Feeling Stuck at Work? How to Break Through a Career Plateau

Expert Advice for How to Get Unstuck at Work and Break Through a Career Plateau

You’re climbing he corporate ladder, you have credentials you’re proud of, and your resume boasts numerous achievements. So why are you feeling stuck or unfulfilled at work? For some of us, despite our accomplishments, we find ourselves feeling stuck. You’ve reached a point where you no longer feel challenged by your role and you’re ready for growth and change. You might find yourself asking “is this it?” We’ve been there. 

This is called a career plateau - a period of time when your career progress stalls. If you’ve been in the same role for several years without opportunities for advancement or you feel like you’re no longer learning anything new in your role, you may be craving the momentum and passion you used to feel at work. You’re not alone! The good news is, there are concrete steps you can take to identify if you’ve hit this plateau and to re-energize your professional life.

In this article, you’ll learn strategies to identify, understand, and overcome your career plateau so you can move further, faster. We’ll discuss:

  • Why career plateaus happen
  • Signs that you're on a career plateau
  • Strategies for breaking through a career plateau
  • Resources to advance you to the next level

Understanding Why Career Plateaus Happen

There are a number of reasons why career plateaus happen. Some common reasons include:

  • Lack of opportunities: Depending on your current role, industry, and company there may not be opportunities for you to advance at the pace you desire. Considering the size and priorities of your current company, ask yourself, are there opportunities for advancement that align with your strengths and interests? What is the timeline for those opportunities? Does it align with yours?

  • Lack of visibility: Visibility matters. If your company or manager is not aware of your career aspirations, strengths, and contributions, it’s unlikely that you’ll progress. Ask yourself, do you consistently share your wins with your team? Is your manager aware of your ambitions? Would your manager advocate for you on your behalf? 

Your manager can be an asset to your career growth but if they’re unaware of your desires, unclear about your accomplishments, or they’re unable or unwilling to support you, that can contribute to your stalled progress.

  • Lack of skills: While you may be performing well in your current role, do you have a sense of the skills needed to achieve at the next level? Are you able to demonstrate those next-level skills? If you have room to grow, you may want to find ways to upskill or re-skill in your current role to prepare for the next. While it can be frustrating to feel stagnant in your position, most companies require employees to demonstrate competency in next-level skills before being considered for promotion.

  • Fear of change: Change can be scary but it is necessary for growth. Often, we find ourselves at a career plateau because we’re afraid of failing at the next level or we convince ourselves that we’re pigeonholed into a certain company, industry, or role based on our work history and experiences. If this resonates, reflect on whether you’re limiting yourself by prioritizing stability over uncertainty. 

If you are, in fact, facing a career plateau, know first that you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not that your current role or company is a bad fit, necessarily, or that you got off course along the way. What’s important is what comes next. 

Diagnosing Your Career Plateau

Do any of the following feelings resonate with you? If so, you’re likely experiencing this frustrating, mid-career phenomenon. 

  • You're not learning anything new in your role
  • You're not being challenged by your work
  • You're not being promoted or given new opportunities
  • You're feeling bored or unfulfilled in your job
  • You're dreading going to work

Your career momentum is an essential component of your success and it can be reestablished after a plateau. Take action today to move forward.

Strategies to Break Through Your Plateau

Once you’ve confirmed that you are, in fact, experiencing a career plateau, it’s time to take action. The good news is there are a number of things you can do to break through your plateau.

  1. Get clarity on your goals. What do you want to be known for in your career? What is your unique value proposition? What kinds of roles or industries best suit your skills, interests, and experiences?

  2. Identify any skills or competencies you need to develop. Once you have clarity on your path, identify what skills you’ll need to advance to the next level. Find ways to close your competency gaps.

  3. Strengthen your professional community. Analyze the composition of your professional network and reallocate energy and time into the relationships that you value. Share your career aspirations with your community, get clear about how your network can support you, and offer to help others with no strings attached. As we like to say at Beyond Barriers, relationship is a verb. Engage actively in yours.

  4. Elevate your visibility. The more you find opportunities to make yourself visible, the more likely you are to find a role that energizes you. Whether you choose to get involved in professional organizations, attend industry events, volunteer for leadership positions, or share your perspective in meetings and online, make your presence and expertise known across your professional community.

  5. Ask for help. Whether you seek out an accountability partner to help keep you focused, engage in professional development to close your skills gaps, or pursue coaching, know that you owe it to yourself to ask for help.

Career plateaus don’t discriminate. Regardless of whether you’re a mid-career professional or a seasoned executive, we encourage you to learn more about how to overcome these frustrating moments at any stage.

How Beyond Barriers Can Help You Breakthrough AND Reignite Your Career

Beyond Barriers is a career accelerator for diverse professionals. We offer a personalized, data-driven approach to help you achieve your career goals.

Our Core Accelerator program is designed to help you build the skills and resilience you need to lead with impact. Our Executive Accelerator program is designed to help you accelerate your career to the C-Suite and beyond.

Our programs offer:

  • A science-backed, data-driven approach
  • Clarity and direction through our proprietary Momentum Metric
  • Expert group coaching sessions
  • A personalized career GPS

If you're ready to break through your career plateau, we encourage you to reach out to Beyond Barriers today. We're here to help you achieve your career goals and reach your full potential.