Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 3: the challenge of dead-end jobs

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on December 2, 2015

This is my third installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on this (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I focused in Part 2 on the first of a set of employment contexts that I listed in Part 1, that at least should prompt you to consider whether you should stay where you are or move on to new job and career opportunities:

1. What are your options when facing workplace interpersonal stress that will not go away where you are, and that reaches a level of impact upon you so as to affect your quality of life?

I turn here to consider the next workplace scenario as initially offered in this series in its Part 1:

2. What are your options and what precisely are the issues that you can and should address if you find yourself in a dead-end job?

Let’s start considering this challenge by addressing the question of what “dead-end job” means, as that term can legitimately be applied to a wide range of situations that might call for very different types of response. You are in a dead-end job. What makes it dead-end?

• Are you working in an industry that in general offers opportunity for professional growth and development and for career advancement, but for a business that is too complacent and unwilling to take the risk of taking the next-technology and next-business practice steps to stay current with the ongoing and evolving state of the art?
• Does your employer: the business that you work for actively seek to promote and develop their employees to stay competitively up to date in general, but with you finding yourself typecast as falling outside of that career development support? Do you report to a manager who leaves you out of this opportunity?
• Are you working in a type of business where fiscal and other restraints mean there is never real opportunity for advancement of any kind?
• Flipping my first of these questions around, are you working in a more mature (moribund) industry where there is no room for professional growth and where everything that is done is essentially always legacy in nature – perhaps even as that industry’s overall marketplace shrinks in scale and relevancy?

“Dead-end job” can be about you and how you are treated there, and it can be about the job and career options that you have available to you where you are now and about the business and its workplace limitations. It can be about the entire business you work at, and impact more or less equally on everyone working there. It can also be about the entire industry, or at least the entire industry sector that you work in, and certainly if it operates in support of basic technologies and consumer needs that its marketplace has come to see as outdated and increasingly irrelevant to their needs and priorities. The first two of these possibilities both suggest that a job change might make sense, at least as an option worth considering. The third suggests that a more fundamental career change might make more sense. Actually, the second might suggest either a specific job change or a more fundamental career change too, depending on how out of step your current employer is, or is not ,with their competition and with the general trends of their industry and industry sector that they function within. A dead-end second scenario, as just listed above, might indicate that your current employer and their competition are all marching towards the future laid out in the above dead-end fourth scenario.

• It is quite possible, and even quite easy to at least start out thinking that if you are stymied in developing your professional skills, and if you are limited in your options to advance, then this is most likely all about you.
• But are you working at a business, or even in a business arena where fiscal and other constraints limit what can be available as opportunity to advance in your career, at least where you are now? The nonprofit sector is notorious for minimizing headcount as an absolute necessity in order to limit personnel and related expenses. So even if you work in a technically demanding job where you are respected and appreciated for what you do, there might be very little room available there for advancement and certainly for promotion – at least where you are. And the budget for employee development resources might be very limited too, or even essentially nonexistent.

So my question as to whether you are, or are not in a dead-end job is about where you work and your workplace context. But it is also about your own more individually personal needs and requirements too, and your own planning and your personal goals and priorities.

• Are you still early on in your career and work life or substantially into it, but with a significant number of years still to go before you would consider anything like retirement? Or are you rapidly approaching retirement and the end of your at least regular full-time work life?
• If the later, or if you are close enough to that so building towards retirement is of more dominant concern, would you be better off simply staying where you are now, even if you are less than satisfied with your job and your career options while still working?

Impending retirement and its shifts in goals and priorities can only be considered one of many possible reasons for reconsidering any seeming dead-end qualities of your current job and workplace. Even a more moribund company in a legacy product and technology-driven industry can have a great retirement plan, but this only addresses one possible area where your own more individual considerations might come into play when asking the “stay or go question.” To cite a second area where your own needs might at the very least temper your considerations of your job and workplace and their limitations, consider the nature and dynamics of your work life constraints box (see Job Search and Your Constraints Box.) This set of parameters can be just as important in determining where you would comfortably want to remain employed, as it is in determining where you would seek that employment in the first place. And I add that this can mean your own constraints box or that of a family member too, and meeting their needs where that becomes a higher priority for you too.

• As one possible example here: you are in what you see as a dead-end job now, but you have great benefits there and a steady reliable paycheck, and you need them to cover for your wife or husband who is in graduate school earning an advanced degree. So you might not find your job fulfilling, and you might see yourself limited there as far as professional growth is concerned, but certainly for now that is more secondary – and particularly because you see yourself as early enough in your work life so you have time to course correct after this is over.

Are you in a dead-end job now? What makes it dead-end, and how does your working there fit into the larger context of your life and that of your overall goals and priorities? And I have not even really addressed the question yet, of issues in your life or in your work record that you might see as creating impediments to your successfully finding a next job with more opportunity if you do seek to move on professionally. That complex of issues only begins for many, with concern that if you have for example been working in a legacy-oriented business, in a moribund industry, then more cutting edge competitively vital hiring businesses might not even consider you a viable candidate. At least for here and now in this discussion, I will simply refer you to the first page listings of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development for that, and more specifically at least as a starting point, to my series: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B when Your Job Search isn’t Working (see postings 56-72 of that directory page.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider the third workplace scenario that I initially proposed in Part 1:

3. You seek to actively advance in your field and up the table of organization where you work and into management and even senior management positions. But you work in the nonprofit sector (or in a similar workplace context) and the headcount limitations that these organizations essentially always face, limit the possibility that there is or will be an opening for any next step up that you would seek promotion to, at your current place of employment. How do you best analyze and understand your current situation, and your options, and how do you best decide your best path forward, and particularly where moving on to find a new next opportunity would involve at least some bridge burning – from leaving your current position with its steady paychecks if nothing else.

Yes, I did mention nonprofits in this posting in passing, but there is a lot more to that story than I have offered up to here, and certainly in this context. I will delve into more of it in my next installment. And I will generalize some of the key points made beyond consideration of that specific type of workplace too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.


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