4 Signs You’re in a Dead-End Job—and How to Quit on Good Terms

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You’ve tried to make it work, but it’s time to be honest with yourself and admit you may have to break up with your current design job. Staying too long in one role can lead to boredom, burnout or burned bridges, all of which are bad for your career and mental health. Here are four signs you’re in a dead-end job and tips for resigning with your reputation and relationships intact.

You’re bored. You deal with the same clients and the same assignments year in and year out. And when you ask to be on different projects or teams, the answer is always “no” or “not now.” Even though some repetition is a normal part of any job, a creative professional needs a variety of interesting tasks and challenges in order to grow. If you’re not getting that from your present employer, you could be in a dead-end job.

You haven’t had a promotion in ages. Many agencies and departments adopt a promote-from-within culture as a way to reward and retain top employees. If you’ve had the same title or salary for three or more years and there’s no upward mobility in sight, then you may be in a dead-end job. As you navigate your next professional move, approach your boss about a promotion or raise. A flat-out rejection could be a sign that it’s time to start a job search.

Your contributions aren’t recognized. Is everyone toiling away without being thanked for their hard work, or does it seem that you’re the only one? If you feel overlooked, such as not receiving plum projects or bonuses when you know your colleagues have gotten them, then you know you’re in a dead-end job. Find an employer who will appreciate your talents and energy.

Everything’s an emergency. Tight deadlines, working lunches and occasional late nights are par for the course in the creative industry. But if the pace is relentless and the boss constantly assigns extra work without a commensurate bump in pay, then ask yourself whether you want to stay in this pressure cooker. A constant crisis mode is poisonous to your career as very few people turn out high-quality work when there’s little time for creative brainstorming, reflection and decompression.

If your current position fits any of the above criteria, it could be time start exploring new employment opportunities and planning an exit strategy. Here are four tips for quitting your dead-end job with grace:

  • Express gratitude. Even if you can’t wait to leave a dead-end job, always be tactful and diplomatic. When handing in your resignation, thank your boss and the human resources manager for all you’ve learned during your tenure.
  • Give a two-week notice. Offering less than the standard makes you look unprofessional and gives employers an excuse to give you a poor reference.
  • Be helpful. This two-week interim period is not the time to coast. After you resign but before you leave, train your replacement(s) and organize files so people will know where to easily find them. You will be remembered in a good light.
  • Fight the urge to gossip. You may be tempted to tell colleagues how much you disliked the job, but resist the temptation to badmouth any employer. Even trusted allies can inadvertently reveal information, and your conversation could be overheard or shared electronically. When people ask you why you’re leaving, say something honest yet innocuous like, “I was ready for a new challenge.”

It’s no fun to be stuck in a dead-end job. Fortunately, in the present economic environment, your job prospects are bright. So get yourself unstuck and start on the next step of your creative career.


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