Have You Outgrown Your Job?

These six emotions are your warning signs.

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Sometimes you may find yourself in a work situation that seems enviable to other people. Your job appears relatively safe despite the economy, there’s nothing particularly bad happening and you could likely skate along in your current position indefinitely.

Though others experiencing more visible job problems, such as demoralizing office politics, contentious co-workers or a bad boss, may think you have it made; you know better. When you’ve outgrown your job, the feelings of being underutilized, not challenged and unhappy can be as difficult to deal with as any other work difficulty.

Alternatively, when it’s time to move on from your current position, you may find yourself dealing with the opposite of too much time on your hands: being overworked. While you may have reached a top salary band within your area of expertise, this isn’t always a good thing to your employer, who may see you as overpaid. What’s more, if you’ve been lingering too long at a job you can now do with your eyes closed, you may find yourself overlooked for promotions.

These six red flags indicate you may have outgrown your job:

You're not challenged. If you're not waking up most mornings feeling excited about your job, that lack of passion may indicate that you’re not challenged in a role you’ve had too long. Teri Hockett, CEO of What’s For Work, says she believes it’s a sign that you may have outgrown your job when you no longer have “that feeling you had when you first started working there; thinking about all the possibilities and contributions ahead with a sense of glee.”

If you’re bored, this lack of motivation can indicate that the writing is on the wall with your current position. “Your job might not be 100 percent interesting at every moment,” says Nikki Wallace Wilson, a life coach. “But I believe that 80 percent or higher of your time at work should be enjoyable and interesting.”

You're underutilized. If you feel your skills are not being fully utilized and you have a lot more to offer, this is another indicator that you may be ready to stretch. Are other employees getting plum assignments that in the past had gone to you?

If so, Fred Cooper, managing partner at Compass HR Consulting, explains that this could mean your employer may feel that you have not continued to live up to the expectations from the past because of being bored or unchallenged, not enjoying your current assignment or truly having reached your highest level of interest in the job. “Employers often know when an employee has outgrown their job before the employee does,” he says.

You're unhappy. Do you dread getting up to go to work? If there’s no obvious reason for this such as a mismatch between yourself and your boss, certain colleagues or the corporate culture, then this sense of free-floating malaise may be telling you to try something new. Though it seems like feeling unhappy at work would be an obvious red flag, not everyone is in touch with this emotion or immediately connects it to office life. Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice it first.

“Some people don’t realize they’re unhappy with their job until someone points it out to them, or they realize they spend too much time at or outside of work being unhappy about their position,” Hockett says. “It’s the topic that keeps them up at night thinking, ‘What should or will I do?’ They consult with friends and family, seeking advice, to validate their reasoning. They know the answer, which always involves change, but the difficult part is making the change itself.”

You're overpaid. Have you reached the top of the salary band for your position in the industry? If you’re making more than the market is willing to pay for the value you bring, you’re at risk, according to Peter Berner, executive coach. “You’ve outgrown the job’s pay scale," he says. "Someone is waiting to do your job for a lot less money. It’s time to find a bigger job with a new pay grade.”

This situation can be particularly problematic if you’ve taken on increasing responsibilities and expectations have risen, yet you're still in the same salary bracket and position. “Doing more with less is par for the course in today’s economy,” says Stacy Lindenberg, owner of Talent Seed Consulting, LLC. “But if you are bringing much more to your role than ever before, taking on the work that others can’t (or won’t) do for an extended period of time, you should explore opportunities for a promotion.” Needless to say, that exploration may need to take place outside your current company.

You're overworked. Having too much to do in too little time is nothing unusual in the workplace. But if you’ve noticed any of the red flags above in conjunction with feeling overworked, then your excessive workload could be related to outgrowing your present role. “If you are being loaded with additional tasks beyond the requirements of the position, it’s because your capabilities have outstripped the necessities of the current job,” Berner says. “Yes, you’re being used. Move on.”

You're overlooked. Sometimes employees become so valuable in their position that their manager won’t let them grow, keeping them pigeonholed in a role that it’s time to move beyond.

This happened to Paul Serwin. Today he's a business and personal development coach, but he previously worked as a call center supervisor for a rapidly growing business. While he enjoyed the latter job at first and dedicated himself to advancing up the company ladder, he found that when it came time for a promotion, he was passed up because he had become too valuable in his current position to replace. “I worked even harder to prove my worth and despite my efforts I was overlooked again,” Serwin says. “This hung me up for a while until I realized that I was no longer emotionally or professionally satisfied with my work.”

The lesson? If you’ve mastered your job, your employer isn’t valuing your career growth and it’s taking a toll on your satisfaction with your work life – it’s time to spread your wings and find a new opportunity.