Not every step up is a step in the right direction. Accept a bogus promotion, and you could find yourself trapped in a job less fulfilling than the entry-level gig you rode in on.

“A lot of people are getting promoted in this economy because companies are trying to do more with less,” executive coach Cynthia Shapiro says. “Instead of bringing somebody in, they’re having employees do three or four jobs by promoting them and then expecting them to still do their old work. It’s kind of a recipe for disaster.”

But it’s not a recipe you need to swallow.

“You never have to take something that’s being offered to you,” executive coach Meredith Haberfeld says. “You need to get clear about what you want out of your career long-term, then you need to make strategic moves toward that,” she adds.

If you do accept and discover the new role isn’t what you hoped it would be, it’s unlikely you can gracefully demote yourself. “It’s often easier to get a promotion than it is to move back if you don’t like it,” Shapiro warns. “Companies like to see forward motion. You tell the company you want to go back down, they won’t allow it. You try to go to another company and get the position you had before — but you’ve got this loftier title. They’re going to imagine something is wrong.”

So what’s an employee to do when tempted with a fancy new business card? Take a step back.

“These things sometimes aren’t as good as they look,” says Shapiro. “Look at it objectively, and make sure the position is set up for success.”

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