10 | Nov | 2017

How to avoid the negative impacts of a career plateau

Author: Trevor-Roberts

Career Plateau can be quite an apt metaphor for how people can feel at times throughout their career. It is often a flat period when it just doesn’t feel like anything is happening. Interestingly though, this isn’t always a bad thing! A career plateau can mean you have had successes in your current role and you need a new challenge.

It is common during a career plateau that individuals feel that they are no longer able to realise their full potential. They feel ‘stuck’ and unable to grow and change as the environment around them – including their organisation – changes.

A career plateau can contribute to a drop in the motivation, engagement and productivity of an employee, and when protracted or as the result of stress and burnout, can be a symptom of a much larger problem for the organisation and individuals.

In this blog, we have gathered tips on ways to lessen the negative impacts of a career plateau in the future:

  • With the removal of hierarchy and flatter structures becoming the norm, career success can no longer be tied to promotion. Climbing the 'corporate ladder' has become less relevant and promotions don't typically come rung by rung in today's society. The path to career advancement requires you to have a new perspectives and a different set of skills. Look at opportunities to move sideward and options outside of promotion that allow you to grow and develop.
  • A career for life is becoming less and less common. As the average retirement age extends past 70, individuals are likely to hold several occupations and an average of 12 jobs in their working life. Remember that your first degree or qualification does not have to be the only one – it can be used simply as a platform from which to begin.
  • Be open to changing industries, going back to study and letting your interests outside of your existing career guide your career moves. Where possible, experiment within your current organisation. Trying new things allows you the freedom to explore what you are good at and what you enjoy, eventually leading to a discovery of what suits your skills best and likely a greater sense of achievement and success in the future.
  • Consider your career from two angles – your own skills and interests and the markets in which you may be employed or self-employed – and understand how these two mesh together for your individual career success. Understand the range of occupational settings that now exist and work out which suits you best. A regular 9 to 5 role is less appealing to many employees, particularly millennials. Self employment, contracting and flexible working arrangements are becoming more widely accepted and forcing many organisations to consider the way their workforce operates.
  • Career reflection is important. Take time to read about alternative careers, emerging markets and topics that interest you generally. Think outside the box. As technology continues to speed up an already rapidly changing, fascinating new roles are being created all the time. Becoming a 'green energy auditor' for example, is a new occupation that none of us would have anticipated a few years ago!
  • Seek guidance from career role models who demonstrate the values that you appreciate for your own life and career. Talk with those who can help you to find the perfect work/life 'balance' for you; one that involves a challenging and rewarding career along with a rich life outside of work. Consider the importance of defining work and your life outside of work into controllable compartments. This will help to provide boundaries and prevent your work life spiralling out of control to the point of burnout.
  • Prepare for unplanned career change. Build your resilience. Find the value in every opportunity presented to you.

As professionals in many organisations work longer and longer hours and our lives get 'busier', individuals are increasingly being swept up by their jobs rather than having the opportunity to design and control the direction of their career. Its when a scenario like this continues for too long that a career plateau can become a reality.

Career coaching can be a critical way to avoid the negative impacts of a career plateau and put you back on track. Here's how:

  1. A career coach will help you assess and reassess: whilst you started your career in a certain field because you loved it, this may no longer the case. What makes this harder is not knowing why your feelings have changed. But as we evolve and mature, it makes sense that our preferences in work and what we enjoy can change. This is where a coach comes in. He or she can help you rediscover what is important to you in your career and guide you towards new goals and what will help you to feel fulfilled by your work again.
  2. They're objective: Being objective about your own career is often difficult. You are so immersed in your day-to-day and familiar with the way things are, you’re unlikely to see ways that you could change things up. A coach can offer a fresh take on professional and personal obstacles holding you back and can provide perspective and insight on what you need to do to re-invigorate your career.
  3. They’ll help you make plans for the future: A career plateau can be less than inspiring. It is common for individuals to come to us when they are at their wits end with their current role and have given up hope for what lies ahead. A coach can help you with regaining focus and ways to move forward in the future, whether that is developing in your current role or brainstorming new roles of prospective employers you would consider working for.
  4. They’ll help you identify and hone the relevant skill sets: One of the reasons we see our clients plateau is due to a lack of relevant skills or a lack of knowledge about the skills they require to take that next step. A coach can enhance self-awareness around the skills, strengths and areas for development that are required and how these can be leveraged to achieve career success;
  5. They’ll be candid: An effective career coach will provide a reality check about the real roadblocks and challenges preventing your career success. Allowing your coach to be candid and welcoming frank and honest discussion will be of great benefit for your future, even if it's difficult to hear in the short term. Use a coach to keep you accountable - it's up to you to act on the coach’s guidance and keep them updated on how their suggestions are progressing.

In summary

One of the biggest misconceptions we see is that a career plateau is a problem -  something to take personally and be ashamed of. Contrary to how a plateau may feel at the time, most are a product of your successes — you have succeeded in the previous role and are ready for the next challenge.

Along every career trajectory there will be points when you have to decide which path to take. Ultimately, a career plateau means making a decision about what is next for you. The right decision will be one that provides you with the most enjoyment and fulfilment at work and in life. A career coach can provide you with a fresh perspective to help you make the right choice for you.

Trevor-Roberts Career Coaching Programs

A career coach empowers you with the skills and tools to take charge and build an extraordinary career. Our approach to career development is transformational in nature. We offer structured programs where individuals work with a dedicated and experienced Career Coach on a one-on-one basis over a period of time.

Through our career development programs, individuals experience insightful, constructive and practical conversations about their career in a highly confidential and professional environment. The programs are supported by a suite of processes, assessments and materials based on decades of research and experience in the careers space.

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Tags: Career Coaching, Employee Engagement

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