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  • Writer's pictureQiao Zhang

The "7-year-itch" of career: to change or not to change, you should ask yourself these 3 questions

As cross-culture professionals, non-native speakers in a foreign country, our job & career opportunities are sometimes more limited, due to not being able to speak the native language.

Do we swallow down our dreams and aspirations to conform to the reality?

Do we "go for our dream" regardless what will happen?

How could we balance between reality and "dream", taking what we can find for the moment, enjoying what we are doing everyday while paving the road for a future we aspire to?

If you are currently feeling the "7 year itch" in your current job or career, but wonder whether to change or not considering the reality, here are 3 questions that might help you.

1. What do I want from my current job?

For what I want, what are the things I can compromise or let go, and what are the things I definitely cannot compromise and is my bottom line?

Photo from Unsplash @ christian lue

At different stages of life, our jobs serve different purposes.

When we just graduated, we probably wanted jobs to pay for our bills and student loans, and possibly help us to get a permanent residency or green card to live in the foreign country.

While we matures in jobs and age, and get a little bit more (financial) stability, we probably start looking for something different: e.g. a bigger space to create something new, a particular skill & capability we would like to sharpen, some flexibility so we can look after our family, or even specific company culture, people or values that we want to spend our daily working life with.

Human are greedy, and we want everything, the money, the location, the flexibility, the culture, the title, etc. But in a real world, we usually need to give up something to get something.

So list down what you want from your current job, and rank them with priority.

What is the ONE single most important thing you would like to get from your current job?

To get this, what compromises you are willing to make, and what "shit" you can stand with day-in and day-out?

And what is the bottom line that tells you, that you HAVE to start looking for something else?

Photo from Unsplash @ Markus Winkler

2. When do I know the time for changing a job has come?

Is higher salary or higher title the only reason to leave for the next job?

Photo from Unsplash @ Jukan Tateisi

So when is it the time to change your job?

Jin Montesano, the Leader of People & Culture of Lixil, has summarized the answers into 3 questions, which I found really helpful for my own decision.

She said, every time, when she is not sure whether it is the time to change a job, she asks herself this 3 questions:

1) Am I contributing?

2) Am I learning?

3) Am I having fun?

On a similar note, when I was recording the career podcast series with my fellow coaches Gabriela Nicolae, Diana Toscano and Desislava Staykova-Learn.

Gabi mentioned 3 criteria for a motivating job, based on her studies on neuroscience:

1) Does the job utilize my talents?

2) Does the job provide me stretching but realistic challenge?

3) Does the job gives me the novelty feeling?

(To listen more of our career podcast series, you can visit at here: The reinventyourselfingermany’s Podcast ( )

So, are you contributing? Are you using your talents? Are you learning new things? Are you being challenged?

And ultimately, are you having fun in your current job?

Photo from Unsplash @ Braydon Anderson

3. Is changing jobs the only way to make me happy and contend?

There are more possibilities to make your current working life happier and more engaged.

Photo from Unsplash @ Braydon Anderson

A lot of times, we do not have the liberty to change a job during a particular life phase, maybe due to financial or family situation, or limited job opportunities in the market, and so on.

How do we live that period of time with full engagement and joy, and pave the road for the aspired future, until the next opportunity arises?

Here I would like to share 3 ideas:

1) Job crafting.

A concept developed by Wrzesniewski & Dutton in 2001, job crafting is about taking proactive steps and actions to redesign what we do at work, essentially changing tasks, relationships, and perceptions of our jobs.

The most famous example of job crafting, is about a Janitor who worked in NASA at 1962.

When J.F. Kennedy was visiting NASA, he saw a Janitor sweeping the floor and asked him: " Hi, I am J.F. Kennedy. What are you doing here?"

The janitor answered: "Nice to meet you, Mr. President. I am helping put a man on the moon."

You can not change what you do, but you can change how you perceive it.

Find the meanings in the tasks & relationship in your job, and you will probably perceive your job differently.

For more details of how to do it, please visit here: What is Job Crafting? (Incl. 5 Examples and Exercises) (

2) Get certification in the area you want to venture into and know more people in that field

Career path change usually involves new skills, certification and network.

If you cannot find a job into the new area you want to grow into, start by sharpening the skills required, getting more solid certifications and also meeting more people in the field you want to work in.

You are not only paving the ways for the opportunity to arise, but also learning something you truly love and aspire to, and talking to people shared the same passion and goals.

Isn't that wonderful?

The joy shouldn't be just at the arrival of the destination, but should be along the journey, at everything you are doing.

3) Develop your own "pet project"

What is something that excites you, that you want to find sometime to try out, besides completing your current job?

Find a small pet project, and start driving that project as your own boss. Start small first, pilot it in small circle, get some endorsers, partners and first results, and then start rolling them out to a wider scale.

Like a snowball, keep rolling, and keep growing.

Maybe you will attract the people who want to offer you a job, or meet some-like minded people to start something new together, or even, that snowball can become your 2nd career some day.

Who knows?

And again, most importantly, you are learning, you are being challenged, you are having fun.

As John Milton wisely put it: "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell and a hell of Heaven."

Would you like to stay in Heaven,

or would you like to stay in Hell?

It is your life, it is your choice.

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