4 Bright Pathways out of Your Dead-End Job

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DeadWith just 13 percent of employees currently engaged at work, we know there are an awful lot of workers out there who aren’t deriving much value or satisfaction from their jobs. Even more concerning are the controversial findings of a recent study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, which suggests that many people who end up in dead-end jobs may only have themselves to blame.

Thanks to a complex psychological process termed “effort aversion,” people tend to choose lower effort, lower enjoyment jobs over higher effort, higher enjoyment jobs when pay at each job is equal.

If effort aversion affects the typical worker’s career decisions, chances are that any given worker could be making a series of effort aversion-based, short-term career decisions that lead them away from a more fulfilling/challenging career toward a dead-end career.

Are you a worker whose effort aversion has lead to a dead-end job? Are you looking to revive your career? Then you’re in luck — here are four ways to do just that:

1. Be Prepared to Accept Some Short-Term Pain for Long-Term Gain 

Be open to opportunities to take on additional duties without immediate financial reward. Be ready to take on some short-term pain in exchange for the opportunity to grow, be challenged, and experience greater job satisfaction. Playing the long game is likely to open many new doors and lead you out of your dead-end career path.

Of course, you should avoid being exploited by setting limits to your short-term sacrifices, but you should also try and seize every opportunity that presents itself to you.

2. Reskill Into a Growing Career Path

This study from the Oxford Martin Schoolsuggests that 47 percent of jobs are at risk for total extinction — or at least drastically reduced numbers — over the next 10 years. Postal work jobs, which are expected to experience a 30 percent reduction in number over the next 10 years, are an extreme example of this phenomenon. Cashiers and data entry clerks are at extreme risk, too. If you are working in a dead-end industry, know that opportunities for progress are dwindling and take the time now to reskill or transfer your skills to a new field that is in demand.

3. Find a Halfway House

Fear of change can be a big barrier to getting out of a dead-end career path, especially if the dead-end job has dented your confidence — but you really don’t need to do a Jerry Maguire-style exit and take a leap of faith across the void. Just find a halfway house instead.

For example, if you want to become a chef, you can take a night course in cooking or get a second job at a local restaurant. These may be small steps, but that means you are much more likely to take them. That’s a good thing: small or not, they’re also committed steps out of your career dead end,

4. The Leap of Faith

This tip comes with a health warning: if you really can’t face your dead-end job anymore, you could just give your notice and walk out the door. Blind panic and survival instinct can be some of the most powerful career motivators of all — I know this from experience — but it’s best to have a plan and enough capital to live before taking the leap. Once you have these things, you can throw yourself wholeheartedly into your new career ventures in the unknown. Just be sure to talk this one over with trusted colleagues and family before taking this route.

If any of you have successfully navigated your way out of career dead ends, I’d love to hear how you did it!

By Kazim Ladimeji