How did/do you navigate around the "golden handcuffs"?

I recently got a job that pays really well but have come to realize that it's not a good fit overall (values not aligned, work is not as stimulating etc.). I have financial issues that'll make it foolish for me to take a paycut (I also live in Vancouver, BC, so you can imagine) just to leave but I find it's SO difficult to find a job that pays at this level. Most days I feel trapped.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? If so, how did you handle it? If you're in one now, how are you planning to handle it?

I'm sorry ladies, I'm posting this anonymously in case someone at work is a member here.

Hello! First off, don't be sorry for posting anon :) that's why we made the functionality so you can speak in a somewhat unfiltered fashion!I think this is really real and I am very big on taking risks on myself ie if that means taking a pay cut or going the uncertain route, because I know I'll be better off in the long term. That said, based on your post I think you have all the reasons to take on this role, you said yourself you have financial issues (we don't talk enough about it but financial health is just as important as mental or physical health ie. if you don't have the financial cushion to live a decent life at minimum, it will be very hard for you to thrive in other areas of your life). Do you already know what you want out in a job eg what's your calling? what do you want in your ideal role if you could craft it? what you want to optimise for? what are your non negotiables? Whether you have answers to the above, if I were you, I'd make what I call my master exit plan. I'd create a financial plan to figure out how much money I need to have in my different accounts and leave some buffers to plan for inflation and all (saving, brokerage, retirement, real estate, and whatnot) to feel comfortable leaving this job. It is possible if you were to leave this role you'd take a paycut, so how much of a paycut are you willing to take?I would also take a look at the economy, hiring is quite slow right now so what's your BATNA? If none then, I'd take the job and continue to network, get closer to getting answers to the above questions and keep in mind that the current situation is temporary. Stick to your planning and you'll be fine!
Thank you, Lynna. Those are tough questions, ones that I've asked myself many times. Balancing personal goals with careers goals is a tough gig, and I often find myself sacrificing one over the other. I'm kind of doing most of the things you suggested so I guess I'm on the right track, but staying put is definitely challenging!
I am glad to hear you ask yourself these questions! The answers won't come overnight but at least you're a path closer to clarity you know. I do think you're on the right track :) you'll do really well, stay laser focused and trust the process!
I agree with the advice @iynna gave you. I’d also add that maybe setting some goals in the financial sense could help you tolerate the situation better. For example, finishing paying some debt you have. Or reaching a certain amount in savings.I was in a similar situation but I finally resigned, after having paid off all my debt and saved up a year worth of expenses. This allowed me to confidently leave, reset and take time to look for better opportunities. I think it’s totally doable, with a little organization and breaking big goals into smaller ones you’ll feel your progress too.
Thank you! Yes, that's really the original plan anyway, pay off all debts to gain the financial flexibility to do a reset, and that was when I thought I still liked the company. Now everyday is like, "ugh, I do NOT want to be here". Thanks for the feedback, good to know I'm on the right path.
Rosena above says it already very well. I coach women in matters of wealth on the side of my corporate Product tech job (I grew up in a variable income home where money and stability were often a concern. I was financially independent immediately upon uni graduation & worked in Private Equity / Mgmt Consulting to get a financial foothold in my 20s - a career I eventually hated and left, but I acknowledge that it put me miles ahead financially and professionally). Sometimes we have to less than ideal jobs to give ourselves a foothold financially and set us up to be able to have the freedom to make choices on our environments. Late stage capitalism in both of our countries (US and Canada) make it very hard to survive let alone thrive without some sort of financial security.Work on paying down any higher interest loans (if you have a low interest car loan or something with a rate below 6ish % let it be) and save up 6 months, preferably 1 year of full living expenses, THEN make your move.I highly recommend exploring during this time of unfulfilling work what actually DOES inspire you - save $$ and plan for your next steps simultaneously. Many ways to do this & happy to provide more info / prompts. DM me if you're curious!
it's comforting to hear these stories of people having made it to the other side of a situation like this. Assures me it's very much doable!
@iynna, @jessicap and other ladies have shared great advices, and here's what I did and how I coach folks navigate through similar situations:1) Know your tangible bottom line. As you mentioned you have financial goals where this job can help accomplish. Do you know the exact amount that is? Do you know how long does it take to get there before you can release the golden handcuffs? Is there other things you can do to expedite the timeline? By creating some certainty and clarity, it will help mitigate the feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and stress from being "cuffed."2) Know your intangible bottom line (ie. your values, vision, calling.) Do these matter for you during this season of career? If so, is there any aspect of your current job that meet these non-negotiable? 3) As long as these bottom lines are not crossed, identify the areas that you can extract joy from, both at work and outside of work. Lean on them, and leg go of others. For example, if you like working with people, tap into networking and collaborating with other coworkers and release yourself from the sense of responsibility of giving it all to all of the things. 4) Identify things outside of work that nourish you, and take up on new things to learn or side-kick as you build towards your next step when you reach your timeline. These help keep you going as you have the finish line in sight. I hold space and coach womxn navigating through challenging situations in work and life, and find peace and conviction with who they are and what they're pursuing. Feel free to DM me if you'd like to explore and chat through the above together.
Thank you for breaking it down even further. My mind's pretty much going 24/7 of finding ways to get out of it or finding things to occupy my time with so I can move past my current situation.
Hi! I Lived the same 5 years ago. I changed the course of my career but looking back I think the best is to speak with a coach to define actions that help you keep to salary and lifestyle with this job.
I've had a few sessions with a career coach and she gave me some great tips!
Ahhhh this is really such a hard question! It feels impossible to live on less, even when the pay is so good, because the economy at large is so bad and to be honest even six figures now feels like what 40k a year felt like in the 80s. Purchasing power is NOT the same anymore (especially in major cities).As with most situations I don't want to be in, I find it helpful to create an exit plan (in this case also a financial exit plan) to create a sense of control over the situation. The worst thing about feeling trapped is exactly that -- the feeling. And I don't know about you but I often get stuck in thought cycles that just make me feel worse (I hate this, I'm never going to fix it, etc).I find that the feeling in the job is the first thing to address -- and then the actions you take to get out of the situation come next. If you can start to feel a little lighter about it ("I just have to do this for a few more months, I know what I'd need to take a pay cut, I know what I'd need for a mental break etc") then whatever situation you need to change starts to feel a bit more manageable.
For transparency, it's the debts that I'm worried about and that's what I'm actively working on. Once I'm able to pay my debts down I can take a pay cut, no problem, and would, for the right job. The higher pay is more a necessity than anything else.Feeling trapped is one of the hardest. The more I feel trapped, the less I want to do, which also means I'm not working to the best of my abilities, but I can't do that if I'm not in it. It's a terrible cycle. Argh!
I have totally been there :( it's hard out here. it really is the feeling trapped part that is like the hardest part -- in someways it's as much a mental challenge as much as a financial one
Hi! I agree with all of the above advice, and I also just wanted to add another perspective as someone who has been in this position recently. I was doing everything folks are suggesting and even had a ballpark exit date, but ended up being laid off about six months ahead of my schedule. It was REALLY tough, so I just want to toss in a word of caution: Life doesn't always happen on your schedule (as evidenced by my situation), and sometimes it is worth it to take a risk without all of your ducks in a row. Can you live on less? Can you get a roommate or move in with family temporarily? It might be possible to expedite your exit if you think creatively. Golden handcuffs are incredibly demoralizing, and it doesn't get any easier to deal with them. When I got laid off my mental health was the worst it had ever been.Once I was without a job and my feet were to the fire, I learned I actually could live on significantly less than I thought. I am now OK with the idea that my next role may include a fairly significant pay cut, but the main reasons I am open to that is because 1) I have a very clear idea of what kind of role will make me happy, and 2) I do believe the market will loosen up in a year or two, where I will be better positioned to nab a higher paying job. I know you mentioned your financial situation is tough, but I would encourage you to at least look into working with a career coach short-term. I do think you might find it valuable when crafting an exit plan. I'm sending you love and strength--I really empathize with your situation. My mental health did eventually get better (after lots of therapy, career coaching, soul searching, self-care and research), but I wish I had made it more of a priority and left earlier, despite my fears. I don't know the details of your situation, of course, but I recognized the language of being "trapped" and felt I should caution against allowing that to go on too long.
I agree with this point. In my case the planning worked, however, I do believe I stayed too long and I'm now still recovering from health issues related to the stress from the situation. I believe this can be different depending on personality, support system etc, but I'd add that besides a career coach, it could be helpful to talk to a therapist to find some techniques to deal with the situation until you can leave.
I'm so sorry to hear about what you had to go through.My mind is working all the time, finding a way out. It's not even so much the standard of living but debt management. I need this much pay to be able to keep up otherwise I'm going to end up in a worse position. I'm looking at it from all angles. But hearing everyone's input, makes me feel better knowing I'm on the right track.
Thanks and I totally empathize with your situation. Something else that can help, which is not easy, but worth to try, is changing perspective. You are currently making progress. You are employed and paying debt off. Having some kind of financial tracking app or just a simple spreadsheet to document your progress with payments can be hugely motivating, it was for me. Once you overcome this chapter, you've gained a lot of self-knowledge, self-confidence and resilience. I know it's hard to keep a positive mindset, but keep going! Sending positive vibes your way
I am on the other side of this situation. I was at a place for awhile and values started to shift around me, and it became evident that things were not a good fit. I tried to stick it out for the money and I was miserable. Try as I might, that miserable follows you eventually into other areas of life - and even if you are enjoying things, you don't enjoy them as much. Eventually those important to you notice too... Things finally got to be such a bad fit that I had to make the choice to leave for my own sanity. I have been relying on some small consulting gigs to pay the bills while I determine what is next, but I will say my mental health has never been better. I have more energy to focus on my other relationships and I feel GOOD about the work I am doing. Many of the positions I am interviewing for would be a small paycut from where I was, but the consulting has helped me understand what I NEED to have versus what I thought I needed in pay. It has been terrifying and liberating. Of course it does help that I have a supportive partner and we are aligned on the fact that this is better than continuing to sacrifice who I was to stay where I was. I am not going to say it has been easy, or that it has not been terrifying at moments, but I will say that since I made the decision to jump, I have grown and become a better human, with a clearer idea of who I am, what I want, and what I need to feel fulfilled. (And I am also posting anonymously as I don't want to make any of my colleagues uncomfortable who chose to stay.)
Sirena189, are you me? hah! Albeit, I did not head into consulting, but I too stayed somewhere too long and made excuses to not leave when I ought to have left. It really does wear on you.
Totally relatable. I'm very aware of my situation and would leave instantly if there was a better alternative. But at the moment there isn't so I'm trying to be smart about it. They aren't that bad really: The people are great in general, the work hasn't demanded my time outside of regular hours, and it's close to home. I just really don't like the work anymore and personal values don't align, so it's quite hard to do my best when I'm so disconnected.I wish you greatness in your consulting business! I'm actually looking at other gigs, maybe I can do two simultaneously so it'll make up for the monetary loss if I walk out of here. Here's hoping!
One of the things that I like to have my clients do when they're feeling stuck in a well-paying job that's not a fit is to have them look upwards--look upwards into the next level of leadership in their industry. A lot of the time the 'solve' for money and fit is to move into the next level of impact in a company that actually aligns with your values or the subjects or issues that interest you. And usually when you find that, it's often a better fit for culture too.
Thanks for that, Maya. Often I see (myself included) that because you want to get out sooner than later, we tend to bend and take something lesser be it a title down or a pay cut just to get out, rather than staying steadfast and aiming higher. Job hunting is so tough, it's hard not to bend to the will of the market, but your comment is a great reminder not to.
Yes, the prospect of job hunting can sometimes get you down. I recommend a process that includes networking because it's emotionally easier than just applying to jobs and seeing what happens--but you're also more likely to find something that hasn't been posted yet/have someone speak for you/etc.
I'm trying this too, not just for job hunting but exploring other industries and learning more about other ways to pivot.
Hello! I work for a company that work with high level women that are looking for the next RIGHT opportunity for them. I talk to at least 20 women weekly and this is something I hear a lot, especially because we specialize in women that are Director - C-suite level. I would love to chat with you and see if our program could help you to find the right role for you as well as be compensated what you deserve. Check us out at
Hi Madeline, thanks for reaching out. I'd love to chat. Will send you a PM shortly.