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Survival Tips for Ambitious People Stuck at "Dead-End" Jobs

Updated on July 8, 2011

If you are like me, you were brought up to believe that a college degree leads to a great career and a bright future. In today’s economy, you may have gotten a rude awakening and learned that this is often no longer a guarantee. Competition among job seekers has given employers a vicious power trip leaving some workers and job seekers at a loss. More and more of the job vacancies are part-time or temporary, with little-to-no benefits, unreliable hours and low pay. Even if you didn’t choose college, you too may have been forced into taking a job below your skill set or expectations in order to pay your bills.

People who are unsatisfied with their jobs can feel a range of emotions. Bitterness, depression, feeling cheated, anger, feeling like a failure or having fears about the long-term future can debilitate one’s mental health. Don't let a bad job trash your self-esteem. You took this job because you are a survivor; take pride in your ability for resilience. If you make an effort, that glorious day when you can quit will come. If you haven’t already, you need to:

· Develop your escape plan. Be realistic, most likely it won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. Depending on your stage in life and resources, these are your potential options: more schooling/training; relocation; searching for a new job; or retirement. Evaluate your personal options, research what you need to do and then devote time to doing it. Make a tentative timeline with step-by-step goals.

In the meantime,

· Do not let it consume you. Spend little to no time thinking or talking about your job when you are not there. A little venting can be a healthy release but if your job is that terrible, it would be foolish to devote any more energy than you have to obsessing about it. Defuse self-pity by keeping busy with productive and positive activities. If you busy yourself with other stuff when you’re off the clock, your mind will naturally be too occupied to worry about your dead-end job.

· You are more than a job title. When someone asks you “So, what do you do?” Your answer does not have to be your job title. If your job does not offer you a place to thrive and grow as a person then do it somewhere else. What matters is what you are passionate about. No one wants to hear about your meaningless job. Surely there are other things that you do with your time. If not, then you need to start getting out more. Take this as your wake up call!

· Keep your skills and training alive. If your job is irrelevant to your desired career path and it lacks opportunity for applying your talents then you have to find another way to ride the fringes of your field. You may be able to at least get a part-time or freelance gig to stay in the game. Stay up to date with alumni or academic organizations and volunteer. There are always places to volunteer. Volunteering can be very empowering because your time and talents are a gift to needy organizations. You will be networking with like-minded professionals too. If time is an issue, keep in mind that even a few hours a month would be appreciated by many non-profits. Keep your resume going.

· Pick and choose your battles. If you have a nightmare co-worker or boss giving you a hard time ask yourself if it is worth battling with them before you do. Don’t be a pushover, but if you already have a quit date planned the stress of going head to head with this person may not be worth it. If it’s petty, then that’s just it and so what? Again, don’t let it consume you. Trust me, once you have moved on and time has past it will be hard to remember their names anyway.

· Don’t be a snob at work. You may feel that your job is beneath you and that is a valid consideration, but keep it to yourself when you’re there. Your co-workers might be happy and you will not make any friends by insulting their chosen path. So it is a bad fit for you, let the others have it. You don’t need to bring them down if they are otherwise content. That’s just rude.

· Consider it a learning opportunity. This may be a challenging. If you can come up with anything worthwhile besides the paycheck your day will go by faster. Depending on the job, you can develop a new appreciation for factory assembly work, or the culture in customer service work or telemarketing. Whatever it is you are gaining life experience here, take advantage of it. Broaden your horizons and get to know the people you work with. You never know what you can learn from people you would not have otherwise met.

· Have integrity and take your responsibilities seriously. Being under-employed at a lame job is no excuse for a poor work-ethic. Be considerate of your co-workers. Be punctual and show up for your shift. Don't pass your duties off to others. If it is your duty to take out the trash then you have to do it because for the time being this is your job and you agreed to do it.

Whatever you do, keep your head up. Many Americans have grown up with an unreasonably strong sense of entitlement and in this day and age hard work isn’t always enough. Life is rarely fair but you owe it to yourself to fight for what you want and do what you have to do to survive in the meantime. Set goals, take time to enjoy the important things and work to change the things you can once your options begin to open up.

How long did it take you to land a full-time job with benefits in your chosen field after completing you training and education?

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      @trey, I know your struggle as I have been the same way for some time now. The only thing I can say is to keep your head up. Hang tough. And push through it. After a three month stint of not having a job applying myself and doing what I had to I now understand the importance of keeping a job. Even if it's something you hate. Good read, and very useful!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This sounds like my everyday life. Unfortunately it didn't put a lot of effort in job hunting or keeping my grades up in college, so I'm stuck in a less than stellar job. I'm constantly ashamed of myself for wrecking my job options, which are very few anymore.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      For those of you out there it took me 20 years before I FINALLY landed my dream job! Do not give up or lose heart, once you do land that job you will be set! I have been at my dream job for 12 years now, and feel that I am so appreciative of what I do after trying so hard to get to the place I am finally in. My other jobs throughout life were good, and I enjoyed my alternative careers and the people I worked with along the way. All of these past experiences helped me to meet the challenges of my dream job and develop my skills. Change and growth and challenges are good if put into perspective!

    • leandralap profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      This is really accurate and a useful article for recent college grads like myself. Well written!

    • danielleantosz profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      Lol, great hub and great advice. I just had to give in a get a restaurant job AGAIN after a few free lance jobs fell through. A little disappointing, and this def. made me feel a bit better. Thank you!

    • DeborahFantasia profile image


      7 years ago from Italy

      Oh yeah, and welcome to the Hub world !:)

    • DeborahFantasia profile image


      7 years ago from Italy

      Great Hub and LOVE the topic, especially in today's economy. I agree, people are taught one thing but once you enter into the work force it's a whole different ball game ! Voted up, useful, and awesome !


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