Dead end. It conjures up a dark, dismal alley you can't pass through. It's not a good image if you're trying to get somewhere, most especially getting somewhere in your career. What is a dead-end job, and how can you know if you're in a career-killing situation? Consider the following check list. If any of these apply to you, you are probably in a dead-end job, and you may want to take some steps to change it:
1. There's no opportunity to earn a promotion.
Promotions require a distinct set of circumstances, and it's important to realize early on whether or not opportunities are likely to arise. What should you look for and what questions should you answer before taking the job if promotion is your goal?
Is there mobility in your organization? If the people in the positions you'd likely move into have been there for more than five years and you get the sense that they like their jobs and are well respected in the organization, don't count on reaching the next rung in your organization's career ladder anytime soon.
Is the organization growing? In strong, vibrant companies, even if some people stall or purposely stay in positions for years, or even decades, there may still be opportunities for advancement if the organization expands. For example, opening a new office or branch could result in new promotion opportunities. Do some sleuthing to determine if there is any potential for organizational growth.
Keep up-to-date with local news if you work for a local organization, or with corporate information if you are in a large company. Assess the likelihood of new jobs opening up. If you don't see strong potential for opportunities, you may need to come to terms with the fact that you're in a dead-end job.2. Does the company promote from within? If you sit by and watch candidate after candidate from inside your company apply for promotions, only to be usurped by external people, it's possible your company has a written or unwritten culture that does not support internal promotions. If that's the case, and you're working there, you can hope you'll be the exception to the rule, or you can realize it's unlikely for you to win a promotion in your current company.
3. No one's had a raise in years.
In some definitions, a dead-end job isn't so dead as long as raises come regularly. Perhaps getting a promotion is unlikely based on current staffing, but your company is doing well enough to provide regular raises or cost-of-living increases. It's up to you to decide if a raise saves your job from dead-end status.
When is the last time you earned a raise? Does the money, or the benefits that accompany it, keep you satisfied about your job and the organization where you work? It's up to you to assess how these specific issues play into whether or not you are in a dead-end job.
4. You don't even want a promotion.
Another consideration: you could be in a de facto dead-end job if you wouldn't apply for a promotion at your current company if it were the last job on earth. Maybe your organization has no stability and plenty of opportunities for promotion because there is a revolving door of people in leadership positions. If you've watched people take jobs only to be treated poorly and then chewed up and spit out before they leave at the first chance they get, you're probably not lining up to take your turn at a promotion.
While we all think that we can do it better than the last guy, if you're realistic about what a promotion means and have no plans to apply for one, you are essentially in a dead-end job.
5. You don't have what it takes to get the next job.
If you do not meet the mandatory requirements for promotion in your organization, and promotion is your goal, you're facing a dead-end job scenario. Even if you are a valuable employee, if your organization requires a specific degree or certification and you don't have it, assume you're in a dead-end job unless you take steps to rectify the situation.
Average Salary: $23,900 No. of Openings: 195,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Those who work in security frequently praise the occupation's flexible hours (lots of night and 12-hour shifts result in more days off) and recommend it for people who don't mind working alone. Still, it's a job that can be particularly stressful to the psyche as well as the body. Security guards must remain alert to protect against and prevent fire hazards, larceny, vandalism, and other emergency situations and illegal activity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that security guards experience more on-the-job injury than the national average for all professions; gaming surveillance officers specifically have one of the highest injury rates. Too bad the pay is so paltry for those making security their full-time gig. In 2011, the average median salary for a security guard was just $23,900.
Average Salary: $28,470 No. of Openings: 71,400 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
A sports coach trains either amateur or professional athletes for competition. But he or she also serves as an adviser, parent, teacher, and confidante for his or her team. The most-renowned in the profession -- the Bela Karolyis, the John Maddens, and the Pat Rileys -- have earned impressive salaries that came with adulation as well as endorsement deals. But most of the 242,900 professionals working in the field currently aren't coaching on that level, nor are they earning that type of pay. And the adulation they most mention to Glassdoor comes from the impressionable young people they coach on the secondary and collegiate level.
Average Salary: $29,100 No. of Openings: 162,900 Job Satisfaction: MEDIUM
The approximately 530,000 medical assistants employed in doctors' offices and larger medical organizations must do a mix of traditional office operations work and hands-on medical tasks. They take patient histories, assist in patient examinations, change wound dressings, and help with sterilizing equipment. Often, they're the first and last people a patient sees when visiting a doctor's office, so medical assistants play a substantial part in the overall patient-care experience. In recent years, a medical assistant's people skills and practical skills have been complemented by technological skills, since most patient records are now digitized. The multifaceted nature of responsibilities hasn't resulted in substantially higher pay, however. In 2011, the BLS reported a median salary for medical assistants that's $12,573 less than the national average.
Average Salary: $31,030 No. of Openings: 124,700 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
"There is a lot of satisfaction in helping people," writes one assistant department head to Glassdoor about working at Minnesota's Life Time Fitness club. Another recreation and fitness professional with Urban Active Fitness in Lexington, Ken., appreciates "The people you'll meet and relationships you'll start." So it's no surprise that as a whole, recreation and fitness occupations—aerobics instructors, camp counselors, and personal trainers—receive a boost on our Best Jobs list for their reported personal perks. The chance to be physically active and forgo a traditional 9-to-5 schedule also help boost these occupations' curb appeal. But fitness trainers earned an average $31,030 in 2011, according to the BLS. That's more than $10,000 less than the national average median wage.
Average Salary: $31,870 No. of Openings: 118,500 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Today's administrative assistants have evolved beyond juggling phone messages and transcribing meeting minutes. They must now be thoroughly organized, have excellent writing and editing skills, and display a knack for multitasking. Often, admin professionals fulfill the roles of project managers, secret keepers, daily planners, customer service reps, and tech support. And despite wearing so many hats around the office, the more than 2 million employed administrative assistants were earning a salary that's well below the national average -- $30,830 in 2010. In 2011, they earned about $31,870. Corporate culture and outstanding office benefits -- but not compensation -- were the key contributors to this occupation securing such lofty scores for job satisfaction.
Average Salary: $39,070 No. of Openings: 45,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The mercurial economy hasn't made a real estate agent's profession an easy one. Still, the BLS predicts approximately 45,000 openings in this occupation between now and 2020, thanks to population growth. Agents have to stay abreast to the local zoning and tax laws of various communities, plus keep a pulse on the atmosphere in communities where they might do business. Keeping tabs on market conditions is another crucial element of their occupation. This is also a job that requires copious paperwork and patience, but it's not a job that comes with copious spending change. Though the profession's highest-paid earned around $92,000 in 2011, a real estate agent's average salary was less than $40,000 that year. Some tell Glassdoor that they find reward in helping people find homes. For others, they appreciate the chance to make their own flexible schedule.
Average Salary: $40,680 No. of Openings: 58,200 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The stakes are higher when a social worker has a bad day. The average, coddled office employee might become discouraged when the copier jams or the instant coffee machine goes on the fritz. But for a children, family and school social worker, a "bad day" could entail reporting suspected child abuse, having a proposed adoption fall through, or witnessing a parent losing custody of their children. Despite the high stress, social workers report to Glassdoor that they like working with people, and get a thrill out of positively impacting the lives of others. Their tender hearts don't translate to loads of legal tender, though. The BLS reports that a social worker's median salary was $40,680 in 2011, just shy of the national average wage.