Overcoming Professional Plateaus: How Business Coaching Can Reignite Your Career

Feeling stuck in your career? Find out how to overcome professional plateaus with the aid of business coaching services.

published Jun 22, 2024

Career plateaus are more common than you might realize. While this feeling of getting stuck can be disheartening, you can learn plenty from professional plateaus. In this article, we will look at what career plateaus are, what causes them, and how a business coach can help you overcome them.

What Is a Career Plateau?

Have you ever come into work on a Monday morning and felt like your life was an endless loop—doing the same thing over and over again? You’re not learning anything new, and the excitement you once had is now replaced with a sense of boredom (or worse: dread).

This feeling of being stuck in your professional life is what we call a career plateau. Simply put, career plateaus occur when you’ve hit a roadblock or dead end in your professional journey. This can happen for many reasons; maybe your skills are outdated, or maybe you need to brush up on your education to meet current demands.

Whatever the cause, the result is the same: a drop in your performance, a lack of enthusiasm for your work, and increased stress levels. Understanding the type of career plateau you are experiencing can help you better address the situation. More often than not, people experience any of these three major types of career plateaus: structural, content-based, and personal.

We can draw a straight line from a structural career plateau to the company in question. You find this more with smaller companies with limited management positions. As a result, employees tend not to have higher levels to aspire to, leaving them less motivated to work because there’s nothing to learn, gain, or look forward to.

But sometimes, this is not always the company’s fault. There may be several economic factors preventing the company from promoting its employees. In some cases, it may be that top management is not confident in elevating the employee in question to a senior position.

A content career plateau usually comes from the employees themselves. Here, they lack the requisite skills to enable advancement. But this is easily fixed by upskilling—an option people do not always choose, and then they end up in a career plateau.

Personal struggles in an employee's life are another contributing factor to stagnation at work. This may be triggered by health challenges, difficult family situations, and other distractions.

What Causes a Career Plateau?

What causes career plateaus varies from person to person. But we can narrow these causes down to internal and external factors. As the name implies, internal factors causing career plateaus come from within—this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the individual’s fault, however. External factors operate outside of the individual, often out of one’s immediate control.

Internal issues that trigger a career plateau may result from a tragic event, which can cause one to lose motivation to perform regular tasks. Overconfidence in one’s skills and abilities is another internal factor that can easily drive a person to a career plateau. At this point, such an employee no longer finds the work challenging and is less motivated to do it.

External factors can be economic, industry-related, or due to corporate structure. Consider the dilemma of reaching a senior position at a company, for instance. The higher an employee climbs up the corporate ladder, the fewer opportunities for growth open up to them; when you think about it, there’s nowhere higher than the top. Here are some pointers that indicate whether or not a person has reached a career plateau:

  • Does the position involve repetitive tasks?

  • Is there a lack of autonomy in the work, and is it challenging enough?

  • Are there opportunities for career advancement within the company?

  • Are you burnt out?

  • Are you experiencing any personal issues that are interfering with your job performance?

If your answer to those questions is yes, then you may be experiencing a career plateau.

Recognizing When You’ve Hit a Professional Plateau and Why It Is Important to Take Action

The first step to overcoming career plateaus is to acknowledge that you’re in one in the first place. It’s easy to miss this because as you get (too) comfortable with your routine, you may not recognize that your career is stagnant.

Recognizing the signs—like a lack of enthusiasm, constant repetitive tasks, or boredom every time you have to work—can help you know when there is a need for change. Taking action at this point, such as seeking a new job, changing careers, or having touch conversations with your leadership team and peers, may get you over the hump. But if you’re not sure what to do next, working with a business coach is a great first step. Let’s look at what exactly business coaching can do for you.

What Can a Business Coach Do for You?

Before we proceed, the big question is: what is business coaching? This is a process whereby a professional business coach takes a business owner under their wing and assists them with achieving their goals. Business coaches may even be experienced business people themselves, with expert knowledge of growing a successful business.

But what exactly can business coaching services do for you?

1. Offer Personal Guidance

Business coaching services provide personal guidance from an expert who will analyze your strengths and weaknesses. After this, your business coach will typically draw up a personalized career plan to help you navigate your career plateau.

2. Help You Set Practical Goals

Specific, measurable, and relevant goals are essential to achieving career progression. A business coach can work with you to set some of these goals. You can always return to this guide whenever you feel stuck.

3. Provide Honest Feedback

Unbiased feedback is invaluable to any businessperson or career individual who wants to grow. Through business coaching, you can get honest feedback on your business operations and advice on where you may need improvement. If you’re a career person, your business coach can analyze your organization’s culture, current structure, and growth patterns, which will help you make better decisions regarding your career path.

4. Provide Clarity and Address Anxiety

You may be experiencing a career plateau because you’re unsure of your career goals. A business coach can help with clarity, advising whether you need a career switch or something else to reignite your passion. Your coach can also identify the causes of your career anxiety, whether it's work-related, due to depression, or because of anxiety. By tackling these stressors head-on, you can regain control of your career.

How Do You Overcome a Career Plateau?

While they may be scary, career plateaus are not the end of the world. In fact, we strongly believe you can rise from any career rut, provided you follow the guidelines below. The best business coaches will help you with each of these strategies for overcoming a career plateau.

1. Conduct a Self-Assessment

Take a step back and review your current skills, values, and goals. Now, ask yourself an honest question: what type of career plateau are you facing? Is it connected to your skills? Current position? Lack of motivation?

2. Set Clear Goals

Next, set clear, achievable, and measurable goals that align with where you want your career to go. After this, break your goals into smaller milestones and give yourself a timeframe within which to achieve them. Having a goal in sight may activate your drive and motivation to keep going.

3. Invest in Continuous Learning

Remember, we already established that education and skills are common factors causing career plateaus. To avoid getting to this point or to pull yourself out from burnout, you must invest in career development. Take courses that are relevant to your field, attend workshops, and pursue certifications. This type of commitment can inject energy into your career.

4. Network

To get out of a career ditch, you must network like your life depends on it. Grow your professional network beyond your circle. Join relevant associations, attend industry events, and meet and connect with potential mentors. These new connections can open doors to better opportunities for you.

5. Consider Exploring New Roles

A career plateau is synonymous with being stuck in one place for a while. So, check within your organization if there are higher openings. You can upskill to fit into the role and position yourself to achieve higher responsibilities. Also, you can consider new roles outside your current company but within your industry. A change in terrain can do your career growth a load of good.

6. Stay Updated

Keep an eye out for industry trends, new technological advancements, and relevant skills employers are looking for. This makes you a valuable asset to any organization if you’re planning to move. But if you want to stay within your current organization, knowing all the relevant trends can make you indispensable.

7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Guard against burnout with all your heart. The show will go on without you, so do not work yourself almost to death. Identify and address your stressors and take frequent breaks. Overall, prioritize your self-care, spend time with your family, and leave the computer and phone off when you can.

Revive Your Career With Business Coaching

Dealing with a career plateau is not the end of your professional career. As we said, these plateaus are not career ceilings; they are only new challenges to overcome. Don’t let a plateau be the end of your journey; allow Foreword Companies to help you get your business back on track. Learn more about how we make businesses better.

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