Overcoming career plateau: Keep moving up the ladder to success



Most careers start out as a climbing exercise. Thoughts of our next promotion and stellar climbs frequent our days. But for all but a tiny fraction of employees, that climb ends before their career does. Sometimes one realizes that he or she does not want to make the necessary sacrifices needed in order to grasp the brass ring. This decision, in addition to factors that we cannot control, can often lead to career plateau.

A career plateau is the level at which you stop making upward career advancements. At this point, it is important to find ways to enhance your current job or find additional ways to expand your options. Let’s explore a few action steps.

Redirect your path: ”Your ambition may naturally shift as you grow in your career,” said Libby Pannwitt, principal of the Work Life Design Group in San Carlos, California.

Switching to a new company in order to find advancement opportunities is one way to address career plateau, but what should you do when that is not an option?


1. Create your own personal mission statement, and decide where you would like to be. Elicit the support of others who can help to bring your goals to fruition.

2. Take responsibility for your growth. The key is to find a way to keep work interesting and challenging. This will help you remain a valuable employee, which is important since employers may be quick to lay off workers who no longer seem engaged.

3. Avoid placing your hopes in an organization-derived solution. Organizations do what is best for the organization, and typically business needs will take precedent over your career goals.

4. Develop dual-career paths. Explore other avenues to get to where you want to go. The not-for-profit sector is often overlooked by those who work in the private sector. Try volunteering with a not-for-profit organization to see if any would be a good fit for you. You do not have to quit your day job in order to explore other options.

5. If you are a lone star, align your behavior with the company’s goals and objectives. Team players are usually rewarded as they support team efforts.

6. While good performance is necessary for career success, having the ability to build interpersonal relationships is critical.

7. Advance in different ways. Here are five tips for keeping your career moving forward when you aren’t moving up.

• Acknowledge what you’re giving up. If you aren’t moving to the next level, your salary will likely plateau. And if you thrive on the prestige that comes with your job, be prepared for that to level off as well.

• Appreciate what you’re gaining. A less stressful job brings many benefits.

• Make a lateral move. There are many ways to continue to learn and grow without moving up on the organizational chart. Sometimes this means taking a job in a different department in your company; other times you may simply be able to take on new projects in your current position.

• Delve deeper. Most organizations have some experts in specific areas whose experience may not be broad enough for the upper levels of management but who are nonetheless depended on and sought after for their expertise. Strive to be the go-to person, known for your experience and knowledge.


Use these action steps to catapult your career upward and forward!


Tammy McIntyre is owner of McIntyre Employment Service, an agency providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to tammy@mcintyre-employment.com.