5 Tips To Help You Avoid Getting Stuck In A Dead End Job


As a recruiter, I’ve met with thousands of people from different backgrounds, all with problems and challenges with their work life. Talking to a recruiter is therapeutic. It’s also time consuming. So most people don’t go through the effort unless they’re stuck in a dead end job or their current circumstances have become untenable.

When people hit a pain threshold associated with staying with their present company, it triggers action such as applying for jobs, taking calls or responding to messages from recruiters they’d otherwise ignore. This threshold is different for everyone. For some people it’s around the 3 year mark, for others it’s more like 3 months. Of course, there are endless reasons for wanting a change but the way most people address this common pattern results in mass career stagnation.

Most people’s careers plateau for too long. They remain stuck in a dead end job and wait in the area of indifference whilst they try and see what’s available outside of their current circumstances. Moving jobs is a messy process, and it can be years before someone becomes motivated enough to leave their current job. In the mean time, they’ve stopped growing and learning.

My hypothesis is this: indifference is worse than unhappiness. Everything in nature is either growing or dying. When our careers plateau and the learning stops, then we’re not just at a stand-still, we regressing.

The speed at which you address this plateau is the difference between top talent and solid performers. High flyers recognize that they need options to get to the next level before the learning starts to slow down. Anticipation is a skill that will out-muscle the competition.

Wayne Gretzky once said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where the puck is.”

Are you skating to where the puck is going?

There are some obvious solutions to avoid getting stuck in a dead end job:

1. Talk to your boss

Tell them that you don’t want your learning to stall whilst you still feel challenged. If you’re a valued employee then prompt him/her into giving you extra responsibilities.

2. Network internally

If you work in a large corporate office and there’s no obvious upward move, there may be opportunities to progress your career sideways. Top talent is always well-networked.

3. Befriend a headhunter

What about external options? Getting to know the top two or three headhunters in your field could be an avenue to explore. It depends on how trustworthy they are and it could help you benchmark where you are versus your industry peers. Just be aware that being on a recruiter’s database does leave you open to constant calls and emails about jobs with companies that just don’t appeal. If you go down this route, be clear about what it is you want and which companies you’d like to join and see if they have influence within those firms.

4. Search job boards

Looking on job boards is a bit like shopping after-Christmas sales. After rifling through crap for hours you may find something great. The chances are though that it already has multiple people fighting over it. Jobs posted on job boards are usually old or hard-to-fill vacancies. More often than not, you don’t know who the company is or even if it even exists. Is just a trap to get your CV into the hands of a recruiter? I’m not saying don’t look, but prepare to invest some time to it.

5. Social networking

LinkedIn is a valuable tool for any high flyer. What’s stopping you contacting someone that works in a firm you’d like to work for and asking them to meet for coffee? Keeping your options open and meeting people whilst you’re currently employed is critical. You could also look on specific careers pages of companies you want to join. Yet most of the time unless there’s a suitable position you won’t hear anything back. Better still, you could follow them on Talent Rocket and if they like your profile then you’ll be liked back. Twitter is becoming more prominent in the networking space. It’s worth building relationships with the influencers in your market so tweet, share and re-tweet interesting content that demonstrates your market knowledge.

In summary, you have many different ways to keep active and prevent career procrastination. We can’t predict what will happen to our professional lives. Why wait until you hate your job before you take action. Be proactive–I recommend having at least 3-5 high level contacts in companies you’d like to work for, so when the time comes around to move your career will never stall again.


About the Author

Chris Platts – Founder of Talent Rocket a company discovery and career management site enabling busy people to manage their careers. Ex-recruiter. I write about finding purpose, reinventing recruitment and life in startups.

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