You go to work every day, but your productivity has slumped and your obvious boredom from your job shows. The passion you used to have for your career has fizzled out, and you feel sluggish, bored, lazy, or even just frustrated and stuck in your current career. All of these feelings can indicate you’ve hit a plateau with your career. If it seems like there’s no way out—or up—it’s time to look at making a change. While you might consider looking for a new job, there are other options besides quitting and moving on. Here are the top six ways you can take advantage of the skills you have to overcome a career plateau.
1. Find Outside Projects
If work is starting to feel monotonous and mundane, it may be time to try out some of your ideas that you’ve been sitting on for a while. You might also decide to pursue some projects, passions, skills, or experiments you’ve been interested in. Set aside some of your personal time to test out different options and see what works and what doesn’t. When you start out make sure this process doesn’t completely upset your life balance. You’re looking to add value to what you already have to see if it can be successful before you decide if it’s worth more of your time and effort.
For example, you might do freelance graphic design on the side, but have wondered if you can expand your skills and turn your side gig into a full-time job. You spend several months building your portfolio and taking on a reasonable number of clients to get more experience and exposure. With a little luck and hard work, you might just be able to make this career full-time and leave your current job to pursue your passion.
2. Advance Your Career or Make a Lateral Move
If starting a side gig and pursuing outside passions isn’t for you, you might consider taking some time to research what kind of career advancements and positions are available in your current job. Perhaps there are opportunities to move up and get out of your career plateau. If moving up interests you, make sure you let your manager or supervisor know you’re interested in taking on more responsibilities and growing in the company. Asking for advancement opportunities in your own company before heading off to join a different one shows loyalty to your current organization and will prove to supervisor your level of investment in the company.
If moving up doesn’t interest you, perhaps it’s time to consider a lateral move instead. Making the move to a different department in the same company can give you the opportunity to learn new skills while maintaining familiarity with how the company operates.
If your organization currently has no opportunities for you, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Keep giving your job 100% and take initiative to learn new skills and take on more responsibility. Even if it doesn’t result in a raise or promotion, it will help you gain skills you can use in a new position if you decide to move on to a new job.
Don’t underestimate the power of good connections. As a professional in your industry, you’ve likely developed a strong professional network of peers. When you’re considering a career change or advancement to break free from your career plateau, focus on building up your professional network and getting to know new people in your industry. These are the people who will give you the resources, contacts, and tools to succeed.
They are also the people who might help you land your next job, as 80% of jobs are found through networking. Focus on building your professional network by attending conferences or connecting on social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, and don’t forget to help them out as well—networking goes both ways. Networking can be as simple as meeting up for coffee and passing along your resume for any current or future available opportunities. For example, if you specialize in technical writing a contact may reveal their need to hire a content writer for their website. Having a relationship already established will give you the edge you need to pursue this new opportunity.
4. Find a Mentor
Another way to overcome a career plateau is to find a mentor with an advanced skill set in your industry or an industry you want to join. Your mentor can be anyone with advanced experience such as a close friend or colleague, or a manager or superior in the company. Ask them about the experiences they’ve had, how they advanced their career, whether they’ve ever faced a career plateau, and what they did to overcome it. Learning from someone with more experience than yourself who has had success will help you reach your long-term career goals.
In addition to a mentor, you should also find a career idol. This is someone who is at the top of their game in your chosen industry and whose work, process, and lifestyle you would like to emulate. If you’re a marketer you might look up to someone like Gary Vaynerchuk, who started as a wine critic and grew his family’s business from $3 to $60 billion before launching his own businesses in digital marketing and social media. The career successes of people like Vaynerchuk can become a source of inspiration while navigating your career plateau.
Whoever you decide to make your career idol, learn about how they reached their current position in their career, what advice they have to get there, and how to improve productivity. Take advantage of their shared knowledge and learn everything you can from your career idol.
5. Set New Goals
If work has become mundane, perhaps it’s time to set some new goals in your career to challenge yourself. It’s easy to become complacent when we think we know everything about our jobs, but unless you’re the one running the company (and even then) there’s always more to learn. Setting goals can help you aim for something new and advance your career. Write out a list of your goals so you have them clearly defined. Just by writing down your goals you’re 42% more likely to achieve them, so jot them down.
6. Continue Your Education
The more knowledge and skills you have, the more success you can achieve. Today there are more opportunities than ever to learn and grow. If you’ve hit a career plateau, you might have considered heading back to school to obtain or further your degree, especially if not having one is keeping you from advancing in your career.
As more people recognize the importance of getting their degree and receiving a good education, more adults than ever are heading back to school for their bachelor’s degrees. This includes older adults over age 25, whose numbers are expected to comprise 40% by 2020.
Going back to school will not only remove the barrier of not having a degree, but it will also provide you with critical thinking skills and a well-rounded education. The skills you learn will help you approach challenges in your career differently and prepare you for any additional certifications you can use to advance your career. While going to school and working full-time is challenging, the time and energy spent are well worth the effort to help you get past your career plateau.
Advancing Your Career
There are plenty of ways to get you past a career plateau and back on track towards a career you love. Find the option that works for you and don’t delay. You’ll never regret taking time to improve your skills or learn more in your industry so you can have a fulfilling path to success. If you’re interested in advancing your degree, online college is more popular and accessible than ever for busy working adults. You can earn a degree and improve your future career options without having to pause providing for yourself or your family to go back to school.