For the past two decades, Kathi Elster and I have had the privilege of helping thousands of individuals design and pursue fulfilling careers. Seeking your true career path isn't easy. It requires rigorous honesty and a willingness to discover the kind of work that is most meaningful to you. Once you've identified what you really want to do, then you have to commit to going after it.

As our clients take those initial steps towards getting that ideal job, launching a promising business, or following a new career path, a certain phenomenon called The Golden Carrot Syndrome seems to occur. This is when the universe presents you with a very attractive, less risky alternative that looks extremely appealing from the distance.

The "carrot" could be a well-deserved promotion in a job that you've outgrown within a company you don't like, or a new position in a prestigious firm just as you're trying to leave that industry. It could be a seemingly perfect business partner, or an ostensibly benevolent investor.

These carrots are golden because they're shiny and alluring. Golden Carrots usually offer financial rewards and security. They allow us to forestall the tougher, more risky moves that we think would make us happy, but we don't have a guarantee. The only problem with Golden Carrots is the fact they're ultimately extremely disappointing.

As the image depicts, the carrot looks good from afar, but once you obtain the glittering object, you can't bite down on it without breaking your teeth. So, the promotion gives you more money, but you're still trapped in a company and a job that you hate. Or, you're working for a prestigious firm, but you feel no passion for the industry you're in. Or, you take on a business partner only to realize he/she doesn't share your values or work ethic.

Golden Carrots are tricky, but you can detect them if you try: 

1) If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2)  Make sure you aren't reaching for the carrot to avoid the discomfort of pursuing what you really care about. 

3)  No matter what the offer, do your homework. Take the time to carefully scrutinize the job or the employer, the industry, or the business partner before you take the offer. 

About the Authors

Katherine Crowley

Katherine Crowley is a best-selling author, popular speaker, and management consultant in the area of workplace relationships.

Kathi Elster

Kathi Elster is a best-selling author, popular speaker, and management consultant in the area of workplace relationships.

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