. "She made me feel terrible about my work, no matter how good it was. And myself. I was doing my best so when she critiqued that, I felt it in my heart."

You, like Alexis, may have a strong HR case on your hands, but Alexis knew going to HR could not fix the situation. "I knew I was so affected I needed to leave," she said. Tears on the way home should be a red flag: Something has to give.

6. Talent finds no where to grow.

As a military spouse, you have watched countless promotions. They usually happen at predictable intervals, and they are always worthy of celebration. Promotions say you matter. They acknowledge your hard work and professional growth. They make you feel like you are going somewhere.

"When you go from job to job without promotion, it feels even worse in comparison," confesses Army wife Melanie. "I had to quit that job for a PCS, the other because of deployment and having a family, end up in a job where I was never going to promote. I was going nowhere."

Melanie felt frustration every day. She knew she had potential, but without any position into which she could conceivably grow or a title change that could acknowledge her own professional development, she felt stuck.

"I was annoyed and empty. When I sat at my best friend's husband's promotion, I realized why. You need to be able to grow. You need that to be happy."

7. Potential is dismissed.

Even if your job has the prospect of growth, you may one day realize you are not in line for it. That is what happened to Air Force wife Cheryl. "I was passed over twice," she explains. "In the military, we know what that means. It means the same thing in the civilian world."

Cheryl was dumbstruck. Her evaluations had all been glowing, and she had given her job her all. "They didn't see me as anything more," she says. "I was a great administrator. But to them, that was all I would ever be."

When Cheryl realized that, she knew she had to do something about it. "I spoke with my supervisor and explained [my] concerns," she says. "But it became clear I was pigeon-holed. The only way out was the door".

8. Reward never finds you.

SpouseBuzz reader and military wife Rebecca realized she was facing a necessary career change when she suddenly was doing her job and someone else's -- without the appropriate compensation.

"I was left to do a manager's duties without a raise or promotion -- opening a store and then closing it each day," she tells us. "Working every weekend and holidays even though they knew my husband was deployed."

Being invaluable at work is one thing -- we all want to be needed. But being devalued to the point that your time is not appreciated is not healthy or viable.

9. A fresh start beckons.

Maybe you want to be home with your kids more. Maybe this transition away from active-duty military life makes you want to learn how to photograph, go back to school, or take up some seriously cool crafting business. Whatever it is, when you need a new start, you will know it.

SpouseBuzz reader Shannon had no doubt when it was time for her to pursue a career transition. "When my first thought each morning was, 'is there a reason I have to go to work today? Can I possibly justify staying home?" She writes, "It was the most miserable, awful feeling I could imagine. I ran and never looked back."

10. Dreams of something bigger keep appearing.

You are allowed to dream big. In fact, we are big fans of pursuing your dream job. When you know in your heart that you are doing something that isn't what you are meant to do, we think you should take the risk and go after the Big Dream. As it happens, transition may be the best time of all to give it a try.

We know transition is scary. But like most great opportunities, that is because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work. Landing a good career -- be it a first, second or a third -- that stimulates and fulfills you is hard work.

With all the resources you have access to as a transitioning military spouse, there has never been a better time for you to start thinking about the possibilities.

Will this military transition be a time for you to transition, too?

Related Topics

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