How to Get Out of Your Dead-End Job


Your Job Search Questions Answered Here

I asked my readers and Facebook community what questions they had regarding their job search challenges. Today’s blog post topic is courtesy of my fabulous group of Facebook followers, one of whom wanted to know how to get out of a dead-end job, specifically retail or administrative work. If you have graduated in the past few years and are one of the many “underemployed” college graduates, here are some tips to get out of your rut and on to a more interesting and rewarding career path.

1. First, you need a plan. If all your energy is being spent working in your dead-end job, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be successful in moving toward your ideal job. We all have our high, and low, productivity times of day. Set aside an hour of your most productive time each day to work on your most important goal: you. Specifically, finding you a great job.

2. Next, take a hard look at your resume. What skills have you learned or added as a result of working your current retail or admin position? Customer service skills? Organizational skills? Pay close attention to what you have done that has made a difference for your current employer. Did you deal with a particularly nasty, unhappy customer and resolve their concerns so well that you are their new BFF? If you’re an admin, chances are that you saved your boss’s presentation or meeting or travel nightmare through your quick thinking and decisiveness. The bottom line is that while you might think that your job is menial or unimportant, think hard about how what you do is making a difference at your organization. If you can’t come up with any examples, chances are you are just going through the motions. Step it up 2 or 3 notches at work and go beyond, way beyond, expectations. Remember that your current boss is a potential reference so make it a positive one.

3. All admins are not created equal. Being a fabulous admin can be one of the best ways to launch a great career. Executive administration can be a wonderful career in itself. Being an admin for a Fortune 500 CEO or an executive at any big company is a truly challenging job. Behind every successful executive is a super organized, intuitive, exceptional admin. Great bosses realize this and are eager to snatch up talent. I was fortunate to have had an amazing admin during my career. She followed me through 3 promotions and we worked together to figure out if she wanted to stay on the executive admin path or branch out. Turns out she had a passion for HR and training. She’s now a training specialist and loving her new role.

4. Look at your company. Are their other jobs or career paths within the company that might interest you. Ask your manager to go to lunch. Prepare some questions to ask him or her about the company, their career, and what career options there might be for you to pursue. Showing that you have the desire, and initiative, to do more, will go a long way toward opening doors. Most retail companies have a huge number of support departments but it might take relocating to score one of those jobs. That said, if you’ve been working retail, the skills you have gained are transferrable.

5. Network. This is one of the most important job search tools yet is so often overlooked. Who you know opens doors, what you know creates opportunities. Make a list of family, friends, former bosses, and college alumni connections and set up informational interviews. Make sure you do as much preparation for those meetings as you would for a job interview.

6. Know your strengths. If you target roles that play into what you are naturally good at, you’ll dramatically increase both your odds of landing a job and being really great at it when you do.

7. Never underestimate your potential. If you aim low, you’ll end up low. Why not stretch yourself and go beyond your comfort zone? The Huffington Post had a great article on this very topic.

8. Practice interviewing. If you make it as far as the interview, you want to be sure that you bring your A game. Spend some time researching the company, preparing responses to typical interview questions and definitely have a list of 5-10 questions for the employer. Doing your homework before the big interview definitely will pay off. Just remember that while is preparation is key, don’t go so far that you sound like a robot spitting out rehearsed responses.

First jobs are exactly that: a first job. They do not define your career but rather are a stepping-stone down a varied and interesting path. The path you forge is what ultimately becomes your career. The key is to keep on moving down the path. You never know what’s around the next corner.

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About Lisa

Chief Career Catalyst @C2C, former Fortune 500 businesswoman, dog lover, avid skier, mediocre tennis player, golfer, new SUPer, aspiring surfer, cyclist, yoga & exercise enthusiast, happy wife & home chef. I am a regular contributor to the Bangor Daily News, and have appeared on WCSH6 where I offer career advice for college students, recent graduates and young professionals.
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