3 Major Career Traps & How to Avoid Them
Advice for Talent & Job Seekers

3 Major Career Traps & How to Avoid Them

“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.” – Denis Waitley

You have the right skills, extensive professional experience, and a completed project list that could fill several pages. What’s really stopping you from getting the most out of your career every day? That little voice inside your head could be your biggest fan – but most times it’s our toughest critic.

These criticisms often lead us into what we refer to as career traps. With over 59 million hits on Google, it’s clear that “career trap” is not only a real thing but also a widely discussed topic in the professional environment. Authors from major publications such as Forbes, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today have all weighed in with their insight on this trending topic of career interest, but our favorite comes from author Sarah Canaday. In her article “Common Career Traps of Top Performers,” she concisely explains 4 career traps most professionals face at some point during their career and offers quick bullet points of ways to avoid each trap. These articles tackling this complex and frequently-experienced phenomenon, specifically from Canaday, inspired us to offer our own take on the subject. Keep reading for what career traps to look out for and ways to avoid them. 

Before we dive in, let’s break down this term career trap – What does that even mean? Canaday describes these traps as factors that could you to feel “a diminishing sense of achievement” linked to “drain[ed] confidence.” This lack of confidence prevents top professionals from striving for more from their careers or even cause a decline into career “self-destruct[ion],” as author Bruce Kasanoff explains (see Forbes).  Acknowledging the slippery slope into these common career traps is the first step in combating this internal battle. If that little voice in your head has ever told you one of these three statements, there’s a chance you’ve fallen victim to a common career trap.

“I can’t get that job because [insert name] is more [qualified/personable/smart/etc.].”

Canaday refers to this as “The Comparison Trap.” It’s human nature to measure ourselves up against one another – The same is true in our professional nature. Whether the little voice is telling the truth or not, this mentality stops so many skilled professionals from pushing their limits and applying to better positions within their current company, or even for jobs elsewhere. This type of thinking can also deter talented professionals from taking on responsibilities in order to “avoid the chance of criticism” (The Muse). This trap is crushing to the competitive spirit and causes “storm of envy, anxiety, and self-doubt'” (Canaday).

If you’re caught in the comparison trap, here’s how to pull yourself out of it:

  • Remind yourself of what makes you great. – Even if that means physically writing out your strengths, remind yourself of why you deserve to be considered rather than focusing on someone else’s strong suits.
  • Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish your own. – This is something I call a mindset-strategy. Changing your mindset on someone else’s accomplishments can greatly impact the natural tendency to compare yourself to your peer. For example, if someone gets a promotion over you, don’t look it as I wasn’t good enough – instead, think of it as that person’s hard work has paid off. It would even be a great practice to congratulate your colleagues on their accomplishments (which is big for this next point). While this kind of thinking takes serious brain-training and won’t always be easy to do, this kind of thinking can really create a pattern of positive thinking that leads to success.
  • Build intentional relationships with those around you. – Canaday refers to this as “strategic partnerships,” that require more collaboration rather than comparison. Not only will this decrease the poisonous urge to compare yourself to others, but creating these relationships could even build you up to become more skilled in your profession.

“This job’s good enough for now – it’s too hard to get anything better.”

This trap is actually pulled from Steve Errey’s article for The Muse.  For continuity purposes, we’ll call this The Settling Trap. Economic conditions are always a big topic of discussion, especially in professional settings. Putting yourself back out there on the job market can be intimidating, especially if you already have a job you feel secure in. This little voice, however, could prevent you from exploring new opportunities knocking at your door (figuratively speaking, of course).

If you relate to this statement all too much, here are some tips to get out of the trap:

  • Attitude makes all the difference. – Of course, there will always be certain industries or companies that have a lower demand for your skill-set, lower need for hiring, or lower budget for filing new positions – but if you stop yourself from even trying, you’ll never know. Believe it’s possible and you’ll be surprised by how quickly things change for you!
  • Sign up on Skillgigs. – Surely you saw that coming. It doesn’t make it less true! Skillgigs offers a unique platform that highlights your technical skills in a visually stimulating way, matches you to employers looking for someone exactly like you to fill their positions, and has new gig listings posted daily. If you’re really worried about a complicated and difficult job search process, Skillgigs takes the worry, complexity, and uncertainty out of the equation!

“Someone’s going to figure out I really don’t know what I’m doing.”

Think you’re incompetent, inadequate, insufficient? Probably not true! Back to Canaday’s article, she refers to this as “The Imposter Syndrome Trap.” It may seem a little silly, but you would be surprised by how many talented professionals with a wide variety of experience levels feel like they aren’t as good as everyone thinks they are. In fact, it’s possible that the person you were comparing yourself to in the first bullet point is experiencing this trap on the inside without you even realizing it!

If you hear the little voice in your head saying this at any point in your career, here are a few ways to overcome the trap:

  • From negativity, comes negativity.  This particular career trap is dangerous because this cycle of negative language and mindset only leads to a negative outcome with your career. Just remember – you’re probably doing better than you give yourself credit for. While it is a good habit to always want your work to be better, don’t let that drive become something that discourages you with your current performance. As we say here in Houston – Keep truckin’!
  • You didn’t just get lucky. For some unknown reason, top professionals throughout a multitude of industry backgrounds and “overwhelming proof” of their skill level truly believe everything they’ve accomplished – was simply just good luck! (Canaday). Even if you truly believe you’re where you are due to luck, don’t let it become a career trap! Keep pushing that luck, pushing the limits. Take on that next big project, apply for that new position, take that next leap.
  • Trust yourself. Trust is really the root problem for declines in self-confidence. It’s important to remind yourself of all the reasons you are qualified to be exactly where you are. Canaday even suggests “mak[ing] a list of your talents, skills, and accomplishments” to reinforce a sense of achievement in order to combat this very common career trap.

While these three career traps are common, you may find yourself facing one of the many other traps written about in one or more of the 59,000,000 hits on Google. Wherever to stand in your career, it’s important to remember you aren’t alone. That little voice inside your head can be a real headache (literally), but it’s possible to train it to see the bright side of things, including your career. The path to a successful career isn’t always a freshly paved road – and that’s okay! Just don’t let the rubble from the dirt roads slow you down.

The Skillgigs Anti-Trap 

If you feel trapped in your current career, sign up on Skillgigs today.  Our unique marketplace offers you a simplified job search process, new gigs posted daily, and a multitude of career building resources. Contact us today for more information.