How to Leave Your Dead-End Job

Angela Copeland
by Angela Copeland   Career Advice Expert 


Have you ever thought your job wasn’t for you? Perhaps the position worked for you — for awhile. But, times have changed. It’s not working anymore. Each day starts just as poorly as it ends. It’s impossible to feel excited to go to work.

51% of American workers do not feel engaged at work

You may choose to stay at your current job because you love your coworkers. You share strong bonds with them after years of working with them. Or, maybe you stay because the money is good, and the work is easy.

You know what else is easy? Making excuses. If you’re like most people, you’ve used one, if not all of the above. And, it makes sense. Deciding to find a new job (when you’re stuck in a dead-end job) is hard. Sometimes, getting through the day in the current situation is more comfortable than changing things.

Eventually, you will get there. The job will get bad enough that you’re ready to leave. You’ll want to walk out the door and never come back again. But, until you find a new role, you have to make smart decisions. Don’t let boredom and apathy lead to an attitude that gets you fired. Who wants to work with a burnout, no matter how talented he or she is?

The biggest reason a person will stay in a dead-end job is for fear of the unknown. In other words, the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Nobody wants to risk trading one bad job for a possibly worse one. But, are you staying at your dead end job just because it’s familiar?

What if the unknown weren’t scary? What if it were filled with joy and promising possibilities? Sure, starting a new job is challenging. The period of time when you’re learning new things can certainly be uncomfortable.

However, staying at a dead-end job will hurt you more so than taking a chance on a new gig. After all, learning a new job is temporary. Going to work at your dead-end job day after day is permanent. When you’re ready to make the leap, follow these tips.

1. Learn about alternative careers

You don’t have to feel trapped in your dead-end job. Go out and learn about new career fields.

Start by researching different positions online. Create a list of three to five options. Then, locate people who do those jobs. Conduct informational interviews with these workers. In your informational interview, ask each person the following questions:

  • What do you like about your job?
  • What is your least favorite thing about your job?
  • What projects are you working on right now?
  • My skills are x, y, and z. How could I translate these capabilities to fit your line of work?

Look for opportunities to volunteer your time at non-profits that may allow you to test drive a new career. Consider taking a course to beef up your knowledge. You may want to hire a career coach to help you. The more you know about alternative career fields, the less scary a change will seem. In all likelihood, you will find a new career that you love more than your current dead-end job.

2. Try, even when you don’t meet all the requirements

Most successful people in the world don’t wait for permission. Also, they don’t wait to meet 100% of the requirements on a job description. If you think you can do something, put your hat in the ring by applying. The hiring manager will decide whether or not your skills are a close enough match. You can always fill gaps by learning as you go.

3. Start off small

Whenever you’re thinking of trying something new, it’s always a good idea to start small. This is especially true if you’re thinking of becoming self-employed. Keep your day job while you build up your skills, and your clients. This will help you to make a smooth (and successful) transition from one career to another.

4. Keep it quiet

If you’re planning to make a major career change (or any career change for that matter), keep your plans to yourself. Your current employer does not need to know. It may be tempting to share your thoughts with your work friends, or your boss, but don’t be fooled. Once you show your hand, it’s hard to go back. If the company believes you aren’t loyal, they may fire you. What started as your decision to leave may become theirs quickly.

5. Always be prepared for anything

Whether you plan to stay at your current job, or quit tomorrow, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to create an emergency fund. Take the time to save up at least six months of living expenses in a savings account. This savings account is not an investment account that may fluctuate.

Having money in savings will guarantee that if anything goes wrong, you are prepared and you have choices. There’s nothing more liberating when you have a dead-end job than knowing you have options.

Final words on leaving a dead-end job

If you already believe you have a dead-end job, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll feel burned out and stagnant. Before this happens, you’ll know when it’s time for you to move on. Change is necessary. When you’re ready, the leap will be more comfortable than you expect. Pay attention to yourself. Trust your own judgment. If something tells you this new opportunity is right, it probably is. Listen to your gut.

Remember that LiveCareer has all of your job application bases covered. Learn how to build a resume with us! We can also teach you how to and build a cover letter.

Need help creating your resume and cover letter? Check out these helpful resources.

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of her own coaching firm, Copeland Coaching. Previously, Angela was Vice President of Digital and eCommerce at First Tennessee Bank, and Director of Digital Strategy and Marketing at ServiceMaster. She’s the author of the book Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job and the host of the Copeland Coaching Podcast. Angela is also a syndicated career columnist, and recently shared her career story in a TEDx Talk titled "How I broke the rules & found my perfect job." She holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a B. S. in Computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


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