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Career Dead End: Warning Signs, Self-Test, and Tips

You get into the dead end of your career faster than you would like. At first everything is going well and smoothly. But then suddenly there is a standstill. Further development? Nothing. However, success requires long-term planning. To do this, you need to know when he is in danger. There are some veritable warning signs that can tell you you've gotten stuck. In addition to these unmistakable clues, we will give you helpful tips on how to get out of the impasse ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Career impasse: the trap of the hardworking

You have to be sober: Stuck in a career impasse rarely affects lazy, passive employees, even if many initially assume that is the case. Often it is mainly the hard-working, the so-called top performers, who are hit. Their top performance and the added value they create are at the same time a dangerous trap that is almost nowhere mentioned in the literature and that regularly maneuvers these top performers into this same career impasse. On the one hand, they gain job security.

The company benevolently registers their efforts and those are highly regarded by their bosses for their competence and performance. You'd think the promotion is only a matter of time. But it is not. Why is that? Probably no boss would openly admit that, but ultimately the above-average almost always maneuver themselves into this career impasse, for two reasons:


Everyone is somehow replaceable, even top performers. But not that fast and not that easy. Bosses know this very well: Such a high performer forms an important backbone of the department in his position. It is just as reliable as its regular good results. This means that the service provider not only shines himself, but the whole department and especially its boss. Letting someone like that go or even recommending them would always weaken your own position, maybe even worsen the result of the department. "Never change a winning team" is the right one. For those affected, however, this knowledge and literal indispensability develop into a glass ceiling.

Competitive thinking

The second reason has to do with the hierarchy: upwards the air becomes thinner and the positions less. As long as the service provider remains in the shadow of his boss, all work drags out of his mind and keeps the business running, he has an easy job. If someone like this is promoted, possibly even to the same level, the former companions become competitors. And since some bosses know and can assess the potential of their top performers, they may suspect that they are promoting someone who is good enough to soon be sawing their chair.

It is a dilemma, as many middle managers, team and project leaders as well as supervisors know: Although they do everything right and really well, things are no longer moving forward. And that creates enormous frustration at some point.

Assessment test

Let it be said clearly: It is just as important to be proud of your achievements and successes so far and to reflect self-critically on the way there. That means learning from mistakes as well as recognizing and developing the positive aspects. And those who never deliver performance and success also end up in a career impasse. A real dilemma.

Is it about becoming more successful? One cannot rest on one's previous career. Standstill and waiting stand in the way of your own developments. In order to clarify your own current position and situation, you can use this small self-test to answer the following questions:

  • Do you feel that you are making progress in your current job?
  • Is your career developing the way you imagined it a few years ago?
  • Are you satisfied with the current situation?

Have you with just one question No answered, that can be a sign that the current job is rather unsuitable as a career springboard. That's not too bad, but you should take action if you have two no-answers at the latest.

7 warning signs that you are at a career dead end

It is not easy to admit to yourself that you are in a dead end. But the insight also offers opportunities - such as setting new goals and achieving them. So how can you tell that your job is stuck? Look out for the following seven warning signs:

1. You don't enjoy your job

This is one of the strongest signs that your current job is reaching a dead end. If you feel that you are no longer motivated and have to force yourself to work every day, you will not make big career steps in your position. Of course, there are phases in every job that are exhausting or tasks that are less fun. However, caution is advised if these are no longer exceptions but the rule.

Tip: Which points bother you in particular and what can you do to address them specifically? Are you wondering if this is really the job you want to be doing for the next few years? Only those who enjoy doing their work will give their best and can advance professionally in this way.

2. Your tasks don't change anymore

For months or maybe even years your area of ​​responsibility has hardly changed at all? Then the next question is: Was it your (lack of) commitment or the boss and the company? Over time, you, your tasks and responsibilities should evolve. If all of this is missing, you are likely to be stuck in a career impasse.

Tip: In the first case you can of course still speak to your boss and look for new challenges. Here initiative can be a way out of the impasse. Should this attempt fail (again), you have to ask yourself whether that will be enough for you for the future? Or are you looking for and need more variety, new challenges and perspectives?

3. You are constantly under-challenged

If the tasks are easy for you, that is in principle a good sign. Dangerous, however, if you are permanently under-challenged and do not exhaust your own potential. Only those who face challenges on the job - stay in the "flow" - can grow and develop.

Tip: If you find that underload is becoming permanent, you should talk to your boss and ask if you can take on additional responsibility. If there is no perspective in this regard, a job change can be the right alternative to get out of the impasse.

4. Promotions regularly go to other colleagues

Even if you have been with the company for many years, promotion is not simply a gift. But if you have the feeling that you will be passed over every time in possible promotions despite increasing qualifications and performance, you are probably already sitting in a dead end.

Tip: First, ask why. What do your colleagues do so differently from you? Often it is due to a lack of self-marketing. And that could be changed at short notice by not only performing well, but also making sure that the boss knows about it.

5. Your employer is in a crisis

First of all, loyalty to one's employer is not wrong. Please do not forget, however, that in the end it is about YOUR career and your professional development. You are primarily selling manpower and intellectual achievement - not your soul.

Tip: When sales figures keep falling, customers are absent and the company's situation becomes more and more difficult, you can fight for the store together for a while. If this is hopeless, however, you should take action: Crises can also become a dead end job, and that for a very long time. And if you haven't moved by then, your attractiveness on the job market will decrease.

6. The working atmosphere is not right

Boss and colleagues are the main reasons why employees quit and change jobs. Anyone who is dissatisfied with the working atmosphere and cannot connect to the team will therefore find it difficult to develop their career further. In addition, the work is then hardly fun or even torture.

Tip: Those who work more and more listlessly perform less. In the end, someone like that is left and no longer even gets a good job reference. It is better to recognize the signs of the times beforehand - when your own reputation is still good and the bitterness is only a hint. For you this means: If there is no improvement in sight, another team at a new employer may be the best option.

7. The job is not what you really want

Fortunately, everyone is free to choose their dream job. In reality, however, many slip into some kind of job that gives them an income, but does not fill them. If that is a conscious decision that you can come to terms with over the next 20, 30, 40 years of work - fine. Otherwise, a dangerous career impasse threatens here, in which the frustration of being in the wrong job increases.

Tip: The only thing that really helps here is to ask yourself what you expect from your life and job, what goals and wishes you are pursuing and how these can be realized. Changes are not always easy and far from convenient. But sometimes they are necessary to be happy again. As the saying goes: "In retrospect, we rarely regret the things we did, but almost always the things we didn't do."

In the career impasse: what to do?

You realize that in your current job you are only treading on the spot and the prospects are anything but rosy. What can be done about it? To be honest: there are not many alternatives. Just pushing service according to regulations doesn't exactly leave a mature and confident impression and gnaws at the reputation that has been painstakingly built up up to now. Development or even opportunities for advancement become increasingly unlikely. Most of the time, there are only these ways out of the career impasse:

Change of department

Network yourself systematically and in a more targeted manner in the company, especially at higher hierarchical levels. That shouldn't smell of disloyalty, so discretion is the top priority. But the aim is to make it clear to another, even higher-ranking boss how he can benefit from you as a service provider (which is ultimately what every boss is interested in). Or to put it another way: subtly force a kind of internal competition for your performance.

Note: To be honest, however, it has to be said that this only postpones the problem. And networking only helps in the long term. And the internal impasse usually continues again even with a successful maneuver, only one level higher and elsewhere in the company.


In the medium and long term, it is more successful to work on your own profile. Revise your résumé, collect work samples, create a performance folder. These preparations will help you to quickly have the right arguments at hand in the event of an attractive position. Your external image should be part of your changes. Reactivate contacts, maintain your Xing or LinkedIn profile. You are already doing passive job searches.

Note: The profiling is ultimately only there to prepare the termination.

Job change

Changing jobs is usually the only possible sustainable break. And don't worry, a job change is still possible even at 50. So old age is not an excuse to linger in a dead end with no prospects. Those affected should never justify such a job change with frustration, but of course with the search for new challenges and personal development (which is also true).

Note: A job change can be an opportunity out of a career impasse. To do this, you should take care to avoid typical job change mistakes. Those who throw in the towel too early and too often in a row are suspected of being a job hopper.

PS: At the same time, you can also check our job exchange to see which jobs are currently being offered and whether your profession is being sought.

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