What happens when your career path turns into a dead end? You’ve done everything possible to win that promotion, but it’s still out of reach. Or, maybe you love your job, but you’re struggling to survive on a paycheck that barely covers the rent. It’s scary, but change can be good, and it’s especially important when it comes to your professional life. Hanging on to a dead-end job is a miserable experience, no matter what your reasons are, but there is a way to escape and move on to find a winning career.
There’s a difference between having a few bad days and feeling truly trapped at work. Doing something rash—like storming out with an “I quit!”—will only haunt you in the future. And it won’t solve the problem. Instead, devote some time to re-look and re-evaluate. Try making a pros and cons list, and be as honest as possible. Is the problem really that your boss is a control freak—or, could you be guilty of playing passive aggressive and not standing up for yourself? You can also ask your boss for an informal sit-down to discuss your progress. Be very direct about what you want, and then listen closely to her feedback. If you still feel frustrated, it might be time to move on.
If your job is terrific but your salary leaves you cold (literally, because you can’t afford to pay for utilities), you’re not alone. Many people want to work in publishing or nonprofits, because they want a meaningful job, and that’s wonderful—but you need to be able to take care of yourself, first. Wanting to make money doesn’t make you a sell-out, and there are lots of ways to volunteer or give back without sacrificing your financial self-worth. (However, if the only thing you want is that assistantship at Vogue, go for it—just be prepared to do a bit of bartending on the side.)
Once you’ve determined it’s time to go, you’ll need a solid exit strategy. Revamp that resume and make sure you have a great interview suit or outfit. And while you can search online or engage a headhunter, don’t be shy about asking your colleagues for help. Seek advice from those you trust or look up to in your industry, and ask thoughtful questions about different positions that you’re interested in. As they say, “it’s who you know…” and you don’t need to feel bad about using your connections. Lots of higher-ups enjoy helping fledgling professionals, so take advantage of their generosity. Just be sure to send those thank-you notes. You never know who might become your future boss!