Not Born Yesterday

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Are You in a Dead End Job?

How to know if you've reached the end of the road

Many people returned to work at the beginning of 2012 with the same thought in mind: where am I going in this job? Even if you truly enjoy your work, you are not alone in this perennial concern about "doing the same old thing, year after year." This is especially true if you have been in the same job for a long time.

So, how do you know if you've reached the end of the road? One employment analyst cautions that a so-called "dead-end" job isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some people are happy just to have a comfortable position and a steady paycheck, especially in this economy, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But if you are not one of those people, there are some signs to help you decide if you have reached the end of the road in your present job. This same analyst points out that switching jobs in the present economy is not for the faint of heart, but with some early indications that the labor market is improving, this may be the time to do it. 

One way to find out is to take a simple quiz. 

If you answer "Yes" to the following five questions, it could mean that you are in a dead end job, and it might be time to start looking for something else:

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1.  Does your job feel too familiar?

If you feel that everything you will do this year has already been done last year (and the year before) you may find yourself wishing for something more challenging, and less familiar, to do. "When the unknown becomes more interesting than the known, it's time for a change," the analyst says. Living in a constant state of deja vu can mean that you are merely running in circles. She may be right, but I suspect there are people who don't mind doing that, metaphorically speaking. For them, a job doesn't need to be fun or exciting. Some may prefer so-called "mindless" work because it is less stressful.

2.  Are you and your co-workers a little too comfortable?

There's nothing wrong with being comfortable in a job, but if you have co-workers that have been doing the same job since before you were born, it may be a sign that there's no future for you there. No room to move up in the company.  In fact, yours may be a "static" company -- one where employees get a role to play, and stay in it forever. If that doesn't appeal to you, it's time to look for a place where you have a chance to move around and be given new challenges.

3.  Is there a long line in front of you?

If there are too many people with more seniority than you, all maneuvering for advancement to the same job, you may have little chance of getting what you want, and you might be as good as blocked. If you can't outperform the competition and move ahead in the line, there may be another solution: try making a "lateral" move to another position in the company where there may be more opportunities. 

4.  Are you interested in your boss's job?

This is a tricky one. I thought the answer should be "No," but the job analyst says a "Yes" answer provides a better clue. The explanation is that if you have no interest in becoming the boss yourself, you are probably at a dead end within the company. Having said that, she notes that you may, in fact, be completely satisfied with the position you hold, and are therefore not interested in advancement. However, you might be disinterested in the company itself. If so, it's time to look for another job.

5.  Is yours a dying company?

Even if you have the opportunity to advance within the company, there may be something more important to consider, and that is whether the company itself is advancing or falling behind its competition. That can also mean a dead end for you. What to do? The analyst suggests looking at the company's performance records with respect to finances, stock performance (if publicly traded), and management changes. In other words, keep up to date on your company's performance within the industry.

This simple quiz would seem to serve the average working man or woman fairly well. But how would it apply to the professions, I wonder? Teachers, doctors, lawyers, to name a few. I think that's another question.

E. E. Smith is a playwright and book author. Her new series of murder mysteries debuted in 2013. The first is titled Death by Misadventure. 

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