How to Get Out of a Dead-End Job

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How to Get Out of a Dead-End Job

If You Want Your Career to Change, You Need to Change

Dear Heather,

I really need to get out of where I’m working. It’s toxic and completely reactionary. My boss (whom I’d worked with elsewhere in happier times) just resigned after only one month in her position! Sandy is known for her skill in improving business infrastructure but couldn’t tolerate what she termed “arrogant” and “immature” behavior from management (they never listen to anyone and think they’re always right). I feel like I have no control over things, especially now that my old boss has left. It’s like I’m on an island all by myself. I’m single—no kids. All I really have to show for my life is my career, and it doesn’t look so great at the moment.

I really want to work in a professional stable “team” environment as opposed to being in a small HR department. I took this job after being unemployed for an extended period. Really needed to replenish my savings and get benefits (this company offers a good package), but I keep wondering if I jumped too soon. I need room for growth and advancement. Not more drama!

I know my life needs change, but I keep hoping it will just happen. I keep dreaming that I get a ridiculous job offer and move to Hawaii and live happily ever after…but Monday comes and I’m still on my imaginary island in a dead-end job. Any suggestions?


Dear Mandy,

It’s a noun/verb issue, Mandy. You want “change” but haven’t changed anything yourself. This isn’t uncommon, but it is usually ineffective. Why not put your future into the hands of the one who most cares about it? This is your chance to make some active choices for yourself—the remote control is in your hand, and you have the power to change the channel.

Reality impacts valuation—and the truth of a situation can be a roller coaster drop from a much higher expectation.

Our jobs impact both financial and mental needs, Mandy. While your current situation fills the bank accounts, it is wedging a sizable emotional gap into your life. At some point, you’ll need to decide whether your contributions to date—and likely long-term payoff—are worth your further investment. If you can’t say, “this will (probably) be worth it in the end,” this job will continue to chafe like ill-fitting shoes.

The ability to self-launch is one of the most valuable skills we can learn. Without it, we float at the mercy of circumstance and other people and are more likely to land—and stay—in depleting situations. When self-launch is enabled, however, we can motorize the drifting and begin a more directed course toward our career dreams.

Toleration is a default position that will invariably entrench us deeper into substandard conditions. One has to hate a “rut” with enough passion to rev on out of it. If status quo seems preferable to taking steps toward change, you must identify the reasons or excuses for inertia in order to motivate forward motion.

1) Is it truly about the job? Dissatisfaction with one area of life will often bleed into the next. You mention being “on an island all by (yourself).” Workplace drama has greater impact when it’s your only regularly scheduled program. More than half of US adults are single per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and feelings of isolation are a growing problem worldwide. Regardless of your employment satisfaction, creating connection—via friendships and non-work activities—will provide stability, valuable perspective and an excellent counterbalance to typical job stresses.

2) Do you know what you want? Or is this more about what you don’t want? Without a target, you’re only programming your internal GPS to get you away from your current location. An “escape” goal can lead us to teeter on ambivalence—holding on to what we dislike because we’re uncertain of where to reach. What will a “professional, stable ‘team’ environment” look like? Develop this goal into specifics—a recognizable destination.

3) Identify the cost. Outline what you’re willing to sacrifice to gain this opportunity. Are you willing to move to another city, sidestep to another career or accept a pay cut in favor of giving yourself better long-term opportunities? Consider making a lifestyle job choice—aiming for a location (you mentioned Hawaii) or family and friends—that will grow your overall quality of life as well as your career.

4) Choose your next steps. Once you’ve picked a path and oriented your attitude toward a destination (rather than simply “away” from the rut you’re in), you have to start lifting your feet. Identify and address your roadblocks—lack of connection, confidence or up-to-date search tools…so that you can activate change.

5) Set calendar goals. Hold yourself accountable to short-term objectives that will equip you, and then mark goals for your actual job search. Include research and reflection time. Your overall discontentment is a message from you to You. Listen to your own voice.


Originally published at | Boost Your Work/Life Balance column.

Powering Change Through Proactive Kindness

kidsmilkshakePowering Change Through Proactive Kindness:

Because the Little Things Aren’t.

We esteem it in colleagues, prize it in friendships and teach it to our children. Kindness. It’s a tick up from mere politeness or tact. It’s more than a social grace or nurtured civility. It is intentional but without expectation: the measured response to a harried co-worker; the averted eye from another’s embarrassment. It’s a smile, a nod, an acknowledgement. A “good job” or a “well done!” It warms a moment and may elicit a smile.

But it can be even more…

Michael Puett of Harvard University teaches the wildly popular “Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory,” a course centered around the premise that small actions—and behaving kindly—will lead to a more fulfilling life and a better world. He boldly promises, “This course will change your life.” And students say that it does.

Kindness as a reflexive response is laudable. But kindness as an action can be life changing. Proactive kindness reaches out in unassuming ways to unsuspecting targets. It may be stealthy upon approach but is crystal clear in intention.

It encourages. Once the conveyor belt is loaded and any archaic paper coupons have changed hands, there’s no real need to converse with the grocery checkout clerk unless the asparagus rings high. But to merely stand there flipping through smart phone news updates or scanning the bargain candy is a wasted opportunity. Yes, there may be nothing bankable in this for you, but it will hold value. Stay with me…

Engage for a moment. He may not be receptive, and that’s fine—he’s working. But moving beyond the rudimentary exchange creates openings for connection. I’ve heard stories of betrayal, longing and aspiration in checkout lines, offered a few words of encouragement and then heard the shopper behind me carry on the conversation as I wheeled off with my receipt.

Most recently, there was a solitary man at a networking event. 60ish; newly unemployed. Feeling like a fish out of water, lacking the legs to venture onto new terrain. I sat next to him as he forked a salad, and we talked about the difficulty of attending an event where you know no one. The challenge of looking for work after fifteen years with a company you expected to retire from. A great guy planted in unfamiliar territory—warm, conversational, intelligent. He emailed me the next day: “After our conversation I felt more at ease…. Thank you for your kindness.” I’d seen him in conversation as I scooted home to feed my son—and hoped. Reading his email, I flat-out floated.

Helping someone rev out of a rut will impact more than that single life. It will bring possibility to the entire web within their reach. It’s a minimal expenditure of energy that can catalyze infinite potentials for the world in which your children and grandchildren will live.

It inspires. Sometimes people don’t recognize their own possibilities. Sometimes an alternate, more accurate perspective is but a pivot away. People hide hopes within themselves without even noting their quiet burial. Illuminating these gifts, spotlighting these latent talents or passions can direct steps toward a better life path.

I’d reconnected with my high school friend Brenda via Facebook. We amped our reunion to the next level over glasses of wine. And then, when I needed a photographer, I knew…

“Me?” Brenda had no grasp of her own talent, but I’d seen her Facebook portrait photos. She was working in a law office, indulging her love of photography on the side.

“Yes, you!” I described what I’d seen—her gift for capturing personality and emotion—and that she was my absolute first choice to shoot my book cover.

Would she have launched so deeply into her passion absent my affirmation? I hope so. Like to think so. Spotlighting the best in others is so “Brenda.” I only know that identifying her talent—calling it out for her to see—seemed to energize her and nudge her towards tackling numerous life challenges. I like to think my request was a puff of wind that prodded her to raise her sail.

As we weaved through an hour of traffic to watch our sons compete in a nine-minute race, my friend Danielle described a recent encounter. Two strangers were running the steps at the dam near our homes. Danielle had encouraged them as she neared her twentieth circuit, and they were, no doubt, curious about the friendly brunette with boundless energy. In the conversation that followed, she shared her fifteen pound weight loss and love of running, encouraging them in their initial foray into fitness. Eventually, one of the women asked for a photo—a selfie of the two of them—”because you are my inspiration!”

The truth is…this nameless woman inspired Danielle. My friend’s proactive kindness—a simple “you go girl” to a stranger had opened a connection that also gave Danielle a glimpse of herself in better lighting. “I don’t know her name, but she wanted a picture of the two of us. Together.” Realizing that she was an inspiration to another has actually inspired Danielle to simply continue being Danielle…reaching out to strangers without expectation—but with the intention of extending kindness.

Which kind of proves my point that…

Proactive kindness changes things. Looking for opportunities to be proactively kind pulls you into the moment. These intentional interactions integrate our separate cocoon-ish thoughts with present circumstance. Proactive kindness creates an alertness to those around us and a sense of purpose within the previously mundane. It will energize an ordinary morning at the gym and ease the pain of a seemingly aimless meeting because it is never wasted and has life beyond its point of action.

And frequently, like Danielle, we are the recipients of our own proffered gift. Acknowledging the value in another and witnessing the impact of this affirmation will, most often, feel so crazy good, it will spur us even further in the quest to be kind.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

Image Credit: By krzyboy2o/Wikimedia Commons | “Milkshake Anyone?” under Creative Commons

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