Career Plateau

What is Career Plateau?

A career plateau is best described as moments in your career when you feel like you have reached a point where you are unable to progress. Symptoms include feeling stuck at a job/position, feeling constantly bored and struggling to find fulfillment. Ultimately, it is the feeling of being stuck in your current position without room to grow.

What Causes Career Plateau?

The causation of a career plateau is unique to each individual’s experience. These causes have been organized into two categories: internal reasons and external reasons. Examples for both internal and external reasons will be examined in the next section.

When is a Career Plateau Most Likely to Occur?

An example of an internal reason for career plateau often occurs when an employee has gained more skills and feels they have outgrown their current position. An external reason for career plateau is when an employee can no longer advance upward in the company and therefore feels “stuck.”

Career Plateau Example

A great example of experiencing a career plateau is provided by an article from ScienceDirect called, “The Career Plateau: Causes and Effects.” This article tells the story of Ned Morris who got his MBA degree and is a chemical engineer. Morris had been working at the same firm, XYZ Chemicals, ever since he got his degree. However, at the age of 45, Morris felt like his opportunities in the business had died down. Once regarded as the “whiz kid” by his co-workers and supervisors, Morris felt that he had no more opportunities within his current firm and that he may have short-changed himself.

The Morris story is a prime example of career plateau as it shows that sometimes you can only advance so far in a career because there are just fewer opportunities open to you. Morris is a higher up in his company and now he reports to the vice president over his division. Because of the hierarchical system that most businesses employ, Morris’s experience is a common one and is the perfect career plateau example.

Managing Career Plateau

Managing a career plateau all depends on what is at the heart of the plateau. If it is because you have nowhere else to grow in the company or you have outgrown your position, simply looking for a new role in a broader market or new company is a great option. However, finding an occupation that complements your skill set and that feels like a better fit can be a challenging process. As you deal with and manage career plateau, do not get discouraged or blame yourself.

Jenny Blake, author of the book Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One, explains in an interview with Quora that “one of the biggest misconceptions is that a career plateau is a problem, something to take personally.” One of the symptoms of a career plateau is boredom with the work and boredom with the process. It can make you feel antsy and can start to make work difficult. However, boredom is a great way to become more creative. That boredom is your body encouraging you to stretch your creative muscles, and can be a great way for managing a career plateau.

Whatever you try when managing a career plateau, keep in mind the final words from Jenny Blake’s interview and use the plateau as an encouragement instead of a discouragement: “. . . celebrate [the career plateau] as a sign of success, and ask yourself what does excite you most moving forward.” Focus on where you want to be and let your career plateau push you forward to find the best opportunity for you.

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