It can sneak up on you: that unsettling feeling that even though you’re performing well in your job, you’re not developing your skills and knowledge anymore. You’ve reached a plateau. And that’s actually perfectly normal once you’ve mastered the responsibilities of your position. However, if you’re an aspirational manager, you’ll want to move your career forward. So how do you go about doing that? The following eight strategies can really help:
- Assess where you are in regards to where you want to be. Ask yourself why you’re not satisfied with your current situation. Then think about what your professional end goal is, and what the logical next steps would be to get there. Are you on the right track, or have you somehow wandered off course? Or has your career objective changed? For example, if you’re in middle management at a PR firm, you might be happy with the management career path, but maybe your interest has shifted from PR to marketing. In that case, you’ll need to transition from one industry to the other.
- Determine what skills, knowledge, and experience you need to acquire. Knowing what your next steps are enables you to pinpoint how you need to develop your professional toolbox in order to advance. For example, if you want to advance from junior management to middle management, you might need to enhance your leadership skills, as well as your knowledge about how to develop talent.
- Continue to educate yourself. Seek out ways to enhance your knowledge. Sign up for a relevant course; read trade literature; and follow thought leaders online. Attend conferences and other professional events in your area.
- Work with a career coach. In the Forbes article “Five Most Effective Ways to Invest in Your Career,” Glenn Llopis advises investing in a career coach—if you can afford it. A career coach can work with you to analyze how to best use your strengths, plus he or she can help you assess your progress. He or she can also provide support if you’re facing difficult challenges, as well as keep you focused on your career objectives. You can look for a career coach through the International Coach Federation.
- Show initiative. One of the best ways to acquire skills and experience is to show initiative at work. If your company’s preparing for a trade conference, offer to spearhead a specific case study and create a presentation about it. This will help you enhance your leadership skills. Or if there’s talk about establishing an internship program, put yourself forward as an advisor or administrator. This can help you learn how to develop new talent.
- Perform relevant volunteer work. Volunteer work isn’t just about contributing to the community; it can also offer a valuable learning experience that allows you to acquire and practice new skills in a less pressure-filled setting than at work. For example, you could offer to organize an event or handle fundraising for a charity.
- Find out whether advancement is possible with your current employer. Sometimes, reaching a professional plateau isn’t caused by your own inability to advance, but rather by the fact that the company you work for has nothing to offer in terms of career growth. In this case, you should consider whether you want to remain in your current position or take a chance and move on. If you decide to move on, you’ll need to research positions at other companies and prepare yourself for entering the job market again.
- Invest in professional relationship building. Sunny Klein Lurie’s Cleveland Business Connects article titled “Today’s Strategies to Advance Your Career” highlights the importance of professional relationship building. Isolation will not help you advance; instead, you should interact with colleagues, peers, and leaders in your industry. Attend networking and industry events, and use social media—especially LinkedIn—to your advantage.
Overcoming a professional plateau isn’t easy. However, if you use the strategies above to help you determine your path and your course of action, before long, you’ll notice that you’re developing your skills and knowledge again, and as a result, advancing your career.