Corporate Career Handcuffs – Are you trapped?

A consistent feature showing up in our coaching practice is that more and more people in the corporate world feel trapped. They have worked really hard and made significant personal sacrifices to achieve their current Senior Level positions but increasingly they feel trapped. It’s like a bell curve in career satisfaction peaks in their forties and then tapers off if proactive steps are not taken.

Here is a common career journey we are seeing in our coaching programmes:

The Thirty Something’s

These ambitious high fliers are in a rush. They have a track record of recent project successes under their belts and a thirst for career success. They have a corporate career goal in mind – to reach Head of Function or Director Level. They are hungry for new learning; often studying for a masters while also working incredible hours. They are newly married, have just started a mortgage and possibly a new family. Salary increases are common which are often achieved by making frequent job moves.

The Forty Something’s

These ambitious high fliers are talented at what they do. They may have reached Head of or Director Level but are now burned out and consistently tell me privately that their career plan is “once I hit 55 I’m done! I’m out of here. I’ve had enough now but can’t afford to leave“. They have now settled in one organisation and while head-hunters call, they fear leaving what they know. They have also built up a number of year’s tenure and won’t leave without a severance package.

The Fifty Something’s

These are the same people ten years later. They have either taken a redundancy package or reached a comprise agreement to go for fear their role may be at risk from an ambitious thirty something who is the new messiah. They have also now realised they can’t afford to retire early because they have extended themselves too much in their thirties and forties. They hadn’t bargained for the high cost of college education or that their twenty something kids would stay in the nest (and on the payroll!) into their late twenties.

“I’m caught in a trap, I can’t get out”

Through our coaching sessions we have identified three predominant reasons why clients feel the Corporate Career Handcuffs come on.  These are the 3 F’s…

1 – Fears – the fear of changing and failing elsewhere

2 – Finances – they can’t afford to go because of current personal debt levels

3 – Facts – they have not fully researched what else they want to do

What can you do to get out of the trap?

1 – Fear – The fear of not making it somewhere else stems from a small almond shaped object called an ‘amygdala’ in our brains. The amygdala is our inner lighthouse and is constantly scanning for threats at an unconscious level. In ancient times, seeing a dangerous predatory animal we didn’t recognise triggered a fight, flight or freeze reaction. The same process occurs in the brain when making a change and stepping outside our comfort zone into an industry sector or career field unknown to us. Our over vigilant amygdala feels threatened, fearing the worst may happen and chooses an avoid response. The trick is to continually challenge ourselves to take more risks and proactively seek out change. This way, change becomes recognisable to our amygdala; it has scanned something we have encountered before.

The winners in the world of work are those that see change as an everyday occurrence and not something to fear.

2 – Finances – We find most successful people are so busy they take very little time to plan their finances in any great detail. We have met CFO’s with no financial plans. They manage million euro budgets at work but spend little time on the important numbers. In short, they don’t know where they stand in relation to their finances, thus increasing stress at an unconscious level. We provide this invaluable and impartial support as part of our Career and Financial Audit Coaching Programme. Liam Croke, MD of Harmonics Financial, is a trusted financial advisor to hundreds of busy Executives helping them complete a personal and family financial review – see our sister company Harmonics Financial

It is wise to know your numbers, gain clarity and remove the financial uncertainties from your future.

3 – Facts – Busyness gets in the way of facts in my opinion. This happens because we remain busy in roles that don’t satisfy us any longer and go with the flow rather than stepping back to get a clearer picture. At the start of each year, after Christmas and after summer holidays, we get calls from busy people who want to meet and review their career future. They have had time over their holiday break to unwind and promise that they we will definitely do something different this year. When we meet up, they talk about how they hate what they do but don’t have the time to spend on their own career project. They want an instant quick fix.

To be at our career best, we need take the time to stop, know the facts about what we want and how to find it, acknowledge our fears and gain clarity about our future financial goals.

The 3 F’s – Corporate Career Handcuff Release Coaching Questions:

  1. Fears – What do I really fear and how can I overcome these fears?
  2. Financials – What is my number? How much do I need to target to achieve my retirement age financial goals?
  3. Facts – What do I want to do next and how can I make this happen?

True freedom comes from increasing your certainty about the 3F’s and facing up to each of them with the same enthusiastic ambition you had when you were a thirty something.

I will leave you with this quotation from George Bernard Shaw that is worth looking at each morning before you start work.

“Life is no great candle to me……it is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Harmonics Career and Financial Audit Programme has been specifically designed with the Senior Business Leader in mind. An increasing number of Organisations are providing this programme for their Executives as part of their reward package. John Fitzgerald and Liam Croke have, between them, worked with well over 500 Executives in enabling them to plot their future career and financial goals.

Testimonial – “The Harmonics Career and Financial Audit Programme was just what I needed to gain a new perspective, it was realistic, refreshing and the kick I needed to take positive action and stop talking about it” – Senior Business Leader

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