You’ve worked hard. You’ve stayed late. You’ve taken on extra work. You’ve excelled.
But work is not as much fun as it once was. Your manager hasn’t noticed the extra hours you’ve put in, your paycheck doesn’t reflect your skills and there’s no promotion in sight. Waking up on Monday mornings doesn’t feel like it did when this job first started. You feel stuck and stalled-- and you wish you felt challenged.
Is this what a mid-career plateau feels like?
As famous author Zig Ziglar said: “The first step in solving a problem is to recognise that it does exist.” Perhaps it’s just been a long week, month or quarter, but if these feelings stick with you for many months or years, it’s time to reassess where you’re at in your career and be proactive in overcoming this challenge. A plateau doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job or starting over-- but it may mean finding new ways to grow, challenge yourself and figure out what happens next.
Getting over the plateau
Just like any challenge, understanding the cause and source of the problem is the first step toward a solution. Figuring out what triggered this plateau and any unhappiness in your job is key. Try asking yourself questions like:
- When did I start feeling this way?
- Was there an event or moment that sparked these feelings?
- What do I love about my job-- and what would I change?
- When was the last time I felt challenged?
- What changes occurred in my job or workplace since I started feeling this way?
Taking time to reflect and understand why you started feeling this way and what changed is the first step in solving the problem and figuring out where to go. Writing out a list of what you like and dislike about your work can be helpful in figuring out trends or themes. Chatting with friends and family about changes they’ve noticed in your behavior or demeanor can also give clues about what may not be suiting you.
When you’ve sat with these questions and have a better understanding of why and how your career has plateaued, it’s time to figure out what happens next. Again, asking yourself questions will reveal helpful answers:
- What would make your job feel exciting again-- and what’s within your control to help you overcome this plateau?
- Without any limits, where would your career go in 6 months, 1 year and in 5 years?
- If you could design your own job, what would it look like?
- Would you want a promotion-- or your manager’s job?
- What opportunities do I have for growth and advancement?
- What can I do before or after work to improve my career?
These questions help identify what can be done-- and what to do. Did you notice any common themes as you answered these questions?
If your answers were overwhelmingly negative and no amount of change, short of a total turnover in co-workers and responsibilities, would help, then more drastic plans are needed. It may be time to start considering a career change.
But if your answers were somewhat positive, like that you would enjoy a promotion-- and you can think of several ways to reach your goals from your current position, maybe it’s time to start challenging yourself and finding proactive strategies to grow and change. If you have a good relationship with your manager, it may also be time to have an honest conversation so you can work together to find new challenges and ways to grow.
Getting over the plateau
Whether you’ve recognised it’s time for a total career change, or just a career modification, it’s time to get over this hill. The answers to your questions should’ve given you a good idea of what’s missing and what you need to do about it.
As Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t like where you are, change it! You’re not a tree.”
Maybe you’ve realised that you enjoyed your career up until this point, but you’ve hit a skills or education ceiling. How can you go about breaking through the ceiling-- and might your company be willing to help?
Maybe you’ve mastered your position-- and it’s time to start mentoring and leading junior employees to freshen up your role. Do you feel ready to lead?
Maybe you’ve realised this is the perfect time to step out and start your own business, allowing your expertise to really shine. Do you understand all aspects of business including accounting, marketing, human resources and more?
Or perhaps it’s time to update your CV and cover letter and find a new role that’s better suited to the path that suits you. How will you set yourself apart from other candidates?
Knowledge is power
Regardless of which category you fall into, they all have a common solution: continuing your education and training.
If you’ve hit a skills ceiling, there are courses and certificates that will help you learn the necessary skills to get promoted-- and you’ll have proof of what you learned with a certificate or diploma. Many employers will even offer tuition reimbursement.
Should you feel it’s time to start leading, courses devoted to leadership skills can help prepare you to mentor and coach junior team members.
If this is the time to enter the world of entrepreneurship, you may be an expert in your field-- but it’s better to learn hard lessons in a classroom than in a real business environment.
Should this be the moment you need to put in your notice and start interviewing elsewhere, you can set yourself apart from other applicants by showing fresh, relevant training that proves you’re serious about your career and growth.
And if you’re not sure where to go next, there are career coaches and experts out there who can help.
If you’re ready to overcome your career plateau, contact us to speak to a career expert-- and get the answers and guidance you need to take back control of your career and life.