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Stuck in a Golden Cage? Here’s how to get out!

Written by Nuskha Semaun on 15 May 2023 for Professionals

Ever heard of the Golden Cage Syndrome? It’s a phenomenon that affects a lot of people at some point in their career. And while it may sound nice, it’s probably best to avoid unless you want your work week to look like this:

It’s Tuesday, the absolute worst day of the week. Sunday already seems like a lifetime ago, and there are still so many days left till Friday. You reluctantly drag yourself out of bed and to the kitchen, to reward and comfort yourself with a few cups of coffee. You know you have to get ready for work, but you keep putting it off until ten minutes before you need to leave the house.

After a stressful drive (because of course, when you’re late, all other drivers are idiots and the traffic lights are against you), you arrive at work already exhausted. You muster through your workday, making as little eye contact as possible, finishing your tasks adequately so nobody can complain about your performance. You sigh whenever something unexpected comes up (and it always does), counting down the hours and even minutes until you can go home again.


Sounds familiar?

Does this sound like you? Then it’s safe to say you’re not enjoying your work (at the very least). Maybe it used to be fun, but lately you don’t feel like you’re growing anymore. Maybe you feel like there’s nothing left for you to learn here. You may daydream about walking into your boss’s office, telling him that you’re quitting, and grabbing your favourite office plant on your way out – but you’d never dare to actually do that.

We’re aware that the example above is a rather extreme one, but not feeling energised at work on a regular basis, is a big red flag. But we get it, you have bills to pay, loans to pay off. You worry you won’t be able to find another job that pays this well and offers such great benefits, and you’re understandably unwilling to sacrifice your current lifestyle. You might have convinced yourself that you’re too old to switch paths, and that giving up a good job and financial security is risky and, well – just plain stupid. Congratulations, you just locked yourself in a prison of your own making and are officially diagnosed with the Golden Cage Syndrome.

5 tell-tale signs that you’re in a golden cage

  1. You count the days until the weekend, a bank holiday or your next vacation.
  2. You feel drained of energy and are tired all the time.
  3. You avoid human contact in the office (in fact, you wish you could lock yourself in the broom closet and work from there).
  4. You have a negative attitude towards work, all your words come out bitter, and people increasingly tend to avoid you.
  5. You feel like there’s nothing to be done and you need to accept your fate because, ‘that’s what responsible adults do’. Besides, who likes their job anyway? It’s called work for a reason.

Although this might come as a surprise, this isn’t the case for everyone. There’s a saying some people (who aren’t inside a golden cage) have, it goes: when you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. For these people, work doesn’t feel draining or like a necessary evil to pay the bills. They don’t feel locked up in a luxurious prison: their door is wide open and they choose to stay put, because they like where they are. Maybe because at one point, they were feeling as worn out as you do and decided to escape the rat race, take a risk and go for what they really wanted.

How to get out: Prepare to jump, then leap

You might think to yourself: ‘I could never do that, I wouldn’t dare to take such a risk’. But if you plan your move well, it will become a lot less daunting. Here are a few things you can do to make it easier:

  1. Allow yourself to dream and figure out what would make you happy. Then start planning your route to reaching that goal.
  2. Seek out the guidance of a job coach or recruiter and find out which job suits your personality, your interests and needs.
  3. If necessary: Watch your expenses and set aside some money to buffer your transition period between career paths.

Also, if salary is something you’re really worried about, it’s probably to have a closer look at our Ultimate Guide to Salary Negotiation.

Banner: The Ultimate guide to salary negotiation

More than a paycheck

This might sound a bit cliché, but a job should be a lot more than a way to get claim your monthly paycheck. In fact, it might be a good idea to look for an employer that includes a bunch of other things in their offer as well (next to a decent salary of course), such as personal development opportunities, a personal training budget, a flexible income plan, etc. And then we haven’t even mentioned the importance of having a good match with the company culture. No matter how golden your cage might feel, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that there’s a lot more than ‘hard cash’ that will motivate you in the long run.

BANNER - How to Discover a company’s actual culture

At Exellys, we know how important coaching and training on the job is. We know that you can’t just put a talented person in any environment and expect them to thrive. We have a meticulous job matching process, to not just get you employment but actually look for the best fit for you. Does that sound like something you might be interested in and are you ready for a new adventure in IT? Get in touch with us today, we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Check out Exellys Talks, our monthly podcast!

About Exellys

Exellys is a Tech Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest tech talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be.

Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!