Long before I was making ends meet as a freelance writer, I did what everyone does – worked in any job that would take me.
Waiting tables at an Italian restaurant – tick.
Working behind a bar – tick.
A number of interchangeable retail jobs which involved smiling, upselling and monitored lunch breaks. Tick, tick, tick.
By far the worst of all these was a two-year stint at the local post office. Turns out selling stamps is as dull as it sounds and the job sucked the soul right out of me.
When work becomes work
At least I wasn't alone, in fact, I was in the majority. A 2016 study, the Snapshot of the Australian Workplace found that 56 per cent of Australian workers are not satisfied with their current job, with a further 49 per cent admitting they plan to look for a new job within 12 months.
But the real challenge for job-seekers is recognising the red flags when it comes to your career. At some point we all complain about our jobs, but it's learning how to differentiate between "this sucks right now" and "I genuinely need to quit"
1. The toilet is your safe space
Ever find yourself sitting in the work toilet scrolling through Instagram silently hoping you've killed half an hour? The good news, you're not the only one. It's pretty standard, with recent UK research finding that 57 per cent of workers admitted to hiding in the toilet to pass the time 'at least three times a week.' That's a loss of around $1.3 billion a week: talk about the bottom line.
When you're at the point where you'd rather sit and listen to the terrifying symphony of sound echoing from the cubicle of horrors next to you, then it's time to go.
2. You're binging YouTube
YouTube is great for loads of things – listening to music, watching videos of people hurting themselves and judging incorrect grammar in the comments section. One thing it actively works against, however, is productivity. The YouTube rabbit hole is a genuine thing, and it's especially dangerous at work. You load up one video in the morning, and before you know it, the office is empty, and you're a flat-earther.
If you're cancelling meetings to watch Joe Rogan, safe to say you're primed for a switch.
3. "Maybe I will open a deli?"
Daydreaming is a beloved sport for bored employees who hate their jobs. Co-workers gather outside in the park, eating their depressing lunches and talking about what else they'd rather be doing. "I've always wanted to write a children's book," says Craig from accounts. Yeah sure, Craig, you can't even write an interesting email.
Back when I had an actual job, I knew it was time to go when my long-held dream of opening a deli transitioned from "what if" to "whereabouts?" I started looking at locations before realising I had no idea how to run a business and would almost certainly devour the profits.
That's not to say you shouldn't chase your dreams. But if you start overreaching to escape your current job, maybe the logical step isn't to change lanes, just change jobs.
4. You panic at the thought of mates leaving
Work wife, office husband – we all need that special someone at work that we can lean on in the tough times. The academics agree with Gallup studies proving that having a close friend at work makes you both happier and more productive day-to-day. However, the reality of the modern workplace is that people come and go regularly. Desk buddies one day, drunk-crying at their farewell the next.
But if the idea of your work friend changing jobs triggers a panic inside, then that's a serious sign that perhaps you should follow them out the door.
5. It's all you talk about
The most tell-tale sign that you've maxed out on your job is when you start boring people with the constant chat about it. Not a single catch up goes by without mention of your passive aggressive boss or the secretary who can't remember your name.
If you've noticed that people's eyes start to glaze over when you're talking about your job, it's a good indication that you're giving it a lot of air time.
More importantly, though, all that negative chat will have a negative impact.
Research into job satisfaction by Ohio State University found that people who had low job satisfaction early in their career were more likely to have mental health issues later on.
Ultimately, we spend nearly a third of our lives at work, so if these warning signs speak to you (especially if you're reading this story on the toilet at work), think about your next step.