Career Coach Advice: Beware of the Golden Handcuffs

career coach adviceI was on a group coaching call and one of the participants said, “Remember, the golden handcuffs only get tighter.” I’d never heard this before, but it is so true! Since then I’ve heard it countless times from clients. They’re stuck in a job because of the high salary or the benefits. They have built a lifestyle around those things and don’t know if they can give them up. It can feel like a prison sentence, because you’re staying for the wrong reasons.

Don’t get me wrong: a salary and benefits are good things. The bad thing is when we feel trapped rather than feeling secure and happy about them. No one wants to feel that way. It’s true one person can feel trapped in a job while another can feel empowered and fulfilled in that same job. Ultimately it’s about being “at choice.”

You may wonder how this is different from Tip 3: Don’t settle. But it is. Golden handcuffs come into play when you’ve taken a job you think you’ll like and then stay there primarily because of the perks. Don’t settle is about not taking a job in the first place when your gut reaction says, “Run for the nearest door.”

Angela was in pharmaceutical sales. She told me it seemed like every time her company sensed their reps were becoming unhappy at work, it gave them a perk to add to their benefits portfolios: a new cell phone, a small bonus, a new company car. It’s not to say these things in and of themselves are bad — you might be saying,”Hey, these things sound great! I’d love to have a new car.” — but the point is: not one of these reps was happy with their jobs. Instead of being excited about the perks, they felt trapped.

Your career is about choice. I’ll say it again: Your career is about choice.

In a nutshell: If you’re wearing golden handcuffs, trapped just by the perks or salary at your job and you’re not happy, then you are not “at choice.”

Action step: To see if you are trapped, make a list of the top five reasons why you stay at your job; then ask yourself if each is a good reason to stay. If not, then maybe you’re wearing golden handcuffs.

– Hallie Crawford, Certified Career Coach

Need help with your career?  Certified Career Coach Hallie Crawford is a career coach that specializes in helping professionals identify their ideal career path, navigate their transition and nurture their career.

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