Common career traps

Earlier this year Sarah Jaffe published a book call ‘Work won’t love you back’ which would
be a very apt subtitle for this article.

Working with hundreds of clients on their career progression over the last few years I’ve
spotted some patterns, some traps, that could hold us back if we don’t stop and explore
them carefully.

The meaning trap
This is possibly the most current and trendy of all the career traps; the notion that a sector,
like education or sustainability, or a certain place, like a start-up or cool brand, will
immediately add meaning to your work-life. Reflecting on my own experience and hearing
from that of many others you can be equally overwhelmed or unstimulated in any ill-suited
environment or mix of work tasks that doesn’t play to your strengths, suit your personality
and unique neurobiology. That start-up is meaningful to the founder because they are
motivated to bring their idea to life, to build something, to profit from it. You may agree and
align on many things but if the environment is one that is chaotic when deep down you
prefer structure and clarity then you need to look elsewhere. True meaning is liking what
you do much much more than where you do it.

The passion trap
Similarly working on something you are passionate about can be equally frustrating;
perhaps you don’t have the agency and autonomy you’d imagined or you find the level of
repetitiveness bores you. Many of my clients wisely choose to keep
music/football/art/insert your passion here for personal pleasure. Once again using your
strengths at work will be much more intrinsically rewarding providing none of your core
values are invalidated. As one of my clients once said,’ I’d rather have a whole life I’m
passionate about than restrict myself to working on my passion.’

The polling trap
Asking everyone you know what they think you should do or how they’d do it is another
trap that we can fall into. Many clients come to me either because they are confused by all
the conflicting opinions disguised as advice or because family and friends are bored by the
conversation and lack of progress. Only you can decide what you need to do next you just
need the right framework and some confidence to act on what your intuition is telling you.

The comparison trap
We’ve all heard the quote that comparison is the thief of joy; just as above whilst we might
think that what works for a friend/sibling or parent would work for us it is much wiser to take some distance and evaluate just how similar you are – are you comparing their outside
appearance to your inner thoughts and workings?

Another one to add to this category is the trap that if work operated like school or family
you should be winning at life. Work won’t love you back nor is it as straight forward as
school with its super clear criteria for passing or failing and so I try to help my clients
reframe their earlier successes and park them in the past where they belong.
There’s a lot in this concept of career traps but if you feel like you might be falling into one
or more of the above then reach out to me for some reflection and career coaching.
Oftentimes once we get past the obvious traps, we can see more clearly what would work
best for us as individuals and begin to develop the confidence to start looking and asking for
it, too!