Signs Your Career Needs a Makeover

How to Tell If It's Time to Explore New Opportunities

Portrait of young woman at desk in an office
••• Westend61 / Getty Images

Is your career in need of a makeover? Do you feel like your professional life is at a standstill? Is it time to upskill your credentials so you can move your career forward? How do you know when it’s time to seriously consider whether you’re stuck in a career or a job, and it’s time for a reboot?

There might not be a single glaring warning sign, though there are some indicators that you can look for if you’re not sure where your career is going. It could be something as simple as a feeling in your gut that it’s time for a change. It could be more complicated to make a change if you’re working in an industry that’s in decline or has a high level of wage stagnation.

Warning Signs to Watch For

Besides having a sense that all is not right, there are some warning signs that could indicate that you’ve reached a point in your career where you need to make a transition. That could mean starting a job search, considering a long-term career change, or upgrading your credentials to give your career a quick-as-possible makeover to reposition yourself as a competitive employee or candidate for a new job.

If any of the following are happening to you, it may be an indicator that you need to revamp:

  • You feel stuck in your job. When you feel like you’re stuck in your job and there’s no way to move up the career ladder or transfer laterally into a position that’s a better fit, think about what you could do to change the dynamic. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to move on.
  • You hate going to work. The fact that you cringe at the thought of going to work might be a warning sign that you need a career makeover. Keep in mind, however, that it may just be the job that you hate and you don't need to pursue other career options.
  • Your hours are getting cut back. If your work schedule seems to be including fewer and fewer hours, it may be an indicator that you are lacking some of the skills the employer needs to get the job done.
  • If you’re a freelancer, you’re not finding gigs. The same holds true for freelancers. If your client base is shrinking and you’re not able to line up enough new gigs to pay the bills, you may not have the in-demand skills that are necessary for success in a gig economy.
  • Job openings are scarce. In a strong job market, there should be plenty of opportunities for candidates who are seeking a new job. If you’re spending a lot of time on job sites but not seeing many listings when you search for openings, take the time to investigate why not. Perhaps you need to switch up the keywords you’re using to search, or there may simply not be a large volume of jobs for someone with your qualifications.
  • Nobody wants to hire you. You’re actively applying for jobs but having difficulty getting hired. There are many reasons why you may not have gotten the job, but one of them could be that there are other candidates that are more qualified than you are.
  • Your skills are obsolete. If your resume or LinkedIn profile still says that you’re an expert in Windows Vista or at using a telephone switchboard or any other vintage technologies, it could be hurting your chances of getting hired. There are some skills that should be left off your resume because they will label you as dated.
  • You’re being replaced by automation. Is your job in danger of being taken over by automation? Employers are continuing to rely more on computers and robots to do the jobs that people used to do. It probably won’t happen right away, but if you are in one of those occupations, consider what you’ll do when your job is gone.
  • You work in a shrinking career field or industry. When you’re working in one of the best industries for jobs, upgrading your skills and making a change can be relatively easy. When you’re working in an industry that’s losing jobs, evaluate what transferable skills you have that can be used in another sector.

    Tips for Making Over Your Career

    One of the best ways to makeover your career is to upgrade your skill set. Upskilling, the term used to describe learning new skills and enhancing those you already have, is one of the best ways to get your career back on track. All the skills you learn can be included on your resume and in your LinkedIn summary.

    Depending on your career track, you may need to go back to school to continue your education, or you can supplement your credentials by taking online courses, earning a certificate, participating in a boot camp, or attending professional development classes.

    Start by learning what skills are in demand, and then explore career options that match the skills that interest you the most. Take a career assessment or two — many are free — to help you line up possible matches.

    Think outside the box. What would you love to do next in your career vs. what can you do with your current credentials? Now is a good time to consider all possible options. Then take some time to talk to people in your network who are working in fields of interest. What do they like best about what they are doing? What don’t they like?

    If you are looking at career options that require a degree, take a look at the potential return on investment (how much you’ll boost your wages) for the degree that you’re considering.

    When earning a new degree isn’t in your budget, take classes to acquire the new and more relevant skills you’ll need for jobs of interest. 

    Certificate programs and boot camps are lower cost ways of gaining the skills you need for a career makeover. Attend as many conferences and professional development programs as you can to learn and to connect with people who can help your career.

    There are many online courses that are free or low-cost. Even taking a few courses can bolster your resume and help you transition to a new position or industry. Don’t forget to add everything new to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

    Also, remember that a career isn’t a one- or two-step process. Your career will most likely be transitioning over your working lifetime. Making it a point to keep upskilling, even when you’re not actively job searching, will ensure that you are well-positioned to makeover your career whenever the timing is right for a change.