Don't Let These 6 Common Job Traps Derail Your Career


Have you run out of novel reasons to call in late to work? Do you keep close tabs on the number of vacation and sick days you have left? Have you fantasized about pulling a Thelma and Louise-style getaway on your Monday morning commute? If so, you may feel trapped by that job you used to love.

It's no fun. Feeling trapped in a job you hate can sap your motivation, keep you poor, and lead to all kinds of other stress. Get yourself unstuck by learning why so many people get stuck in the first place. Here a six of the most common career traps.

1. Convincing yourself you're too invested to leave

Being invested in your job is admirable, but at a certain point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Ask yourself, "Is my investment paying off? Is the payoff purely financial? Are there hidden costs to my health and relationships that I'm not factoring into the equation?" Consider how moving on might revitalize your career and offer greater rewards. (See also: 6 Reasons It's Never Too Late for a Career Change)

2. Believing that big promotion is just around the corner

I get it; we're all taught that quitting is bad and that patience is rewarded. But if you're continually passed over for promotions despite working harder and working smarter, something's gotta give. Have a chat with your supervisor to clarify your career path and outline exactly what's needed to progress professionally. If things don't change in a reasonable amount of time, move on. (See also: 12 Ways to Finally Get That Promotion This Year)

3. Confusing your employer with your family

We've all heard the familiar refrain, "We're just one big happy family here!" While the metaphor is lovely, it usually doesn't survive an economic downturn. Without taking anything away from companies that work hard to foster a close and collaborative atmosphere, the employer/employee relationship is an economic one. Your coworkers aren't your siblings and your boss isn't your parent. Pursue your career goals free of these false family obligations.

4. Not realizing you can interview casually

An interview is like a first date; even if things go well, you don't have to get married. There's a big difference between exploring your professional options and turning in a letter of resignation. Chill out. It's perfectly OK to interview casually, learn more about companies that are hiring, and take your time considering new roles. (See also: 9 Ways to Job Hunt Without Getting Caught)

5. Waiting to cash in when the company goes public

Sure, sometimes companies go public and faithful employees get a big payday by exercising company stock options. But just as often, companies spend years preparing for an IPO that either never happens or falls flat. Unless you're fully prepared to play the long game — potentially sacrificing career advancement and happiness in the process — don't stick around for an iffy IPO.

6. Believing your employer is special

I once had a friend who spent more than 25 years working for the same company. The first five or 10 years were terrific. The firm was small and privately held, provided employees with free lunch every day, and offered a host of convenient services on-site. But when the company went public and had to answer to shareholders, the culture changed dramatically and most of those little perks were cut.

Still, my friend endured. She had a difficult time admitting the place was no longer special — that other employers might actually offer her more valuable benefits and far more progressive work environments. For the next decade, she toiled as new staff came and went, her workload grew, and her stress level skyrocketed. Though she dreamed of moving on, she's likely still there — holed up in a dark corner remembering the good ol' days.

That doesn't have to be you. Let go of what used to be special and move on to something that is.

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