What To Do If You Are Hitting A Dead-End In Your Job

May 16, 2018

by Ravi Raman

Are you hitting a dead-end in your job? Not all jobs should last forever. Sometimes our job ends through no fault of our own. Companies downsize. Business strategies change. Other times, we can’t live up to the expectations or requirements of the job. We are fired.

There are still other situations where we need to decide if it’s time to pull the plug on a dead-end job. Is it time to resign? Should I join another company? Should I quit my job to travel the world? Should I go back to school and change my career in a significant way?

When you feel like you are in a dead-end job, these questions will all come up. It’s essential, however, to be thoughtful about your situation. Saying, “Sure, you should quit your job!” is easy advice to dish out. It’s not always the best advice.

Here are five things you should consider if you are hitting a dead-end in your job.

1. Get engaged in your work

It’s counter-intuitive. One might think that a dead-end job is one where you should apply less effort. However, the danger is in becoming detached and aloof, which will make it harder to improve your situation. Given that roughly 70% of employees are disengaged at work, there is a lot of room for improvement.

The first step is to find some way to get engaged in your work at a high level. For example, pick a few specific tasks or a particular project, and act as if this task/project is the most important thing you could ever do. When you are fully engaged, it makes it easier to navigate situations, even if that means finding a new (and more challenging role).

2. Identify what you want out of your career

People get stuck in a job when they aren’t clear on what they want out of their work. What do you want in your career? What skills do you want to use (and learn)? Where can you make the most significant impact? How do you want to spend the 80,000 hours of your life that you spend working?

3. Manage “up” and put your boss to work

Your boss can be a crucial and powerful lever in turning around your work situation. If you feel stagnated in your job, first – take the time to get clear on what you would like out of your career. Then, have the courage to discuss your interests for more significant challenges and opportunities with your boss. In coaching parlance, this is called “managing up,” where an employee coaches their management in helping them!

4. Seek mastery and skill improvement

Mastery is a never-ending journey. Whatever you do, be it computer programming or woodworking, has a range of capability within which practitioners can operate. What would it look like to take your skill level up a notch (or two, or three!). When your skills advance, opportunities for contribution and impact at work increase dramatically.

5. Know when it’s time to move on

We spend almost half of our waking hours at work on most days. It’s crucial that your work is of a type where you feel fairly compensated, adequately challenged and fully engaged. If you find that too many weeks and months are passing by where you feel stuck in your role, it might be time for you to move on. If your best efforts don’t change how you think about your job, start exploring other opportunities.

Further reading 📚

How to make your work more joyful and less miserable today 

You know the feeling, sleeping walking your way from meeting to meeting. Getting lost in your phone instead of working on that document. Retyping your to-do's instead of actually doing them. The problem is rampant.  While this is clearly an issue for owners and...

Quitting Twitter and getting on with my life

I quit Twitter the other day. It has nothing (really!) to do with Elon and everything to do with how social technology seems designed to fracture, divide and capture attention at the cost of well-being and personal (and group) performance. Moderation was not working...

What I’ve learned this year (2022 edition)

John Dewey, an education reformer and philosopher, is well-known for his understanding that learning doesn't come from experience. It comes from reflecting on experience. Being December as I write this, there is a certain nostalgia in the air as the year comes to a...

It’s time to step off the time management treadmill from hell

There once lived a King in a faraway land. A tyrant who was ruthless though successful in the eyes of the world. Commerce flourished even if heads rolled under his heavy-handed reign. Whatever he wanted was had at any price. Eventually the King was challenged to a...

Bad news and the power of suspending judgment

Michael slipped on a patch of ice getting into a friends car and fell. A self-proclaimed "klutz," taking a tumble wasn't out of the ordinary. This time, embarrassment wasn't the problem. A lingering pain in his wrist meant something serious was going on. An MRI would...