Little more than 10 percent of all working Americans find their jobs meaningful and more important than leisure time, reports Management World, magazine of the Administrative Management Society.
If you're part of the remaining 90 percent, there may be a terrific, meaningful, satisfying job just waiting for you - right where you are. ''Your dead-end job may be alive with potential,'' writes John Komar in ''The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job'' (Follett Publishing Company, 1980). ''Your most effective escape from it may consist of changing it to the point where it once again is a good steppingstone to that promotion you seek,'' he says.
Many more people are ''learning to work with the job they have than change for the job they think they want,'' says Fred Hecklinger, a career counselor who teaches in the Washington, D.C., area. ''For one thing, jobs are scarce. For another, good jobs are scarcer,'' he says.
One reason for the stay-on-the-job mind-set is demographics: ''For the past 10 years, the baby boom population has been coming up through the early part of their careers, switching jobs every two or three years to get ahead and never working out the problems they found at each job. Now, it's best for them to stay in one place for a while, and they're having to come to grips with less-than-perfect situations,'' he says.
If you think your job is salvageable - if you like the firm but dislike the position, say, or if the job has a number of hard-to-find advantages, like a nonsmoking atmosphere, or a location you can walk to - the first place to start revitalizing is with yourself, Mr. Hecklinger thinks.
''Try to imagine the perfect employee for your job,'' he says, pointing to a list of qualities employers look for that ''admittedly make you look like a Boy Scout,'' such as reliability, loyalty, efficiency, and helpfulness. ''Figure out just one area where you could be stronger and work on it this week. I tend to be a little gloomy, so I'm going to try and be more cheerful this week,'' he says.
Then, both counselors suggest, take a look around your office and find the task nobody else wants to do. Mr. Hecklinger knows of one woman who ''took on the company yearbook, which paid off with big benefits. She got to know everyone in the company, which gave her great PR, and when it came time for handing out responsibilities, people higher up remembered her willingness to do the work.''
If you seem to have gone as high up as possible at your firm, given your background, Dr. Komar suggests taking a careful look at the rules for promotion; there may be a way you can trade on your experience if you lack education, for example.
Also, ''find out the duties expected of a person working at the next higher rung. Volunteer to do the same types of tasks while in your present position. Once you have built a good track record, appeal for an upgrading of your position, on the grounds that you are already performing the duties,'' he says.
With the baby-boomers flooding the job market, many fields have become overcrowded. If that's what you're facing, Dr. Komar recommends that you ''diversify your sales points. Acquire added credentials that will make you a more valuable employee, more suitable for promotion,'' such as ''an advanced degree, specialized training on the job, important business contacts, and superior job performance.''
''Be the person who understands the new technology,'' Mr. Hecklinger suggests. ''Build a challenge like that into your job - it will make the job more interesting, and make you more enthusiastic.''
Occasionally an employee gets stuck in a position, not because he's not considered promotable material, but because he's very good at what he does, and management is afraid his replacement will lower the quality of work.
Here ''your best strategy,'' says Dr. Komar, ''is to train an assistant to take over your job, and make management aware of your protege's skills. This will (a) reassure management that the quality of work will not drop dramatically if you should leave the position and (b) show that you have the ability to train a subordinate, an important managerial talent.''
If your job doesn't realistically offer any of these escapes, consider either a lateral move ''to change the scenery'' or a demotion, ''which may offer better positioning for promotion,'' says Mr. Hecklinger. Find out where upper management (if that is your goal) came from in the business, and see if you can get yourself moved to those departments, he suggests.