- Wise Words -
The Comfort "Trap".
Will It Hold You Back?
by roy chacko
In a previous post someone wrote about how “Careers Happen” and that you can have one idea of how your career will go, but somehow you find yourself in a position that doesn’t exactly match up to the ideal vision you had in your mind early on. Here’s that same take from a different angle - how that happens and how you can inadvertently get stuck.
The Trap Is Set
Anytime someone starting out asks me for advice I always tell them to not get too comfortable, particularly in the early part of your career. Comfort is the death knell of a dream career. People get comfortable in their career when they slowly start moving up the ladder and get used to the additional money which allows them to start living a better lifestyle, while at the same time often compromising on their ideal career path. At first you have more disposable income and it’s great: more vacations, more fancy dinners out, treating people to drinks more often and not thinking twice about it. Your apartment gets bigger and you immediately manage to fill it up. After a while your new lifestyle becomes the norm and the only way you can maintain it is to keep climbing up that ladder even if it means you will go for positions that aren’t an ideal fit for you, but the money and prestige are good enough to justify it.
You might get bored in your current role and once a higher position opens up you decide to go for it. Even if the job itself doesn’t exactly appeal to you, the promotion and the benefits of it do, and you think you’ll use the new position as a jumping off point to your ideal job. If the new role isn’t the best fit you will have the urge to make the best out of the situation thinking it will be temporary. You become an expert in your particular job, and even though it’s not exactly what you want to do, you find that the only positions that you can get now are roughly the same thing that you’re currently doing. Before you know it, you’re stuck on a career track that you didn’t anticipate and can’t figure out a way out of it.
Most of us are people-pleasers at our core and even if you end up in a job that isn’t a perfect fit, you will have the urge to excel at whatever it is you’re doing. You might think that people will take notice of your hard work and that will finally lead you to your dream job. Sometimes things work out that way but what often does happen is you surprisingly become an expert in your unexpected role. You get rewarded for your hard work with more money and responsibilities which might seem great but it also plants your feet more firmly into the ground where you don’t exactly want to be standing.
When you’re young you can be incredibly nimble. You can live very cheaply, either at home or with roommates. As you get older, those options understandably become less appealing and you want your own space. You can’t help but feed your ego and try to outsmart everyone else you know. As a short-term strategy that might be okay but over time it doesn’t always work out quite so nicely.
If you resist the urge to get comfortable, you’ll stay hungry and focused on your career and work that actually fulfils you, as opposed to what you have stumbled upon and fills your bank account. You’ll make wiser decisions to not jump at every "opportunity" that comes along, particularly if it will take you off course. Getting at your ideal career is something that takes time and effort and is often a long and windy road. If you get complacent then you will often find yourself off course and sometimes you only realise that when you think it’s too late to make a change. The more comfortable you get early on, the harder you’ll find it to shift your career back to a position that is meaningful to you. Avoid getting comfortable because the comfort will keep you in places and positions that won’t be positive in the long run.
Related Columns: "Careers Happen" and "Your Career As A Journey", "Change Is A Certainty. Embrace It".
Roy Chacko is a media professional who has worked in program strategy and promotion planning at HBO for a number of years. He has also worked in film production, including producing the feature-length film The Condemned. He is now working as a freelance writer, focusing on the media landscape, which can be found at https://roy-chacko.com/.