5 Telltale Signs You’re in a Dead-End Job — and What to Do About It

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Aaliyah Barnes30
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We're not always going to be satisfied in our careers — and that's why we should remember to check in with ourselves from time to time about how it's going at work. Are we being challenged enough? Is there room for growth? Why do I keep getting passed up for that promotion? If these questions continuously garner negative responses from you, then you might just be in a dead-end job. 
Having a fulfilling job means that you're motivated to do good work that aligns with your personal and professional goals. But if you find that that's not the case for you, it's not necessary that you continue to endure this. With proper research and planning, the transition from a dead-end job to one that values your professional growth can go much smoother. The workplace is where we spend the majority of our lives so we should constantly be taking the appropriate steps to make sure that we're getting as much out of our work as our workplace is getting out of us. 

What is a dead-end job?

A dead-end job is a work situation in which you feel that you have little or no room for professional growth. It’s possible for any kind of job to become a dead-end job if it doesn’t align with or propel you towards the overall career goals that you've set for yourself. When your work routine begins to feel like you’re on autopilot every time you walk into work and the work that you’ve been putting in shows little payoff in the form of promotions or a raises —  despite factors like tenure or exemplary work performance — then you might be in a dead-end job. 

When it comes to our professional lives, it's imperative that we choose careers that fulfill us and provide continuous opportunities for us to learn and grow. Our professional desires to take on more responsibility and work our way up the ranks into leadership roles can only be achieved when we are clear with ourselves and those who can help us about our goals, but when that doesn't seem possible in your current situation, it may just be time to call it quits and find the right environment and network of people who are genuinely interested in investing in your growth as a professional. 

What is a menial job? 

A menial job is classified as unskilled labor. Doing a menial job often means performing manual labor and not having the opportunity to utilize field-specific skills and abilities. For example, many degree holders — due to highly competitive job markets — find themselves doing menial jobs post-graduation where they are not actively putting to use their specialized skills in their desired field (which cost them a lot of money, because college isn't cheap). 

While menial jobs are necessary for many people, they are not always the most ideal situation for developing skills that could allow you to climb the ranks in a specialized career field and tend to be of the variety in which specific services are being provided for others. Take, for example, the Amazon warehouse associates who provide the service of preparing our Amazon shipments but aren't usually given an opportunity to internally climb Amazon's ranks into managerial or creative positions. Although menial jobs are viewed as being "unskilled," this does not mean that they aren't difficult. Rather, they are not as professionally challenging and come with a unique set of pitfalls that can range from verbal abuse to downright workers right's violations. Menial jobs tend to have long hours and low pay, and many of the tasks required cause the workers to exert a lot of unnecessary time and energy at their own expense.

In a professional setting, menial jobs or tasks tend to be in line with administrative duties—which aren't always the most useful ways of utilizing employees' creativity and specialized skill sets in the office. There can be a number of factors that can lead someone into the trap of menial work at a dead-end job — a lack of attention from supervisors and company leaders being one of the most common. While every job and task in the workplace is necessary to keep things running smoothly, there isn't always enough of the creative, big-picture workload to go around. Unfortunately, some people will be left with the smaller, supporting roles. But this is an opportunity to inquire about taking on more responsibility within your company or look for that kind of responsibility elsewhere. Doing menial jobs isn't always a sign of being in a dead-end job as much as being stuck with the menial jobs and tasks is. 

5 signs you’re in a dead-end job.

1. You lack motivation and enthusiasm at work.

If you find yourself dreading the idea of going into work every day, this could mean that you have no interior motivations or personal connections to the kind of work that you’re doing. If the work we’re doing isn’t providing us with some kind of internal fulfillment, it’s okay to seek out work that does, while still providing income stability, of course. 

2. Your routine has very little variety.

Wake up, commute to work, clock in, reply to emails, eat lunch at your desk, 3 pm slump, clock out and repeat. If your days at work look a little like this, you may, naturally, become bored at work — and boredom is the enemy of productivity. If you’re bored by the monotony of your work routine, your motivation to do your work and do it well will suffer. 

3. You’re overworked and underpaid.

This sign is self-explanatory. If you find yourself spending long hours producing quality work at your job but also notice that you aren’t being paid fairly for the time and effort that you’re putting in, this means that your company undervalues you. Many companies thrive on undervaluing its employees because it provides them with cheap labor. Remember that knowing your worth keeps you from being taken advantage of!

4. You’re too afraid to leave your comfort zone.

It’s normal for us to reach a point in our lives where we’ve become comfortable with where we are — and if this applies to you, that’s great! This can, however, also come with a few downsides. In order to progress in life and take an active role in that progression, we have to take risks. When we forget to continue learning about our interests and what motivates us, our lives can become stagnant as we cling to what's familiar or what's comfortable. Explore your interests and let them continually motivate you to keep moving forward; there's so much in this world to see and to do!

5. Your company's turnover rate increasing. 

If all your friends jumped off of a bridge, would you? Well, of course the appropriate answer to this question whenever a parental figure asked was "no," but when it comes to making a sound career decision, think of it this way — if your co-workers and colleagues are jumping off of this metaphorical "bridge," but you notice they're all attached to bungee cords, you just might be a little enticed to join them (people do bungee jump off of bridges for fun after all). If you notice that those around you leaving your company en masse, they’re doing so for a reason that likely reflects a dissatisfaction with the company culture. They're likely making this decision with proper safety measures in place. In this case, it's okay if you choose to grab a bungee cord and take that leap as well. 

What to do about it.

• Plan ahead. 

If you’ve become disenchanted with your current career situation, make the effort to plan out your exit strategy. Try to save up six months' to a year's worth of emergency funds for when you decide to leave and embark on a new job hunt. Begin research on your desired career field or position in advance and start updating your resume and reaching out to your Linkedin connections. It’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared. 

• Recognize your skills and potential.

You’ve worked hard to acquire the skills that you have and you’ll work harder to acquire more throughout your personal and career pursuits. A key factor in ensuring that you have all the tools you need to leave a dead-end job and not fall into another one is to know your worth. Get familiar with your strengths and the areas where you can improve so that you go into your new career endeavor well-informed and confident.

• Develop your negotiation skills

Learning to negotiate ensures that you won't be lowballed when discussing your desired salary in a new position. Current and potential employers need your specific skill sets and learning to negotiate means that you can advocate for yourself to be paid fairly for the valuable skills that you are bringing to the company. 

• Be clear about what you want in a new career 

What exactly was it about your workplace or position that made you want to leave it? Be aware of what made you unsatisfied with your workplace or work responsibilities, and with these reasons in mind, make a list of the kinds of benefits you’re looking for in a new work environment or position.

• Reach out to people in positions and career fields that interest you.

People that are in positions that you would like to be in are your most valuable resource. Whether you’re reaching out to an old classmate who got a job working in the creative field you’ve been hoping to break into or letting Linkedin lead you to exactly the right people within that communications firm you’ve been thinking of applying to — there’s no better way to get the career information you’re looking for than directly from a source. 

• Look for ways to build your skill sets outside of work.

Taking on a new hobby can help you learn transferrable skills that can help when it comes time to spice up your resume and make you a competitive candidate in a number of different career fields. For example, you can take a foreign language class; multilingual people are a huge asset in many career fields, and if you're already an aspiring polyglot, then you're not only bettering your chances at achieving your career goals, but you're also achieving a personal goal that provides fulfillment outside of the workplace as well! 

• Take the leap! 

It can be scary to commit to the decision to leave a dead-end job, especially for reasons of stability in a very competitive job market. If you've taken all the appropriate precautions and have done your best to prepare yourself for this decision, then you've laid the groundwork for yourself to bravely and intentionally enter a work situation that is most fulfilling for you. Leaving any kind of job can be high risk, but it can also be high reward, so take a leap of faith!

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