Leveled Out? What To Do If You Have Reached A Career Plateau

CareersYou’ve been on your job for a while, in the industry since graduating college. Maybe you’ve gone as far as you can go in your position. So it’s only natural that you might reach a point in your career where you’re stuck–a career plateau, so to speak.

You can also reach a plateau if you feel restricted in your position or if you are no longer challenged or engaged by your work.

A plateau is different from a peak. A career peak is when you have gone as far as you can go in your career. A plateau is when your career has leveled out–there is room for you to go higher but you just aren’t for one reason or another. “About 95 percent of employees never see a true ‘peak’ in their career. They will reach a plateau in their learning and generally find themselves afraid to take their knowledge to the next level, where they must challenge themselves to learn more advanced and varied material,” says Alan Guinn, managing director of the Guinn Consultancy Group, Inc. “We call this exponential learning, and every position in every company has incumbent employees who need to explore exponential learning. If, as an employee, you believe you have peaked in your career, you have. But by stretching exponentially, you will recognize that you have removed that perceived peak.”

But if you are experiencing a plateau, you can take action to achieve your peak.

“Take the time to thoughtfully sit down and evaluate career priorities,” explains Stan Kimer, diversity and career management consultant and president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer. “Before taking any action, how truly important is upward career progression when compared to other priorities such as intellectual stimulation, working with a great team, work/life balance, geographic location, etc? What are you truly willing to trade off or sacrifice to continue the upward progression? Is it worth it?”

What are your options? “Evaluate your options like leaving your current employer to pursue additional upward progression,” says Kimer.

He says to consider the following things:

Changing companies. Maybe you will have more responsibility at a new firm. Or, says Kimer, “If you’re in a large company, consider changing divisions where there may be more opportunity.” New skills: expand your education and it will open other career avenues. “Consider an additional degree or building additional new skills to enhance promotability,” says Kimer.

Look at other positions.
“Take a lateral move to enhance skills and build new expertise before seeking the next promotion,” says Kimer. Consider a career switch. Maybe it’s time to enter another industry, even one related to your field. Maybe you are a lawyer but always had a passion for education. Maybe the move to law professor would be the key. “Consider changing industries where there may be more opportunities for your skills,” notes Kimer.

Get an outside assessment.
“Look for a mentor and/or sponsor who can assist with progression,” says Kimer. Having another perspective can help you with the new direction you need to take.

Don’t rush things. Take your time to figure out your next move; you don’t want to make a misstep so deep into your career. “Be patient and don’t do anything rash that could set you back,” advises Kimer. “Sometimes it takes a little patience and waiting for that next promotional opportunity to come along.”