David Batstone has a great post over on the Worthwhile blog about escaping the dead-end job. It's worth a read.
In it, David makes this observation on recognizing when you're in a dead-end job:
A dead-end job closes doors. The right job opens them. That's a key clue; unfortunately, too many folks look at the wrong clues. A pay raise or a new job title are certainly gratifying, but they may keep you from realizing that you are not moving. They may even be a reward for running to stand still.
He wraps up with this great insight:
Let me close with an observation. I have lost count of the number of wealthy individuals who share with me how much they pine for some purpose in what they do for a living. On the flip side of the coin, I have never met an individual who, pursuing her passion at work, truly loving his job, tell me that they would throw it away for more money or status. Bottom line, a soul is a precious gift to waste.
Ditto. What he said.