Career Traps

Apr 09, 2022careerlife

In my work, I often come across people who are clearly trapped in their jobs. They know something’s not working for them but struggle to pinpoint what that is or why it’s so. I call these situations “career traps,” or patterns of thinking and behaving that we practice because they are familiar to us — even though they can negatively impact our productivity and effectiveness and lead to poor health as well as feelings of isolation.

It often takes a crisis — a pandemic, getting fired, painful boredom, burnout, loss, or a significant illness — for us to stop, reflect, and recognize the career traps that might be tripping us up.

Don’t wait for that to happen. Based on my experience, there are five common traps employees fall into. Be proactive by challenging yourself to consider if these traps are impeding your progress.

Ambition trap. You’re a high performer who is used to success. You worry if you slow down, you’ll stop achieving. Not knowing how to dial it back, your solution is to work harder when the pressure at work rises.

Expectation trap. You continually strive to meet other people’s expectations. Consequently, admitting that you’re struggling and over-worked is ego-shattering. You worry that people will think less of you if you acknowledge you are burned out or unable to cope.

Busyness trap. You enjoy being busy and consider it a part of your identity. For you, work always comes first. As a result, you struggle to say no, slow down, or switch off. You likely regularly sacrifice time with loved ones and your health for your job.

Translation trap. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are, yet the happiness you thought you’d find eludes you. You have all the hallmarks of success, but you feel like you have lost your way because your role doesn’t fulfill or inspire you. Nor does it align with your purpose. At the same time, you worry about changing directions because you believe that your current job is all you know.

Adrenalin trap. You run your life on adrenaline, not taking enough time to care for your mind, body, and spirit. You are run-down and overworked. You say to yourself, “I’ll take a break tomorrow,” but tomorrow never comes. You have forgotten that putting your self-care needs first is a critical act of leadership and crucial for a sustainable career.

Avoiding these traps (and getting out of them) involves making deliberate trade-offs, and deciding on those trade-offs will become easier when you are clear on what matters to you. This brings me to part two: figuring out your purpose.