How to Escape Today’s Golden Handcuffs

Do you feel stuck at your corporate job – and not just because of money? You might be caught with the modern version of golden handcuffs. Let’s call them rosegolden handcuffs, shall we? 

The traditional definition of golden handcuffs from the 1970s includes employees feeling stuck by the money and benefits companies throw at them, incenting them to not move to another company. Golden handcuffs might come in the form of salary, stock options, health and wellness benefits, bonuses, perks paid out on the backend of one’s career or tied to tenure.

My modern-day definition includes other nonfinancial benefits or intangible qualities that tie people to corporate jobs. These include status, title, skill, fear of starting over, and being trapped in others’ definition of success. Just like rose-colored glasses, rosegolden handcuffs represent a false sense of beauty or success.

In short, most of what comprises rosegolden handcuffs is self-induced vs company created. The good news is that once we recognize false feelings of contentment and security, it makes escaping to do something more fulfilling truly possible.

Finding My Fulfillment

I know the pain and the shame of not being fulfilled by a seemingly great job. I took a risk and escaped my rosegolden handcuffs by walking away from my comfortable corporate position with only a half-baked plan for my business and faith that if I can envision an alternative future for myself, find a career that not only earns me a good living, but also brings me deep joy and meaning. 

I had just enough belief in myself, energy to work hard, and a healthy amount of ignorance, to make that dream a reality. So, I know it can be done. It is not easy, but it can be done.

Escape (or Loosen) Your Corporate Handcuffs

Once you understand that’s what keeping you at a job doesn’t fulfill you, it’s time to think about what other options exist and how you could move to something that gives you more joy. Here are four tips for going through this process:

  • Examine what success means to you.That’s right, you! It’s likely you’ve been living a life according to other people’s definition of success, including parents, college friends, neighbors, not to mention society and the media. Consider whether everything you’ve accomplished professionally genuinely makes you happy or just “looks good” to others. Ask yourself, if you had the freedom to live your ideal life, what would make you most happy? Believe that getting closer to that vision is a possibility. I’m a big believer that all plans start with a vision.
  • Always have a Plan B.Think about if you weren’t at your corporate job. What would you like to do – and how would it fulfill your personal definition of success. Again, all plans start with a vision. Unsure of what you’d do? Check out my blog, Focus on the Journey not the Outcome, to learn how to get in touch with the things that bring you joy and meaning.
  • Start a side hustle.Side hustles are great ways to test aspects of your Plan B while still having the security of your steady paycheck. Think of a side hustle as a hobby that you get paid for. How much you get paid isn’t the point, taking action is. Learning how to monetize something more aligned with your interests, passions and personal definition of success will allow you to see fulfilling possibilities outside of your traditional job or career.
  • Invest in cultivating your network.If you decide to leave your corporate job to strike out of your own or to something different, you need to rely on your network. Who you know, and the help they can give you, is paramount to your success. Networking means more than passing out business cards, it means having trusting relationships with people that will help, support and vouch for you. Building a deep network takes work, so start early and never stop developing real connections with all sorts of people, not just in your current industry. Cast a broad net of positive, interesting people from all walks of life. You never know how or when you will tap into those relationships. 

Want more tips for leaving your corporate job to pursue a more joyful path? Sign up for my newsletterto be the first to hear about new resources that will give you step by step instructions to live your best professional life!

Let's Connect

Beth believes a positive, connected and committed organizational culture is critical to business success. That’s why she combined her 25 years of corporate leadership and management consulting experience with her expertise in diversity and inclusion and positive psychology to launch, The Brimful Life, a consulting firm that works with executives to strengthen their leadership skills and transform their leadership teams and organizational cultures to better support the organization’s vision and strategic goals. In addition, The Brimful Life podcast series, keynote presentations and workshops inspire and equip leaders to put people and culture first.

Beth has lived and worked in London, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Boston and New York City. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Virginia, a MA in International Relations from Tufts University and an MBA from Columbia University.

Beth lives a brimful life by spending time with her husband and three kids and with running, speed skating and watching cooking competition shows on TV which is ironic because she hates to cook.

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