“A career plateau is best defined as moments in your career where you feel like you have reached a point where you are unable to grow or progress,” says career coach Ferdy Ed. “In order to avoid finding yourself in such a situation, you need to start by knowing who you are, what your career goals are and in what kind of organization you would like to work for.”
If you haven’t thought of those things, it’s crucial to start introspecting and defining what you desire and care about in life.
“We are all different in life. It all depends on your personality. You need to know yourself as a professional. You won’t feel stuck in a job if you know who you are and what you want,” says Ed.
And whether you’re super ambitious and need to be challenged all the time or could easily stay in the same role for 10 years without feeling antsy, you’re not immune to hitting a wall in your development, so it’s important to be mindful of whether you are indeed plateauing.
One thing is for sure: Regardless of your definition of success, there are right and wrong ways to approach career plateaus. Here’s how uber-successful people face them — and break right through them.
They take action
When highly successful people face career plateaus, they take ownership of the situation and start looking into solutions.
“Somebody once said: ‘If you don’t like where you are, then quit. You are not a tree.’ So most successful people would either quit or find an alternative solution to keep growing or learning,” says Ed.
It’s not about being impulsive and taking thoughtless action, but understanding where you are, what the challenges are and where you want to go. From that place, you can either make tweaks or take massive leaps — or even decide to change your perspective if you can’t change your immediate environment.
They avoid wasting time
If there is one thing the most successful people in the world fiercely value, it’s their time. They know that it’s their most precious resource and are very intentional about using it wisely.
“As a successful person, if you feel like you are wasting your time somewhere because you are no longer progressing, you will either quit or find a turnaround solution,” says Ed.
So when it feels like their career progress has stalled, successful people immediately face the situation and avoid wasting precious time pretending it’s not happening. From carving out a couple of days to reflect on their goals and what is no longer in alignment at work to putting a career transition plan into motion, they do whatever it takes to reject complacency.
They base their decisions on their values
If you want to bust through a career plateau like a highly successful person, make sure you’re basing your decisions on your values — not on what looks good on paper or what others are telling you to do.
Why? It’s the only way you’ll make the right decision for you. There is nothing on the outside that can determine what drives you and make you feel fulfilled (which can also evolve over time so having an idea of your values provides you with a solid compass).
“The best decisions that most successful people usually make in life are the ones that make them feel accomplished or that make them have a great sense of fulfillment,” says Ed.
They treat their career like a business
Uber-successful professionals mean business. And they treat their careers like a business, always focusing on the bigger picture and optimizing their strategy and execution along the way. Ed refers to them as “careerpreneurs.”
“Highly successful people know exactly where they are going and what they want. They plan. They anticipate events. They are not surprised by a career plateau, because they see it coming and therefore take proactive decisions before it’s too late,” he says.
“This is usually not the case with the average professional. In other words, highly successful professionals are always proactive, whereas average professionals are usually reactive.”
They think about the best company culture for them
Super successful people not only consider their own aspirations when facing a career plateau, but they also make sure that the issue is not company culture-related. They understand that a dream job in the wrong environment is simply not a dream job.
If you like to be challenged, ask yourself whether your organization promotes growth. “A leading organization will always promote a learning culture where every employee is encouraged to grow and learn on a regular basis. Staff development is key in those organizations,” says Ed.
Or perhaps you could be feeling that something is a little off in terms of your workplace meshing with your personality. “Choose a culture that resembles you. Choose an organization that embraces your personality.”
Whatever the case may be, if you want to think like a successful person, think about the implications of different workplace cultures and how they relate to the career plateau you’re dealing with. And make sure you learn from it.
“Having a clear understanding of the culture of the organization you are working for (or want to work for) can help you prevent future career inconveniences,” says Ed.