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Just as every happily married woman can’t help but fantasize about what life would be like with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney instead of the snoring, sheet-hogging lump beside her, it’s completely normal to fantasize about leaving your job once in a while.  Some days, you’re just going to hate your job.  That’s the way things go.

But what happens when “some days” turns into “every day”? What happens when the mere thought of your job sends shivers down your spine?  And how do you know the difference between an uncomfortable but temporary vocational version of the 7-year itch, and a job that is unhealthy for you to stay at any longer?

The first thing you need to do is determine if the job is actually the problem. Sure, your job might seem terrible, but what if the real culprit is you?  What if your ideas of what a job is supposed to be like are way out of whack? If that’s the case, your next job won’t be any better—you’re actually going to bring your problems with you throughout your career!

Here are the gut-check questions you should be asking yourself:

1. Have you ever felt fulfilled, or at least satisfied, at any job you’ve had—even if just for a few months? If the answer is no, it’s very possible that your standards are simply too high. After all, jobs are called “work” not “fun”. While it’s absolutely possible to find a career you love—and we hope to help you how on this site—even people who love their careers don’t wake up excited to go to the office every day. So if you’ve never had a job that you find any fulfillment in, it’s very possible that the real issue is what you expect a job to be.

2. Have you tried to make things better? It’s amazing how much people complain about things instead of working to change them. If your boss is so hard on you that you can’t stand working for him anymore, don’t quit before you’ve asked him to be more kind and gentle—and given him a chance to improve! If you can’t stand working the late shift, ask if there are other opportunities! And if you find your work boring, ask if there is more interesting work for you to do! Sometimes the answer will be no—in other words, the situation is here to stay, whether you like it or not. But sometimes the response will be: Thank God you spoke up! I had no idea! Let’s make it work better! Either way, you have nothing to lose by simply asking or making a suggestion. If the powers that be are unreceptive, then you know moving on is the only way to go.

3. Do you have money for a job search? Let’s face it: looking for jobs takes time, especially in the current economy. If you quit your current job before finding another, you’re going to need some savings to get you through the job search process—to be save, at least three months’ savings. And don’t forget the expenses related to a job search: travel to and from interviews, parking fees, printing costs, and in some cases, a new suit to look your very best. If you haven’t allowed for these expenses, you need to stay at your current job a bit longer and accrue some savings before you can afford to leave. In the meantime, start your job search now!

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