A career plateau refers to a professional experiencing a lack of growth, further promotion, or advancement within current career or organization. Career plateaus can be caused by both internal factors, ie feeling unchallenged or unaccomplished, and external factors, ie limited upward mobility. When a plateau happens, individuals can experience frustration, dissatisfaction, stagnant, stuck, or lack of motivation.

Key signs of a career plateau

  1. Feeling stuck or stagnant without opportunities to grow or advance
  2. Lacking learning opportunities, growth, or further skill development
  3. Lacking further promotion possibilities
  4. Losing motivation, enthusiasm, engagement, or passion
  5. Experiencing frustration or dissatisfaction
  6. Underutilizing skills, willing and valuable contribution
  7. Lacking fulfillment or a sense of achievement
  8. Procrastinating

Even though some key characteristics of a career plateau may be similar to that of career burnout, they are definitely different if you take a closer look at both. A career plateau refers to a lack of upward mobility or growth within a specific job or organization, while career burnout refers to emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from chronic stress or demands. Before you continue reading the strategies below, evaluate if you are experiencing a career plateau.

Overcome a career plateau

Overcoming a career plateau requires you to take proactive steps to create new opportunities as well as reignite your growth for future possibilities. Let’s explore some strategies to help you deal with and overcome your career plateau.


First, conduct a self-assessment, reflect on your skills, strengths, values, interests and identify desired areas for your growth and development. It’s equally important to assess what you enjoy doing and where you want to take yourself to professionally.

Set clear and achievable goals

After the self-assessment, define what success looks like to you and establish SMART goals that align with your career aspiration, values, and progression.

Continue learning and expand skills

Identify skills or knowledge that prevent you from advancing professionally, and invest in acquiring the needed skills through training, courses, advanced degrees, or certifications.

Stretch yourself by involving in challenging tasks or special projects that allow you to showcase your capabilities, develop new skills, and broaden your visibility.

Don’t forget a strong network

Continue to attend industry events and participate in forums or group of your interests and expertise. Networking with colleagues and industry professionals not only helps you gain insights into the industry trends but also explore other potential career opportunities. You can read more about my Networking for Career Success blogpost.

Look for feedback and guidance

Many people feel intimidated asking for feedback; however, sincere and constructive feedback from your colleagues and supervisors can help you gain insights and perspectives for further improvement and development. Furthermore, it may also be beneficial to engage with your manager or HR to discuss your career goals and understand other opportunities within either your department or organization.

If you have a mentor, seek for their advice and guidance. Otherwise, reach out, as a career coach, I am here to support you to develop strategies and navigate your career plateau to achieve your goals.

Search within and explore externally

This strategy is about looking for internal job postings or cross-functional projects within your current organization and exploring career opportunities outside your organization which align with your goals and visions.

Don’t forget to regularly update your LinkedIn profile and resume and position yourself a strong candidate when the opportunities come.

Maintain a positive mindset and stay motivated

You may feel stagnant or frustrated at a time, but staying motivated and embracing a growth mindset are keys to overcome the plateau challenges. Be positive, resilient, and perseverant, and you will get over the obstacles.

Evaluate and adjust as you go

As you make change, remain flexible and regularly evaluate your progress and adjust your strategies as you work toward your goals. Focus on your future success and tweak as you see fit.

Career plateaus are quite common, but they don’t have to be permanent. If you are experiencing a career plateau, acknowledge the challenges and start taking proactive action to reignite your growth and advancement, and you can navigate toward the not-yet-realized opportunities and fulfillment in the future. Apply the strategies above and let me know how they help you with your journey.


Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

About Faye Weng

Your Online Life and Career Coach

Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.