A career plateau is a situation where you feel stuck in your current job, with little or no opportunity for growth, advancement, or satisfaction. It can happen to anyone, at any stage of their career, and for various reasons. A career plateau can be frustrating, demoralizing, and stressful, affecting your performance, motivation, and well-being.
However, a career plateau is not the end of your career journey. It is a challenge that can be overcome with the right mindset, strategies, and actions. In this article, we will discuss how to recognize, understand, and navigate through career plateaus, and how to turn them into opportunities for personal and professional development.
Recognizing a Career Plateau
The first step to overcoming a career plateau is to recognize that you are experiencing one. Some of the signs and symptoms of a career plateau are:
- You feel bored, uninterested, or disengaged with your work.
- You have no clear goals, direction, or vision for your career.
- You have not learned anything new or acquired any new skills in a long time.
- You have not received any feedback, recognition, or reward for your work.
- You have not been promoted, given more responsibilities, or assigned more challenging tasks in a long time.
- You have no opportunities for growth, development, or advancement within your organization or industry.
- You feel dissatisfied, unhappy, or resentful with your work situation.
If you identify with some or all of these signs and symptoms, you may be experiencing a career plateau. However, before you jump to conclusions, you need to understand the causes of your career plateau.
Understanding the Causes
There are many possible reasons why career plateaus happen. Some of them are related to external factors, such as:
- Organizational changes: Your organization may be going through restructuring, downsizing, mergers, acquisitions, or other changes that affect your role, responsibilities, or prospects.
- Industry trends: Your industry may be facing challenges, disruptions, competition, or decline that limit your opportunities or demand new skills.
- Economic conditions: The economy may be experiencing recession, inflation, stagnation, or uncertainty that affects your income, security, or mobility.
Some of them are related to internal factors, such as:
- Personal choices: You may have made some decisions that affect your career trajectory, such as prioritizing family, health, hobbies, or other interests over work.
- Personal circumstances: You may have encountered some situations that affect your career options, such as relocation, illness, disability, caregiving duties, or other obligations.
- Personal characteristics: You may have some traits that affect your career performance or potential, such as personality type, learning style, strengths, weaknesses, values, or preferences.
Some of them are related to both external and internal factors, such as:
- Job fit: Your job may not match your skills, interests, goals, or expectations.
- Career stage: Your career may be at a point where you need to make some changes or transitions, such as exploring new options, establishing yourself in a field, advancing to a higher level, maintaining your status quo, or retiring from work.
Understanding the causes of your career plateau can help you assess your situation more objectively and realistically. It can also help you identify the areas where you need to focus your attention and effort.
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to conduct a self-assessment. A self-assessment is a process of evaluating your skills, interests, and career goals. It can help you:
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Discover your passions and motivations
- Clarify your values and priorities
- Define your vision and mission
- Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals
Many tools and methods can help you conduct a self-assessment. Some of them are:
- Online tests and quizzes: Many online resources can help you assess your personality type, learning style, strengths, weaknesses, values, interests, skills, aptitudes, or career preferences. Some examples are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI), StrengthsFinder 2.0, SWOT Analysis, Values in Action (VIA) Survey, Holland Code (RIASEC) Test, Skills Matcher, Career Aptitude Test, or CareerExplorer.
- Self-reflection and journaling: You can also use self-reflection and journaling to assess yourself. You can ask yourself some questions, such as:
- What are the things that I enjoy doing, both at work and outside of work?
- What are the things that I am good at, both at work and outside of work?
- What are the things that I want to learn, improve, or achieve, both at work and outside of work?
- What are the things that I value, both at work and outside of work?
- What are the things that I find meaningful, fulfilling, or rewarding, both at work and outside of work?
- What are the things that I find challenging, frustrating, or dissatisfying, both at work and outside of work?
- What are the things that I want to change, avoid, or eliminate, both at work and outside of work?
- You can write down your answers in a notebook or a digital document. You can also use some prompts, such as:
- I am most proud of…
- I am most excited about…
- I am most curious about…
- I am most passionate about…
- I am most grateful for…
- I am most challenged by…
- I am most frustrated by…
- I am most dissatisfied by…
- Feedback and evaluation: You can also use feedback and evaluation from others to assess yourself. You can ask for feedback from your manager, colleagues, clients, mentors, friends, family, or anyone who knows you well. You can also use some tools, such as performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, or peer assessment. Ask for feedback on your skills, performance, achievements, areas of improvement, strengths, weaknesses, interests, values, goals, or any other aspect of your career. In addition use some questions, such as:
- What are the things that you appreciate or admire about me?
- What are the things that I do well or excel at?
- What are the things that I need to improve or work on?
- What are the things that I should learn or try?
- What are the things that I should pursue or aim for?
- What are the things that I should avoid or stop doing?
A self-assessment can help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your career situation. It can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, discover your passions and motivations, clarify your values and priorities, define your vision and mission, and set SMART goals.
Setting New Goals
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to set new goals. Goals are statements of what you want to achieve or accomplish in your career. They can help you:
- Focus your attention and effort
- Motivate yourself and others
- Measure your progress and success
- Celebrate your achievements and rewards
However, not all goals are created equal. Some goals are more effective than others. To set effective goals, you need to follow some guidelines. One of the most popular guidelines is the SMART criteria. SMART stands for:
- Specific: Your goals should be clear and concise. They should answer the questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
- Measurable: Your goals should be quantifiable and verifiable. They should answer the question: How much? How many? How will I know?
- Achievable: Your goals should be realistic and attainable. They should answer the question: Can I do it? Do I have the resources? Do I have the skills? Do I have the support?
- Relevant: Your goals should be aligned with your vision, mission, values, interests, and career stage. They should answer the question: Does it matter? Is it worthwhile? Is it consistent?
- Time-bound: Your goals should have a deadline or a timeframe. They should answer the question: When will it be done? How long will it take?
- A vague goal: “I want to grow in my career.”
- A SMART goal: “I want to get promoted to a senior position in my department within the next year by taking on more responsibilities, and completing a certification course.
Upskilling and Reskilling
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to upskill and reskill. Upskilling and reskilling are processes of acquiring new or updated skills that are relevant and valuable for your current or future career. They can help you:
- Enhance your performance and productivity
- Increase your confidence and competence
- Expand your knowledge and expertise
- Adapt to changing demands and expectations
- Improve your marketability and employability
- Explore new opportunities and possibilities
There are many ways to upskill and reskill yourself. Some of them are:
- Formal education: You can enroll in a degree, diploma, certificate, or other accredited program that can provide you with a recognized qualification or credential. You can choose a program related to your current field, or a program that can help you transition to a new field. Choose a program that is offered online, on-campus, or in a blended format. Some examples are Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Certified Professional in Human Resources (CPHR).
- Online courses: You can take advantage of the many online courses that are available on various platforms and topics. Choose a course that is free or paid, self-paced or instructor-led, short or long, basic or advanced. You can also choose a course that provides a certificate of completion or a badge of achievement. Some examples are Coursera, edX, Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, Khan Academy, and Codecademy.
- Workshops and seminars: Attend workshops and seminars that are organized by your organization, industry, community, or other groups. You can choose a workshop or seminar that is relevant to your interests, goals, or needs. There are some workshops or seminars that is offered in person, online, or in a hybrid format. Some examples are TEDx events, webinars, podcasts, conferences, or symposiums.
- Books and articles: Read books and articles that can provide you with information, insights, or inspiration. Try to read books and articles that are written by experts, practitioners, researchers, or influencers. You can also choose books and articles that are published in print, digital, or audio format. Some examples are Harvard Business Review (HBR), Forbes, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), The New York Times (NYT), Blinkist, Audible, and Kindle.
- Mentors and coaches: Seek guidance and support from mentors and coaches who can help you with your career development. You can choose mentors and coaches who have experience, expertise, or connections in your field or industry. Choose mentors and coaches who are available online, offline, or in a combination of both. Some examples are SCORE, MicroMentor, and Coach.me, BetterUp, or Career Contessa.
Upskilling and reskilling yourself can help you overcome a career plateau by enhancing your skills and increasing your value. It can also help you prepare for the future of work by adapting to the changing needs and trends of the workplace.
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to network. Networking is the process of building and maintaining professional relationships with people who can help you with your career goals. It can help you:
- Learn from other’s experiences and perspectives
- Share your ideas and opinions with another
- Seek advice and feedback from several sources
- Find opportunities and resources from others
- Gain visibility and credibility from others
- Access support and assistance from others
There are many ways to network effectively. Some of them are:
- Online platforms: You can use online platforms that are designed for professional networking. Create a profile that showcases your skills, achievements, and goals. Connect with people who share your interests, background, or aspirations. Join groups that are relevant to your field, industry, or niche. Participate in discussions that are informative, engaging, or helpful. Some examples are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Quora, Medium, or Meetup.
- Offline events: You can attend offline events that are organized by your organization.
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to seek mentorship. Mentorship is a relationship between a mentor and a mentee, where the mentor provides guidance, support, and feedback to the mentee. A mentor can help you:
- Learn from their experience and expertise
- Gain insights and perspectives on your career situation
- Develop new skills and competencies
- Explore new opportunities and possibilities
- Achieve your goals and aspirations
- Overcome challenges and difficulties
There are many ways to find a mentor. Some of them are:
- Within your organization: Look for a mentor within your organization, such as your manager, supervisor, colleague, or senior leader. Ask them if they are willing and able to mentor you, or if they can recommend someone who can. Check if your organization has a formal or informal mentoring program that you can join.
- Within your industry: You can look for a mentor within your industry, such as a professional association, trade group, or network. Attend events, workshops, or seminars that are organized by these groups and meet potential mentors. You can also check if these groups have a formal or informal mentoring program that you can join.
- Within your community: Search for a mentor within your community, such as a local business, nonprofit organization, or educational institution. Volunteer, intern, or work for these organizations and meet potential mentors. Check if these organizations have a formal or informal mentoring program that you can join.
- Online platforms: You can look for a mentor online, such as on social media, blogs, podcasts, or websites. Follow, subscribe, or comment on the content of potential mentors. Reach out to them via email, message, or video call and ask them if they are willing and able to mentor you.
Seeking mentorship can help you overcome a career plateau by providing you with guidance, support, and feedback from someone who has been there and done that. It can also help you build your network, confidence, and credibility.
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium between your work and personal life. It can help you:
- Reduce stress and burnout
- Improve physical and mental health
- Enhance productivity and creativity
- Increase happiness and satisfaction
- Strengthen relationships and connections
There are many ways to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Some of them are:
- Set boundaries: Set clear and realistic boundaries between your work and personal life. Define when, where, how, and how much you work. Communicate these boundaries to your manager, colleagues, clients, family, friends, and yourself. Respect these boundaries and stick to them.
- Manage time: Manage your time effectively and efficiently. Prioritize your tasks and activities according to their importance and urgency. Plan your schedule and allocate your time accordingly. Avoid procrastination and distraction. Delegate or outsource tasks that are not essential or suitable for you.
- Manage energy: Manage your energy wisely and strategically. Identify your peak hours of energy and focus on your most important or challenging tasks during those hours. Take breaks and rest regularly to recharge your energy. Eat well and sleep well.
Considering a Career Change
The next step to overcoming a career plateau is to consider a career change. A career change is a process of switching to a different occupation, industry, or field. It can help you:
- Discover new passions and interests
- Learn new skills and knowledge
- Experience new challenges and opportunities
- Achieve new goals and aspirations
- Find new satisfaction and fulfillment
However, a career change is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. There are many factors that you need to consider before making a career change. Some of them are:
- Your motivation: Identify why you want to make a career change. Evaluate if your motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic, positive or negative, short-term or long-term. Assess if your motivation is strong enough to overcome the potential risks and challenges of a career change.
- Your readiness: Determine if you are ready to make a career change. You need to evaluate your skills, qualifications, experience, and achievements in your desired career. Assess your financial, emotional, and social resources and support for your career transition.
- Your options: Explore your options for a career change. Research the market demand, trends, opportunities, and challenges of your potential career. Compare the pros and cons, benefits and costs, rewards and risks of your potential career.
- Your strategy: Develop a strategy for making a career change. Set SMART goals for your career transition. Create an action plan for achieving your goals. Your action plan should include steps such as:
- Updating your resume and cover letter
- Building your portfolio and online presence
- Networking with people in your target career
- Applying for jobs or internships
- Preparing for interviews and tests
- Negotiating for salary and benefits
- Transitioning from your current job to your new job
Considering a career change can help you overcome a career plateau by opening new doors and possibilities for you. It can also help you find a career that matches your skills, interests, values, and goals.
The final step to overcoming a career plateau is to stay motivated. Motivation is the force that drives you to take action and achieve your goals. It can help you:
- Maintain your focus and direction
- Overcome obstacles and difficulties
- Persist through failures and setbacks
- Celebrate successes and achievements
- Enjoy the journey and the destination
There are many ways to stay motivated during this challenging time. Some of them are:
- Remind yourself of your purpose: Remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing. Reconnect with your vision, mission, values, and passions. Review your goals and progress regularly.
- Reward yourself: Reward yourself for your efforts and accomplishments. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy or relaxed. Celebrate your milestones and achievements with others.
- Seek inspiration: Seek inspiration from various sources. Read books, articles, blogs, or podcasts that inspire you. Watch videos, movies, documentaries, or TED talks that inspire you. Listen to music, songs, or podcasts that inspire you.
- Surround yourself with positive people: Surround yourself with people who support you, encourage you, challenge you, or inspire you. Join online or offline communities that share your interests, goals, or aspirations.
A career plateau is a common and inevitable experience that can happen to anyone, at any stage of their career, and for various reasons. It can be frustrating, demoralizing, and stressful, but it can also be an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
In this article, we have discussed how to recognize, understand, and navigate through career plateaus, and how to turn them into opportunities for development. We have suggested some steps that you can take to overcome a career plateau, such as:
- Conducting a self-assessment
- Setting new goals
- Upskilling and reskilling
- Seeking mentorship
- Maintaining a work-life balance
- Considering a career change
- Staying motivated
We hope that this article has provided you with some useful information, insights, and inspiration. We encourage you to take action and apply these steps to your career situation. Remember that a career plateau is not the end of your career journey, but a chance to start a new one. You have the power and potential to overcome any career challenge and achieve any career goal. Believe in yourself and take the first step. You are welcome to send in your resume to our website through signup and apply to any job listings that we post on social media.
Thank you for reading this article. We wish you all the best in your career endeavors.