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How To Free Yourself From The ‘Golden Handcuff Effect’

How To Free Yourself From The ‘Golden Handcuff Effect’

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This article is part of an exclusive month-long program on CAREEREALISM to help readers break free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Click HERE to learn more about the Professional Emancipation Project, a.k.a. The P.E.P. Talk.

Do you find yourself feeling chained to job that brings tangible benefits but no fulfillment? Is fear of leaving great benefits or a prestigious title at your current job keeping from seeking career opportunities that bring you real joy? If you answered yes, you are a victim of the Golden Handcuff Effect. You fear losing your sense of security in your current situation albeit miserable for you to live through each day.

Before you resign yourself to a life of career misery, I encourage you to look at your current situation from a different perspective. We spend in excess of one third of every work day at our jobs and spend between 40 – 50 years in the workforce at the very least. We spend a large portion of our lives working.

Holding a job that brings you no growth or joy will be just that—a job. When you spend your day doing the things you enjoy and getting paid for doing so, you have a career. So, how do you free yourself from this “Golden Handcuff Effect” and transition your working life to a rewarding career? First, start by asking yourself a few important questions:

1. What Makes You Happy Or What Are Your Passions In Life?

When do you feel the most engaged and energized in your life? Is it when you are spending time with your children? Do you love traveling? Are you energized when you help another person in need? Are you passionate about being involved with the well-being of our environment or economy?

The cornerstone of your happiness must be considered when evaluating the amount of time you are willing to spend away from family, the organizational culture in which you must work, or what you must be doing to feel accomplished in the work you and not just in the title you hold. The foundation to a rewarding career must consist of doing something that brings you joy and fulfillment.

2. Identify The Intangible Benefits Of A Rewarding Career

What does a rewarding career look like to you? Are you fulfilled in your job when you see tangible results to your work? Do you like creating new ideas and watching them come to fruition? Do you not want to think about work when you leave at the end of the day? What does happiness look like to you?

Most people fear change because of the unknown. Challenge yourself to draw a picture of your definition of career happiness? When we were five years old, we had idealistic views of what we would do when we grew up into adults. We wanted to be doctors and policemen or women.

As we grow, we start to realize what “jobs” provide the most money or security and what jobs look wonderful but do not pay the bills. Ask yourself if the tangibles in your career have now overshadowed the intangible picture of career happiness.

3. What Do You Prioritize?

Is career fulfillment a high priority to you? Do you need to feel like you are accomplishing something every day? Do you need a job in close proximity to family or proper schools for your children? Does a company’s medical benefit package matter most because of a healthcare need for a member of your family? Are you working to finance your children’s college education?

In the end, your priorities will define the descriptors of the type of work you seek. You can identify what makes you happy and list the intangible benefits to a career, but your priorities will dictate the steps you are ultimately willing to take in your life.

Ask yourself if you are bound to the “Golden Handcuff Effect” in your career for all the wrong reasons.  At the end of the day, a great salary can only buy you things not happiness.

The P.E.P. Talk

This article is part of our P.E.P. Talk Series. Over the next month, some of the brightest and best authors, business professionals, and coaches are coming together to share their valuable advice for breaking free of “The Golden Handcuff Effect” so you can take full ownership of your careers and experience Professional Emancipation.

P.E.P Talk


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Cindy Billington

Cindy Billington is the author of “Career Management: Keepin’ It Real” blog at and an avid Social Networking contributor on Twitter @cindybillington.