3 Steps To Overcome A Career Plateau
Career plateaus are common and can be a normal part of your career journey. You are so busy focusing on the next step, the big picture, that you suddenly realize that you’re stuck and haven’t moved forward for some time.
While career plateaus are common, when it happens to you it can also be a destabilizing experience. You can get caught up in your own head wondering why you’re unable to achieve the progression you desire. You feel stuck and you don’t know how to change this. Feeling stuck can also lead to an erosion of your confidence, which can impact your career.
If you’re feeling stuck in your career, what can you do to get over that plateau?
What does a career plateau look like?
It can vary between people, but generally a career plateau happens when you reach a point in your career that you can’t seem to move beyond. You’ve reached a level in your company and despite your best efforts you don’t seem to be able to move past it.
You may feel like you’ve outgrown your position, that you’ve been doing well for so long it's just easy. You may even feel bored with the day to day of your role, you may feel like nothing you do challenges you and you’ve stopped learning and growing. Or you may feel frustrated that you’re stuck and you can’t see a way forward.
These feelings are an indication that you’ve plateaued in your career.
Why do career plateaus happen?
Why your career has plateaued really depends on you and the company you're in. It is possible you’ve been with the company too long and you’ve outgrown it. There is literally no more room for growth or learning.
For some people you reach the pinnacle of your career only to be left wondering, is this it? Isn’t there more I ought to be doing? You’ve been so focused on getting to the top, you never thought about what comes after that summit.
For others, especially women, you’ve been so busy juggling your family and work you’ve lost sight of your career plan. Life is a rat race of endless errands and to do lists, you can’t even think about what the next step may be. You are stuck in your current role.
The reasons why your career plateaued can vary, the good news is that there are simple steps you can take to move beyond that plateau.
3 Steps To Overcome A Career Plateau
A plateau in your career is normal and it’s ok. You may feel stuck and even a little lost wondering what you should do next. This is all ok providing you use it to kickstart your second act and take steps to overcome the plateau.
There are three simple steps you can take to overcome a plateau in your career. Firstly, clarify what you want next. Spend some time reflecting, doodle, journal or take your question on your walk with you - what do I really want? This may not be an easy question to answer, and it may take you some time.
One activity that can make it fun is to have a ‘post it party’. Start by asking yourself the question - what do I really want? set a timer for 10 minutes, put on some great music, and write on post it notes every random idea or thought that comes to mind. When the timer goes off, take all your ideas and then apply some judgment - What will serve you well? What makes the most sense? What really lights you up?
Once you have that clarity, move onto the next step which is to play to your strengths. Consider what it is that you really want and ask yourself how your strengths will serve you. How will your strengths show up for you? How can you use them?
When you know what you want and how you can play to your strengths, start using your network. Talk with colleagues, connections, people more senior than you, mentors, anyone that you think you could learn from. Talk about what you are looking for, how your strengths can support you and see what doors open up for you.
As a result of this clarity and direction, you may need to leave the company you’re with, or there may be an opportunity you have never considered. What is important is that you take action, use your career plateau to kickstart your second act!
Emily Rogers is the founder of The Leap to Lead and a transition coach for individuals and organizations ready to show up the way they have always desired. Drawing on her experience and the frameworks developed as a senior HR leader across multiple industries, Emily now empowers women to be the leader in their own lives. She is passionate about providing clarity, developing an action plan and getting things done to see you finally living the life you want.