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Am I in a Dead End Job?

Factory jobs are sometimes considered dead end because they require repetitive, non-changing work.
Some people find working in retail to be a dead end job.
Someone who feels stuck in what he sees as a dead end job might feel stressed or depressed.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2014
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Opinions vary on what constitutes a dead end job, but essentially, it's defined as a terminal position with no prospects of promotion, pay raise or increased responsibility. An employee stuck in such a, such as a file clerk, food service worker, or retail sales clerk, is often vulnerable to feelings of depression or job stress leading to burnout. Few employers would ever use the term as a selling point, but many companies acknowledge that certain positions are not tracked for any meaningful advancement.

Some employment experts suggest that there is no such thing as a dead end job, only a dead end worker. Even the most menial or mind-numbing job can serve a vital function in society, and these lowly positions should be viewed as stepping stones to better work, not stumbling blocks. Many world leaders and business owners started off in traditional dead end jobs and managed to succeed later on. While the idea of looking beyond your current circumstances is a positive one, many people still believe there are jobs that don't lead to anything better.

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When trying to determine if your current position qualifies as a dead end job, you'll need to do a little self-examination. Have you ever been offered the opportunity for a promotion or a meaningful transfer? If not, this is a strong indication that the job is a dead end, and that there simply is no advanced position available. If you have been offered a promotion or an opportunity to cross-train, your job may only appear to have a dead end. If you feel trapped in your position, you should exhaust all possibilities of promotion or transfer before writing it all off.

Have you reached the highest pay grade possible for your position? Many companies place a salary cap on jobs with little to no chances of advancement. If your current salary has remained the same after several performance reviews, or if you've received only nominal raises, you may have a dead end job. Your employers may be very pleased with your work, but you're not necessarily a blip on the promotion radar. If you're still receiving positive evaluations and regular raises in salary, then there's still a possibility you could be promoted or cross-trained.

Another sign of a dead end job is the lack of additional responsibilities. Some positions never change from day to day, or even from year to year. A person hired to cook hamburgers at age 16 may still be cooking hamburgers at age 21, for instance.

There's no doubt the same work needs to be performed every day, but almost all workers face the possibility of job burnout if asked to perform repetitive tasks for years. Many factory jobs require workers to operate the same machinery or handle the same parts for eight hours a day, five days a week. Repetitive, non-rewarding work plays a large part in a true dead end job.

Some people find personal satisfaction while working in any job. Job security is one compelling reason for this. The routine of working a steady, if non-challenging, job provides some workers with a sense of structure, and promotions and substantial raises are simply not a priority for certain workers. While their work may be considered a dead end job by some standards, it also provides some benefits. When evaluating your own career status, keep in mind the difference between a true dead end and a temporary pause in your climb towards success.

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Discuss this Article

anon929961
Post 33

I started out as a mechanical drafter, supervised by a degreed engineer. They forced him to retire, and left the entire department up to me. I saw it as an opportunity. However, 17 years later it has amounted to very little pay increase, even though I also took on all the design and drafting work required for our two sister companies.

When that didn't pay off, I was sure that my expertise with computers and becoming the "go to" guy for network and administration issues would have increased my salary. Nope.

Then it was intellectual property that the dual-proprietorship and its three other companies dumped on my desk and told me to make sure I learned all of the ins and outs of trademark and patent maintenance in several countries overseas. That ended up not paying anything extra.

A dead end job is basically working for someone that refuses to pay you for your work fairly. If you and he have two different ideas when it comes to the value of your job, be sure he will promote someone else and give them the audience to agree with him, thus, ruining your opportunity.

I am eighteen years in at this company, and my salary has gone nowhere, or is stagnant, if anything. Being a dual-proprietorship, the company owners can do away with such nuisances as "reviews" and "yearly evaluations." They also have no HR department, so everything is up to you to "bring to their attention" to which, of course, the road is blocked by the favoritism exhibited towards those employees who have found the truly desirable functions to meet the owners' desires. Incidentally, it has nothing to do with business.

anon353970
Post 32

I have worked the same job at two different companies for five years. The only difference was selling credit cards and protection plans. not worth the measly pay raise of a quarter. With my past two retailers, I could not get a day off. I seriously had to take off due to a doctor's appointment, but they would not allow it since it was during peak season.

I tried to reduce my hours since my grandfather passed, but they would not budge. I had to quit. It was getting to me to not be able to get a day off. What is the point of vacation if you can't use it?

I finally graduate from college in December. I am going on to get my bachelors in history. I love that subject. I hope I can teach. That would be my dream, not this seven days a week and practically every holiday and weekend have to work. Work-life balance is a joke. I do not want to go back to retail. It's hell on earth. Give me an internship or a living wage and proper ethics as a company. You give capitalism a bad name if you don't do that.

anon329747
Post 31

I am 26 years old and I work full-time (40 hours per week) at a corporate car service doing dispatch and reservations. My job can, at times, be very stressful, but also allows for a lot of free time at my desk.

I feel unappreciated and underpaid at my full-time job, but my last job was as a shift supervisor at Starbucks, and I never finished the B.A. in Sociology I started fresh out of high school, so I don't feel confident in my ability to replace the wages I'm earning now with another job. I've also been advised that our office will be re-locating to Boston from NYC at the end of the year, so I will eventually be out of a job.

I recently re-enrolled in college but got released from a freelance writing position I was working on the side and the money loss is impacting my ability to get by. I want to go into publishing and have been looking for an internship for this summer, but don't feel like my resume is very impressive. I work a dead-end job and have been working dead-end jobs for so long that I don't believe I'm capable of anything more.

A close friend hooked me up with the freelance writing gig, and while I did good work there, my contributions became inconsistent, as I found myself busier with work and school, which led them to stop using me. I essentially blew an opportunity with that magazine and now regret it very much.

My question is this: How do I convince myself, and more importantly others (i.e., potential employers), that I am better than my work/education history would imply? And how do I explain why I've wasted the past five years of my life?

anon318303
Post 28

IT is a dead end field. Every time I meet a Comp Sci student, I tell them there are multiple ways to go and do not go the way of I.T. I have seen job ads asking for six to eight years experience, a Bachelors Degree in Comp Sci or and Information Technology, then list a mess of knowledge that is needed, starting pay $21 an hour. A fast food restaurant manager makes more with high school diploma.

anon283078
Post 26

I work at a company where IT is outsourced and the pay is low. Between outsourcing and cloud computing, there are no jobs left in information tech unless you're interested in becoming a programmer where all your code is owned by the company and you're willing to be slave driven until you burn out like so many do in that part of the field.

happyUser
Post 25

I am an IT Tech, and I am happy. If you are not in a happy job, then get out of it!

anon278271
Post 24

I am 45 and still work as an ICT Technician. Do you think it is OK?

anon271246
Post 23

I know many working at universities who I respect a lot more than people in higher ranked jobs, but they're terrible people so it's not the most important thing in life! Look at that one guy who just graduated from Columbia!

anon262341
Post 22

I work for a large TV provider. I recently was offered a position by a head hunter making much more money and better benefits. I was laid off six weeks later. I asked my former employer (for whom I was a top performer for over the course of five years) to take me back. They did take me back, into my old position, with a 20 percent pay cut, loss of benefits and the third week of vacation that I had acquired. Ironically, I was their top performer the first month back. I don't understand the company's perspective of me. They obviously don't want to promote me because I am 45 years old. I have so much more to give and even joined the company because I could use my degree in Computer Science. I don't understand why people half my age are sitting around in offices, bouncing balls off the wall and talking on cell phones while I am expected to be slave driven.

In response to an earlier post. Yes, if you are middle aged, forget it. Even though someone my age could do a much better job at management, you won't be promoted.

The "kids" under 30 who are in these management positions only promote you if you are 22 with a 30 inch waist.

anon230026
Post 20

I failed year 10 at high school and ended up with a succession of true dead end jobs primarily in warehousing and I also spent a while manufacturing idlers for conveyor belts.

When I hit my mid twenties I started assessing my options. I found there are mature age entry pathways into university. after sitting a special admission test. I was able to get into a mid tier institution doing a computer science bachelors degree.

I now work for a multi-national defence contractor as a software engineer. Which is not a dead end job. If you're not happy, do something about it.

anon216575
Post 19

@Nowiknow: I had the exact same situation. My boss considered me so important to the success of her "team" that she was blocking any promotion for me. I even finished an advance degree and was hoping to move to a management position and get my own team.

After twice not being advanced for open jobs (we apply for jobs just as if you are from outside the company and stand for an interview) where I wasn't even called in for an interview, I went to my boss and she made the claim that she "couldn't understand" why senior management was not giving me "a chance." I then went to a senior manager who I knew a bit informally (we belong to the same gym and see each other there a few times a week). I asked him, confidentially, to help me understand what was going on. He did some checking, and discovered that my boss was the one blocking me from getting an interview. After a few weeks, I confronted her about this, and she basically admitted that she didn't want to lose me and that's why she was intervening and blocking my interviews.

Well, not only did she lose me, but so did the company. I found another position, senior to the one I had, and I moved -- a hassle with moving houses and the kids changing schools, but hey, what was going on wasn't right. Why should I be penalized for doing an excellent job by being denied promotions and pay and benefit increases?

anon106167
Post 17

i am a janitor in the uk and have been for three and a half years now. I've had three pay raises, but only because the national minimum went up and they had to. if they didn't have to, they would not have and i would still be getting £5.75 per hour instead of the £5.90 I'm on now.

I've had no chance of a promotion or anything and get constant grief and workload added with no good wages to cover them. i have tried to get something and get out, at least 15 other jobs, but can't get out.

i feel trapped and it's a fight to get out of bed in the morning. this is a 100 percent dead end job and i can't get out or it seems that way.

anon98316
Post 16

I work in a hotel in NYC. I have a stupid boss who acts tough with us but when she confronts other managers, kisses her own behind.

The job pays well but is extremely stressful. What I hate the most is that it is a union job and everyone gets paid the same. You will have some Asian ladies who have really bad accents and can't even spell "successful" and will be making as much as you. Which will really heat you up in stressful situations when you feel overwhelmed with so much work while you look at other people "chilling".

My boss, who is an idiot, has not been able to hired someone else to the extremely short staffed department. She's too busy getting drama from her man and believes everything she's told by other management.

I can't even cross-train because the department is short staffed. I believe I am in a dead-end job.

anon91398
Post 15

I have a dead end job. I work for commission at a call center. If you make too much money, i.e., do a good job, you get treated like you did something wrong. They start looking at every move you make to see if you're cheating somehow.

Also, any time there is a management opening, they hire someone from outside who knows nothing about the job. Meanwhile, there are people who've been there 10 years or more who never get promoted.

anon91386
Post 14

now i know, you should be so lucky dude.

I went to a four year school for computers and still work at a retail store (worst "jobs" ever). for pennies. The four year college teaches you nothing. I should've gone to a two-year and gotten the hands on experience from day one. Now I'm studying on my own via internet and tinkering with different pc equipment I get just to take my computer so I can better my chances of a "career" in my major.

you are lucky to be doing what you went to school to do and making big money too.

don't complain. I'm often super stressed(managing the retail store) for a "job" I hate, that isn't my passion, and make probably 1/10 what you make, and deal with attitude from ignorant chumps all day long, six days a week.

don't complain. be grateful dude.

anon89317
Post 13

Thanks for this page. It's helping.

anon80235
Post 12

There definitely are dead-end jobs. I know because I'm in one of them. If you're young, and you think you're in a dead-end job, get out now! Don't get stuck, because once you reach a certain age, there's no way out, except to retire in poverty. That's our system.

anon79394
Post 11

A job is only as dead as you make it. Learn all you can learn and then leave. nina

anon64753
Post 10

If you are a real estate appraiser the answer to your question is a deafening "yes". This profession was hijacked by bankers on May 1, 2009 (the date that banks laid claim to 1/2 of all appraisal fees in the country).

IndianaSPEED
Post 9

I have been working at my local retail store around my area for about three years now. For the first year or so I was just a regular sales floor associate, but got promoted/advanced in as a electronics specialist.

It took me a few months to get the hang of the job and now I've been impressing all of my team leaders and fellow members with my hard work and great dedication to the tasks at hand. I believe I'm one of the hardest workers at my job.

Recently, my electronics specialist title has been removed and now I'm just like every other sales floor associate. My pay wasn't cut but future raises will be affected (according to management).

The team leader positions haven't been "open" or "available" for at least a year and a half even though other team leaders have left.

I'm currently going to school to advance my career in information technology which has very little a bit to do with sales in my job. It just seems that all of my hard work will be for nothing and that I should just work very slowly from now on till I'm out of there when I get my degree in six months, as long as I can find a job that pertains to my degree, which I'm very sure I will. Is this a dead-end Job?

anon53411
Post 8

i'm a service station attendant in toowoomba, qld and just wondering if any one else in their jobs feel that they are nothing more than a figure or a number?

anon51838
Post 7

Nowiknow: I'd definitely take your raise, but begin to look elsewhere. You sound like a hard-working and motivated person, and it would be silly not to look out for your own best interests. Take the money - but keep an ear to the wall.

anon29201
Post 6

To nowiknow,

I feel sorry for your story but I have heard similar ones before. For some reasons, HR/managers tend to hire external people and very often paying them a premium. No matter how smart that person is, it will take some time for him/her to get to familiarized with the work environment.....

So I'd suggest you keep on looking for opportunities - but this time, look outside - you have already given them a warning that you want to leave so when you really leave, you owe them nothing.

Good Luck!

anon20158
Post 5

This is a good article and makes me feel better about the job I have now. Thanks for the info.

jesse29
Post 3

Since you are so valuable, you can more easily dictate the situation. I am a professional of 3 years, a young guy by comparison, but think long-term about where this job is putting you. Will it be worth it in 2,3 or 5 years? Are your skills transferable? It sure sounds like it. Think of this, your company would probably be screwed if you simply disappeared. If you want out, I think you should start by training other(s) to do what you do, and make notes for whoever takes your job (you can't be in it forever, right?). Good luck.

nowiknow
Post 2

I have been working for a company for about 11 months. I took a job that was very difficult and no one in the company wanted it and the last couple of applicants before me weren't able to handle it. It is extremely fast-paced, demanding, and requires constant attention to detail. Thousands of dollars ride on every decision and every phone call. I am doing well with the job and have received 3 raises in the past year due to exceptional performance. The problem is that the job is incredibly stressful and I spend a lot of extra time working out details and such to make sure everything goes well. All of those extra hours and phone calls are beyond a reasonable amount of stress for the pay that I receive. Recently, I applied for a job for which I am very qualified. The company chose to go with an outside candidate with equal qualifications rather than promote me. Aside from the fact that the job pays and extra 4K to 10K a year, it is about half as demanding and I would have actually enjoyed doing it. When receiving feedback and being notified that they had gone with the outside applicant, HR told me that "everyone" was very pleased with the job I was doing in my present position and then wanted to negotiate a reasonable raise for me in my current position. As a result, I am now under the impression that I will not be promoted because I am doing a "wonderful" job where I am and I believe my job has become a dead end. So, now what?

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