Stuck in a Dead End Job with a Bachelor’s Degree

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Feeling stuck in a dead end job after investing an extensive amount of time and money into a Bachelor’s Degree (over $35,000 per year on average) can be a frustrating feeling. And, unfortunately it’s not uncommon. A little more than 1/3rd of college graduates are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.

However, just because that’s the situation that you’re in now, it doesn’t mean that needs to stay your situation. Hope is not lost, and with some focused root cause analysis and action, you can steer your work situation in the direction that you want it to go.

This article is going to help you to assess why you feel stuck in a dead end job with a Bachelor’s Degree and then recommend different types of action that you can take based upon your situation. 

Reasons You May be Stuck in a Dead End Job with a Bachelor’s Degree

1. You Took a Short Term Job for the Money and Now You Feel Stuck

Why You Feel Stuck

Particularly if you took student loans to pay for college, there can be a lot of pressure to find a job quickly out of school to start paying your bills. And if you were having a tough time getting a job offer in the first place, then you may have felt the pressure to take an offer that you were not particularly excited about because you simply needed to make some money.

And now, you may you feel stuck in that job. Possibly it’s because you don’t want to leave that job too fast because you don’t want to look like a job hopper. Or maybe you’re having a tough time finding another job that you’re more excited about than your current one. Or, it might be tough to get an offer in the field that you want to enter because your experience is only in jobs that aren’t related to the field.

Whatever the reason, it’s common for people to take a job that they weren’t excited about and then feel like it’s difficult to pivot out of it.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

If this is your situation, the key is to be selective and patient to ensure that your next job will put you down the path that you think you want to go. Where you could find yourself in longer term trouble is if you bounce around to various short term jobs without a clear direction. If that happens, then you fall further and further behind your peers that are in the field that you want to be in.

If you’re not sure what path you want to go down, I’d recommend following the process in the what to do with life post. It walks you through a detailed process for figuring what you want and the direction that you want to go in your work.

As to the financial side of things, I would recommend creating a zero sum budget to ensure that you understand your financial guardrails before making a move. You may potentially need to take a job for less money to start the beginning of the path that you want to go down.

2. You Have a “Useless” Degree

Why You Feel Stuck

A common reason that people end up with dead end jobs is that their college degree isn’t very applicable to common work paths. Students often major in topics that interest them like philosophy, literature, or something along those lines, and then come to find that the degrees may not position them particularly well for higher paying or long-term careers. 

The lack of applicability of a degree to a long term career may then cascade into the first situation that I described where a person takes a job simply because they need the money, and then feel stuck and like they can’t pivot into a more lucrative career path.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

In general, your experience and your skills are going to be more important factors for getting a job than your degree. Now, it does help to have a degree in the field that you want and, in some cases, it may be required but it’s becoming less important over time as having  Bachelor’s Degree is table stakes for many careers.

To that end, if this is you, it can help to create an inventory of all of the things that you’re good at and then match those to possible career paths that are of interest. Once you’ve narrowed down where you want to go, you can then take those skills and experiences and translate them into a resume that is relevant for that job that you want.

3. You’ve Bounced Around Different Jobs and Haven’t Found One That You Liked

Why You Feel Stuck

Generally, in order to grow in your career, you need to develop focused experience in a particular field. As you gain skills and experience, you grow in your salary and in your role.

However, if you have haven’t been able to find a job that you like, and have bounced around a few different career paths, you may have it hard to advance past an entry level type of roll and ultimately feel that you’re stuck at that level.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

The solution here is simple, but it’s not easy. And that’s to be very intentional about the path that you want to go on and stick to it. 

The best solution here is likely some intentional career experimentation. That doesn’t mean jumping to a variety of different jobs and seeing what you like. It’s developing hypotheses about potential paths and testing them out in low risk ways to find what you sticks. Generally, that’s best done via things like side hustles, volunteering, informational interviews, second jobs or otherwise.

4. You Can’t Grow in Your Situation

Why You Feel Stuck

In the final case, you may be stuck in a dead end job because of your current situation. Maybe, you have a boss that is holding you back or simply isn’t great at helping employees to grow in their careers. Or, you decided that you didn’t want to work in a fast-paced environment and are in a slower growth company or industry where there aren’t as many chances for growth.

Whatever the reason, being in the wrong situation can definitely be a reason to feel like you’re stuck with a dead end job with a degree.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

The resolution to this particular situation is the easiest and that’s to quit your job and leave for a better situation. Ideally, you’ll have something else lined up before you leave, overcome a potential fear of quitting, resign professionally by putting in your two weeks, and inform your boss in a positive way that you’re leaving.

If you want to grow, and you truly can’t in your situation, make sure to leave your role professionally and go find a situation that enables you to do what you want.

Conclusion

It is not uncommon to feel stuck in a dead end job with a Bachelor’s Degree. And there could be various reasons why that’s the case. The key is to take relevant action based upon your situation and go find a job situation for yourself that is going to be exciting for you.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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