Emerging from dead-end jobs and relationships

Changing jobs in this economy is hard, so many stay with current employer

In Summary

• As we prepare to welcome a new year, it is worth striving to do better in year ahead

An employee sleeps at work
An employee sleeps at work

Do you feel stuck in undesirable circumstances? Do you feel stagnant, your wealth is not increasing and that there's a need for change, though you don't know what the change should be? Do you feel you are at a dead end?

In its classical form, the term 'dead end' describes a street or road that comes to an abrupt end. The only way out is going back in the direction you came from. In terms of personal growth, people sometimes feel that they are at a dead end on the path they are taking.

If you find yourself feeling that way, it might help to know that many other people have similar sentiments. With the year coming to an end, this is a time of reflecting on the successes and failures of the past 12 months. There's also hope that a New Year brings about new beginnings.

Perhaps you are in a dead-end relationship, or a dead-end job, but don’t know how to make things better. Getting another job in present-day economic circumstances is very hard, so you will probably choose to stay with your current employer.

Ayub Youssef, a career development coach, says a critical sign of being in a dead-end job is that your interests are vastly different from your field of employment.

"You don't seem to look for areas of continuous improvement in your topic of expertise. You only do your job, and you forget about it between 5pm and 9am," Youssef says.

People doing jobs they feel are right for them are continuously looking for ways to improve almost daily. "One of the basic human needs is progress. It's natural for humans to search for growth and improvement," Youssef says.

According to a Forbes magazine article, other signs of a dead-end career include having obsolete skills, being passed over for promotion and doing a job that can easily be replaced with technology. You no longer feel challenged, the pay has remained at the same level for years and your bosses have no plans for your future.


Low-paying unskilled or semi-skilled jobs are often referred to as 'dead-end jobs' because they have no opportunities for growth or advancement. Such jobs mostly involve manual labour. Skilled persons working in call centres, administrative positions and clerical work face very low prospects of career growth.

Relationships, too, can hit a dead end., an online resource for relationship advice, describes a dead-end relationship as one that is not moving forward because of problems that never get resolved. It is a relationship that does not provide satisfaction and happiness to both partners in the union. All the couple thinks about is taking a break from the relationship.

Resentment, loneliness despite being in a relationship, anxiety, confusion, unfaithfulness and a lack of willingness to discuss the future are major symptoms of a dead-end relationship. Constant quarrelling is a sign of serious underlying problems.

What next for those at a dead end? You can start by placing your trust in a higher spiritual power. There's plenty of scientific evidence proving that spirituality and belief in a higher being or power are a source of strength and comfort regardless of religion.

Pr Larry Stockstill, formerly of Bethany Church, says that people reach a dead end when they run out of options. Dead ends, he says, are God's way of revealing a new direction.

"God is never lost," the pastor explains.

Referring to the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in ancient Egypt, Stocktil likens their arrival at the Red Sea to a dead end that was transformed into a miraculous escape.

In the Biblical narrative, the Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land when they arrived at the shores of the Red Sea. The Egyptian army was in hot pursuit, determined to take the Israelites back to slavery. There were no ships or boats to carry the Israelites across the vast waters of the Red Sea, and the situation seemed hopeless. In that dead-end moment, God cleared a path through the water for the fleeing Israelites, and then totally destroyed Pharaoh's army.

"A dead end, blown-out bridge or other obstacle is often the perfect opportunity to look at other opportunities," author and humanitarian James Clark says. Frustration means it's time for a change but nothing will change if the necessary steps are not taken.

"Nobody has any power over you except that which you give them. If you are unhappy with the way things are, choose to change yourself," Clark says. In his view, your life will remain the same if you don't initiate change.


Some counsellors suggest that dead ends are a consequence of false illusions. Staci Boden, author of the book 'Turning Dead Ends into Doorways', says despite all the hard work we put into turning our dreams into reality, (getting a new job, a perfect body, a dream partner or inner peace), life often deals us unexpected blows, such as an illness, divorce or bereavement.

Life is all about change and when change comes knocking, it can be overwhelming, especially with challenges around health, money and work.

"Embracing the uncertainty inside change can become fertile ground for new beginnings. The key is to let go of control," Boden suggests in her book.

As we prepare to welcome a new year, it is worth identifying the dead ends in our lives and striving to do better in the years to come. Important questions are: what steps should you take to get your career back on track? What can you do about a dead-end relationship?

Do you see any possibilities of change in your present circumstances, or should you leave? These are tough questions that need honest answers for positive change to occur.

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