Career Traps, part 1

Career Traps, Part 1: Hidden Dead End Jobs

There are some dead end jobs that look good, but are actually career poison. They're career traps. These jobs look like good career moves when you get them, but wind up as career fossilization. Spotting career traps can be the difference between sidelining yourself and having a real career.

Career traps have common characteristics:

  • The job itself is highly specialized.
  • The rest of your skills are left to decay while you're doing it.
  • Your talents have minimal outlets.
  • Your CV stagnates in terms of current skills.
  • The job doesn't directly lead anywhere.
  • The position doesn't relate to other positions.
  • The career path is greatly restricted.

The result of these characteristics is that the job has no further development potentials. That means you're effectively stuck. There is no career path from that position. The longer you remain in that job, the less current your other skills become. You might need to restart at a lower level, or even change streams in your field to get moving again.

From a purely employment based perspective, these jobs are lethal. Over-specialization can leave you in mid air when that specialty loses its job status. IT is the classic example of this. You may actually go backwards, or out, when the job is superceded by new technology or restructuring. You might get lucky with restructuring, because you can find another less static job, but you're also seeing the specialization being absorbed into the workplace, where it becomes a less important element.

The lack of outlets for talent is particularly damaging. You don't lose talents, but lack of exercised talents is as bad for career skills as it is for people. Technical knowledge and information become dated. Trying to pick up where you left off means you start a long way behind the job market, and off your career track.

The damage to the CV can be repaired, to a point. You can still use the job, or parts of it, as transferable skills on some level. The repairs will only operate to the extent that's possible with the new jobs, however, and employers will still see gaps in other areas. If you target your applications to matching specific parts of the career trap, you can minimize that effect.

Not relating to other positions isn't a positive when going for internal promotions, either. Positions which are essentially 'stand alone' jobs usually don't leave much room to maneuver when trying to move on. The job designs are often too narrow to allow upward moves, so they can damage promotion chances.

If this relates to you, don't give up. Career traps aren't unbeatable. There are ways of getting out of them, and there are ways of undoing the career damage. You can get your career back on track, and achieve your goals. The first step in beating career traps is recognizing them for what they are. In Part 2 of this series, we'll explain how you can get out of the career trap, and stay out in the future.