3 things to do when you've reached a plateau in your career

While working with the same employer over several decades has numerous benefits – including general job security and steady income - a career plateau is one potential drawback. A career plateau is a point at which you find your chances at vertical advancement either low or nonexistent. There are two primary reasons for such a situation:

1. You are not qualified for any available promotions.
2. You are qualified, but there are no positions open.

Career plateaus are a common worry, but their effects are often misunderstood. Many people think plateaus simply generate feelings of mild depression and disengagement. In actuality, career plateaus have significant, measurable consequences. A study published in the Journal of Novel Applied Sciences, which reviewed 169 cases, found perceived plateaus had significant negative effects on both individual and group performances. Performance suffered regardless of whether that individual worked alone or as part of a team. This means you risk damaging yourself and your peers if you feel stuck in your career and your productivity falters. Eventually, you may become a liability to your employer.

If you suspect you’re experiencing a career plateau, or you think one will occur in the near future, the best thing you can do is to break out of your slump. Here are three ways to do so:

1. Consider getting an Executive MBA.

Your educational background might factor into your shortage of advancement opportunities. According to a 2016 CareerBuilder survey of over 2,300 human resource and hiring managers, a significant portion of businesses are increasing their education requirements. In fact, 27% are hiring people with master’s degrees for positions where a bachelor’s was previously acceptable. They cited the benefits of doing so as better communication, productivity, innovation, employee retention and revenue. Additionally, of all the employers that increased their education requirements in the five years prior to the study, 61% did so for middle-skill positions.

If you suspect your plateau stems from a lack of credentials, considering going back to school for a Master of Business Administration degree. In particular, obtaining an executive-oriented master’s degree can help provide you with the knowledge and skillset you need to advance to the C-Suite, also resulting in an increase in salary. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the median wage for general/operations managers was $99,310 in May 2016. At that same time, the median wage for chief executives was $181,210.

The Washington State University Carson College of Business’s Executive MBA online program was designed for people with such aspirations. For those with, seven-plus years of management, senior management, or executive business experience, it can be completed in as few as 18 months, and our curriculum includes courses on advanced business concepts such as organizational design and information systems analysis. Our 100% online component allows you to continue working while enrolled. As a student, you’ll have the opportunity to study internationally and attend our three-day leadership conference exclusive to EMBA students. These experiences can further boost your chances at advancing within or outside of your organization.



Getting an online EMBA can revitalize your career.

2. Evaluate your ambitions.

When you find yourself in a plateau, ask yourself whether your career goals are the same as they were when you first entered your profession. Regardless of the answer, determine if the path you’re on will help you achieve these goals. As we mentioned above, many employers are increasing education requirements for certain positions. It may be wise to research the benefits of getting an EMBA in relation to your preferred industry and your professional goals. The Carson College’s program offers targeted electives on subjects like database management and professional ethics and practice, which can help you advance in a current or new position.

During your personal analysis, you might find your dreams shifted at some point, necessitating a switch in careers. Don’t feel discouraged by this - as evidenced by a LinkedIn survey, such changes are slowly becoming the norm. According to the study, people in Generation X averaged about two job changes their first decade out of college. Millennials have doubled this number and often completely switched industries.

Evidence of this phenomenon is also supported by BLS data from 2015 and 2016, which found 6.2 million workers switched occupations during that time. With rising rates of millennials in the workplace and an increasing number of career-switching Gen Xers and baby boomers, one can speculate shifting professions at least once or twice will soon permeate the way people approach their jobs. You might be inclined to do the same, and an EMBA may be able to help you make that move. The education you receive can prepare you to move to a new industry - say, from human resources to management.

3. Find new networks/mentors.

If your ambitions have not changed and you do not feel a pull to switch careers, try finding a mentor. An experienced guide can give you a new perspective on your career, pointing out fresh insights and potentially leading you to a promotion or a new job opportunity. This latter notion is surprisingly common - according to one study performed in collaboration with LinkedIn, 85% of open positions are filled as a result of networking. If you’re struggling to advance, try becoming a mentee of someone in your desired position.

WSU’s EMBA leadership conference provides a great opportunity to network. Not only will you have the chance to meet other students in person, but you can also speak with alumni, faculty and accomplished foreign business leaders.

The U.S. Small Business Administration listed several other ways to network professionally, many of which can help you upon graduation:
• Join your local or state Chamber of Commerce, which can introduce you to new business partners and opportunities.
• Involve yourself in professional conferences as an attendee, sponsor or speaker.
• Attending allows you to gain valuable insights and inspiration.
• Sponsoring exposes your business or skills to other interested parties.
• Speaking positions you as an industry expert.



A mentor can give you a new perspective on your career.

Ending career plateaus with WSU's Carson College of Business

The education you may receive at WSU's the Carson College of Business can help you transition away from a limiting career plateau. You’ll study advanced business concepts and can gain invaluable networking opportunities that can help you reach the next level.

Recommended Readings:

3 things you need to know about studying abroad while earning your MBA

Five Fast-Growing Industries for Executives

5 Top Trends in Executive Development