Four Potential Career Dead Ends and How to Avoid Them

In your zeal to get further faster in your career, you may be leaving yourself vulnerable to a number of common traps. Some of these are unintentionally set. They can be the result of overly optimistic business owners, or innocent assumptions about the progression of the company, the industry, or the overall economy.

But some of these traps are intentionally set. Unethical managers or business owners seek to prey on the scores of ambitious job seekers looking for a straighter, faster road to the Good Life.

Here are some of the most common career dead ends and how to avoid them.

Betting on advancement opportunities
Are you waiting around for a promotion that seems to be taking forever? Maybe it will be literally forever – never really. Perhaps you were recruited at a lower level than you should be, under the notion that “You’ll quickly move up even higher than you were.” Healthy skepticism from the beginning can prevent this trap. Discuss the terms for your promotion in detail. Examine whether the criteria is attainable. Then get it all in writing before coming aboard.

Trading a good title and higher pay for “experience”
Many terrific professionals get lured into jobs that are below where they should be working, based on the premise that they’ll get more “experience” or “training” in a field. Small businesses are the most common abusers of this notion. Yes, you generally will get exposed to a greater range of professional situations in a small business. But you’re also likely to get less structure in your training, and be expected to do more learning on your own – probably off the clock. Particularly vulnerable to the “experience” appeal are established professionals who are looking to switch careers.

Hoping for a stake in the company
Were you promised a piece of the action? Get it in writing. If the hiring manager or business owner isn’t willing to commit, then run – fast. This is one of the more common ploys for pulling in unsuspecting ambitious types. Indeed, the appeal of getting a chunk of the profits from a successful enterprise can be mouth-wateringly compelling. And that’s why this one has so much pull. But it can often be like chasing a mirage – you never quite get there. Again, a healthy skepticism can save the day.

Waiting for the company to make it big
Finally, one of the sneakiest traps of all is hanging around waiting for a company to grow big and take your career up with it. This trap is so slippery because it’s often not really laid by the people who hired you, or even spoken of explicitly. It usually comes from that most powerful place of all, your own mind. You see the company growing and you see what level apparently similar organizations have ascended to. It’s therefore an easy step to plan on “getting in on the ground floor” and letting your career rise like a boat in high tide. But be objective. Does this company really have what it takes to get there? Is the management intelligent enough? And more importantly, are you really in a position to capitalize on the company’s Big Break? It can be tough to subject your plans to hard scrutiny. But it’s better than drinking sand when you finally reach the mirage.