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How to Tell if You're Stuck in a Dead-End Job, And What To Do If You Are

Are you in a job where the only way to move up is to get out? Is your role becoming obsolete, as the skills required are being replaced by technology? Are your colleagues given opportunities that you’re not?

If you answered yes to any of the above, there’s a good chance your career has come to a standstill. That’s right; you’re stuck in a dead-end job.

“A dead-end job is one where you don’t see any opportunity for growth,” says Shweta Khare, a career and job search expert. “An everyday task seems like a burden, not an achievement. Or you’re stuck at a workplace that offers no appreciation or acknowledgement for your work.”

Almost everyone experiences this at some point in their career, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. “It is often difficult at first to discern if you’re in a stagnant position. The realization rarely happens overnight because oftentimes the employee has offered to take on more challenging assignments, but that falls on deaf ears. After hitting enough walls, however, you realize that those efforts and energy could be better placed toward a new job search.”

But before you throw in the towel, you need to determine whether you’re actually in a dead-end job, or you simply don’t like what you’re doing. “The former we need to assess with regard to the company we work for and the job potential itself. The latter is not about the job or the company; it’s about us,” says Joyce K. Reynolds, an expert business coach. “It’s vitally important for each of us to know and assess the difference.”

Here are some tell-tale signs that you’re stuck in a dead-end job:

Your work offers no change in routine; it’s very mechanical. “This is perhaps what you’d be doing five years from now, and your career goals do not align with what you currently do,” Khare says.

“If your position feels static and you don’t see a way to earn further responsibilities or get ahead even after offering ideas on the subject, you’re probably in a dead-end job,” Reynolds adds.

Your skills are not being tapped. “Your supervisor doesn’t tap into your skills set or go beyond what you’ve been contributing for quite some time,” Taylor says. You may have been passed over for promotion – or your requests to take on more challenging projects have been ignored.

They’re not interested in your career goals. You are not being asked about your professional goals or future plans, says Tina Nicolai, an executive career coach and résumé writer.

They don’t support your career plan. You are asked about your goals and plans, but the boss pays no attention to them or doesn’t support you in reaching them, Khare says.

Unfair treatment. You notice your colleagues are getting opportunities you don’t get, says David Shindler, author of Learning to Leap and founder of social learning site, The Employability Hub.

You’re not challenged. You feel unchallenged by your job, your boss, or your co-workers with no welcome avenue to change things, Reynolds says.

Your thoughts and contributions are not valued. Your voice is no longer heard and your opinions are no longer valued, Shindler adds.

You can’t get time with the boss to move projects forward. Your projects seem to get lost in the abyss. “Essentially, you are being ignored out of a job; e-mails go unanswered and you’re lucky if you catch your boss in the restroom,” Taylor says.

No change in pay, title or tasks. You have been doing the same work for more than one or two years without a promotion, increase in pay, or increased responsibility. “While some people may enjoy working on the same tasks, a tell-tale sign of a dead-end job is employees who are not being offered advancement or new training,” Nicolai says.

You get that Monday morning feeling nearly every day. “What you used to enjoy doing is no longer enjoyable,” Shindler says.

“No enthusiasm to get up and go to work is a sign you’re in a dead-end job,” Khare adds. “There’s no challenge, no opportunity that excites you at the workplace.”

Attempts to change or improve your job are not welcomed. “If you’ve tried reinventing yourself at the company, modifying your job description or proposed a lateral move to no avail, then it’s time to look elsewhere,” Taylor says.