What's the most challenging job to keep?

There are plenty of resources on the Dope and off of it regarding the difficulty of getting certain jobs. What are the most difficult jobs to keep? E.g. do rocket scientists at major aerospace companies frequently find themselves one step from being fired for poor performance due to too many blowups or aborted launches? Do brain surgeons often end up on a “Performance Improvement Plan” due to being an ok brain surgeon but certainly not on the Top 100 Brain Surgeons of America list and thus “not a good fit” for a top-rated hospital? Are Baptist preachers one step away from the dole because they barely converted enough people last month? Are schoolteachers flying on the seat of their pants worried that if they don’t reduce the number of failing students, they will be getting a pink slip?

If you mean jobs that are both difficult to get and difficult to keep, I would think that CEO’s and high level sports coaches are right up there.

High pressure sales gigs where you’re paid only on commission, I’d think - I mean, I suppose you can keep working if you’re not selling cars, but you’ll starve to death.

What’s the average career of an NBA player? Googling, it looks like the average age for many of the teams are under 30.

In general, I suspect certain professional sports gigs are the hardest to keep, simply because a combination of the fact that their are very limited spots for a huge number of people that want to play and the fact that injuries and general aging will insure that a given player will be surpassed by a younger up-and-commer fairly quickly.

I imagine professional models and ballerinas and the like have similar problems.

(ETA: and for different reasons, the Al-Queda second in command position seems to have a lot of turn-over)

Al-Qaeda #2

I would say management consulting is one of the hardest jobs to keep. Firms like Mckinsey, Bain, Deloitte, Accenture, BCG and others tend to be extremely hard to get into in the first place, typically hiring top grads from short lists of top schools. Although they do hire more experienced “strategic hires” if you have a particular skill set or industry experience they need.

Once you are in, your value is based on how many “billable hours” you work, much like a lawyer. This is largely dependent on finding a match between your skills and experience and an available project working for a partner or manager who likes you. If you don’t bill enough hours and spend enough time “on the beach” (not working on billable projects), you may find yourself “counselled out” (fired).

Consulting firms also typically have an informal or formal “up or out” policy where if it is decided you have reached your peak, they ask you to leave the firm.

And some people just quit after a year or two because they get sick of working 80-100 hours a week and living out of a suitcase sunday night through thursday.

Turnover can be as high as 25% or more, depending on how you define voluntary vs involuntary. Higher in a bad economy when clients are cutting services.

So basically, if you join a management consulting firm, expect that as many as a quarter of your colleagues will either get laid off or quit out of frustration in their first year.

Anything where there’s a steady ocean of applicants such as fast-food, retail sales clerks, etc. and the cost of onboarding and training is minimal can make for a hard-to-keep job.


Though there are actors who score major recurring roles in reliably steady productions, 99% of actors do only one-off gigs, and must be constantly on the lookout for new work. And consider that 100 people audition for each available role, so “keeping” your job (i.e. getting a new gig after your previous one ends) is pretty tough.

Might strain the definition of “keeping” though: it’s usually understood when you’re hired that you’ll be laid off by the end of the afternoon.

Are these examples of jobs that are hard to keep? They might be examples of jobs that are hard to keep people in.

I’m specifically looking for jobs that are hard to keep even when the worker wants to stay. Basically, I’m talking about jobs where it is more common that a person who has already been hired is faced with rational stress over getting fired or where an above-average number of workers who have already been hired are fired. E.g. a job/industry/company where 50 people are hired in September only for half of them to be “fired for poor performance” by December, even if they still want to stay, when it was the intent of the company to really only keep 25 by firing the lowest performers. In many jobs, it’s difficult to be fired for poor performance unless you do a really awful job - being mediocre or simply a below average producer simply means you will not get promoted (aka the Peter Principle).

I suppose the commission-only salesperson might fit based on a different interpretation of the question.

Neat idea, but it doesn’t really match with my intent. The understanding from the beginning was that the job was only temporary. I’m talking about a worker who is hired on an “indefinite” basis, but where that worker must fight tooth and nail to keep from getting fired. E.g. they are hired in September and do ok for the first few months, then they make an embarassing error, miss a deadline or quota, or simply be rated as below average and are immediately fired.


Manager: “This auditor job requires you to produce. If you do not catch at least 10 errors or acts of fraud a month, you will be fired. There is no mercy and no building up ‘Good points’ in good months.”

Commission sales.

Professional athlete.


Politics can be hard. The vast majority of incumbents get re-elected, but they do need to invest lots of time and money in making that happen. I would be happy to serve in the United States Senate - but you would have to drag me, kicking and screaming, into the House. Two-year terms mean that campaigns more-or-less never end.

Writer. Just because you sold one book or movie script, that doesn’t mean you will ever sell another one. It increases your chances, but it is by no means a guarantee.

Kamikaze Pilot

Actually, most of them keep their job their entire life.


It’s my understanding that a lot of the elite special forces jobs have a high ‘washout’ rate as they go through training. I’ve heard such things as “50 of you are here right now, in one month’s time, there will be 5.”

That could be hyperbole, however.

Excellent follow up.

It’s probably closer to 25-50% washout rate. Much higher than that and they should do a better job during the selection process. It’s expensive training candidates who don’t complete the training. But I believe part of special operations training is to also screen candidates who can’t hack it.

I don’t know if I would consider that their “job” or more like a 16 week interview process.

Yes, this is more what I was looking for, basically a situation where making it through the interview is only the first step, for exampe a company treats the first six months leading up to the first performance appraisal as a second interview with the expectation that some significant portion of the new hires will be fired for poor performance, effectively meaning that they failed the six month “interview”, or otherwise hiring more people than they expect to keep indefinitely, waiting until after hiring to weed out lower performers that might otherwise have been weeded out during the “regular” interview process.