6 Signs You're Stuck in a Dead-End Job

By Robert Half November 30, 2018 at 8:30am

Your job has become so routine that you spend your days counting down to quitting time. You feel your skills, talents and drive gathering rust. Worse, you see no end in sight because your employer can't seem to offer a clear path for growth and advancement.

You’re stuck in a dead-end job, and they call it that for a reason: You're going to stay there unless you consciously steer your work life in a new direction.

All of us want work that provides more than just a paycheck. We want to make a difference. We want to feel appreciated. We want to be challenged. Most important, we want to know our hard work today is building toward a concrete goal. Maybe that means a pay raise, greater responsibility, more satisfying assignments — better yet, all of the above.

If you see none of these things on the horizon, it may be time to re-evaluate your situation. Here are six signs you’re in a dead-end job:

1. Your ideas are consistently ignored or shelved

Everyone has the right to disagree with you. But if you’re rejected by your boss every time you share a suggestion to improve the way you or the team works, you may be heading down a dead-end street. 

2. Your employer doesn't value the role they've given you

If the leadership at your company doesn't value the kind of work you do, they probably aren't going to notice that you're doing a great job. It's demotivating to feel that your manager doesn't appreciate your skills and talents. Put simply, everyone needs a pat on the back once in a while. But there's more at stake than that. It also means you're probably not going to be top of mind when it comes time to fill a more senior role.

3. Your manager can't articulate a clear career path for you 

If you want to grow at your current company, there is no more obvious and important advocate than your manager. It's not a good sign if they can't outline any ways for you to advance at the company. And if they avoid the subject altogether, that may be an even worse sign.

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4. The company's growth has slowed

When a company's revenues have stalled, there are usually fewer opportunities for employees to grow their own careers. If the company has been on a downward slide for more than a couple of years, it may be time to expand your horizons.

5. Your motivation keeps dropping

We all hit lulls at work. Maybe once-challenging tasks have become repetitive. Or maybe you're drained for reasons that have nothing to do with work. But then something gives — a fun new assignment, a break in the weather — and you start to feel your mojo return. But if your motivation has been on the decline month after month — despite having done your best to turn things around — it may be time to polish that resume

6. Your manager gives you the work they don't want to do

Your boss may shower you with tasks and exude gratitude for all you do. But beware if they assign you only the tasks they themselves don't want to do. It may mean they just see you as an assistant rather than someone who has the potential to grow. Or perhaps you are doing such a good job they are reluctant to help you move beyond your current role.

Questions to ask yourself before throwing in the towel

If you’re seeing all these signs, it may be time to make a change. But, as they say, wherever you go, there you are. Before you go through all the trouble of finding a new job, make sure the problem is not with you. Here are a few questions to ask prior to hitting the road:

  • Have I clearly communicated my career goals to my manager?
  • Have I shown that I am willing and able to take on new roles and responsibilities?
  • Does my employer offer training that I am not taking advantage of?
  • Have I looked for ways to expand my current role by identifying unmet needs in the organization?
  • If there is little chance for advancement in my role, are there any other roles with my current employer that could help me learn new skills and address new challenges?

What to do when you know it's time to move on

OK, so you've pondered the above questions and think it's probably time to move on from your current job. But before you look for similar work elsewhere, here are two more questions to ask yourself:  

  • If my employer offered me a promotion, would I really want the new job?
  • If not, is there a job somewhere else in the company that excites me?

If your answer is "No!" to both of these questions, you may need to do more than just look for a better version of your current job. You may need a career makeover. When choosing a new field or industry, think about where there is consistent and sustained job growth. (Check out our list of the top 12 jobs of the future.) If you do decide to change careers, you can often improve your odds of making a successful transition by first taking on part-time roles, temporary work, or project and consulting opportunities.

If you like the type of work you do but desire a fresh start with a new boss and company, start pursuing one. Job seekers with in-demand skills are in the driver's seat in today's employment market. So be proactive and begin the process. There's no reason to head into 2019 languishing in a dead-end job without a plan to improve your situation.

Time to look for a new job? Robert Half can help you find the right opportunity!

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