It’s easy to think that there’s one direction you should be moving in your career: forward. You’re supposed to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you finally reach the top of that proverbial ladder.
But, here’s the thing: Career paths aren’t always so simple. And, just because something seems like it will get you one rung higher doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best decision for you long-term.
Not convinced? Here are four times that a step forward at work is actually taking you one step back in your career.
1. When a Promotion Takes You Away From What You Love
Of course, a promotion is a great thing. You’re being formally recognized (and compensated!) for all of your valuable contributions with a new title and a pay bump. But, that step up also likely involves some changes to your daily responsibilities—which may or may not be what you want.
Perhaps this new position means you’ll no longer need to attend those weekly marketing meetings, which are actually one of your favorite parts of each work week. Or, maybe instead of communicating directly with customers (which you love!), you’ll now be charged with overseeing the team that does that.
That’s not to say that you should turn down that offer for a promotion without batting an eye (that decision deserves some serious consideration!). But, it’s worth thinking through whether or not you could take that superior role without losing all of the job duties you’ve grown to love.
2. When a New Responsibility Eats Up Time for Your Side Project
Your boss gives you a new responsibility to take on at work. You’re honored that she would trust you to grab the reins on something new. But, you’re also aware that this is going to involve much longer hours—hours that you were previously dedicating to the side hustle that you’d eventually like to take full-time.
In a situation like this, it’s important to take a step back and consider your long-term career goals. If you do intend to make your side project your full-time career in the near future, that’s going to involve some time and dedication—which you’ll be short on if you continue to fill up your plate at your day job.
3. When a Speaking Opportunity Is About a Topic You Have No Interest In
Giving a presentation or agreeing to a public speaking opportunity is a great way to make some new connections and build your personal brand. But, there’s a caveat here: You want whatever you’re asked to speak about to be somewhat relevant to your career and expertise. You don’t want to establish yourself as a thought leader in a subject that totally deviates from your area of interest.
No, there’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit. But, you want to be careful not to foster a reputation that’s totally irrelevant to your actual skills and your goals.
Sure, being asked to speak about social media marketing at that association event might be an honor. However, it won’t do you too many favors if you’re growing your career as an engineer. In fact, agreeing to that opportunity will likely only serve to confuse people about who you are and what you bring to the table.
4. When a New Job Doesn’t Fit Your Goals
You weren’t actively job hunting. But, you were approached by another company that ended up offering you a position. By all intents and purposes, this new role is a big step up. It comes with a higher salary, a fancier title, a corner office, and an employer that’s a household name in your field.
What’s the catch? Well, you’ve been thinking about switching industries or making a major career change altogether—meaning that this new role doesn’t fit with your plans for the future.
Yes, accepting that position might mean a step forward—but, that’s irrelevant if that’s not actually the direction you want to be heading in.
More often than not, a step up in your career is a great thing that deserves to be celebrated. However, there are some circumstances when that one step forward would ultimately take you two steps back.
Regardless of your individual situation or preferences, it’s important to remember to give major career decisions—whether good or bad—the time for consideration that they deserve.
Do that, and you’re much more likely to take things in the direction that works best for you.
Photo of person working courtesy of vgajic/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author