Have you ever reached a point in your career journey where the path ahead seems foggy? Where the ascent you’ve been on suddenly feels flat, like you’re walking an endless plateau? It’s that unsettling feeling where you once soared, achieving career milestones with relative ease, and suddenly it’s as if you’ve hit an invisible ceiling. You always want to progress. You have a proven track record of performing. Yet, now you find yourself in a place where you feel like you’re running on a treadmill, making lots of effort but not actually getting anywhere. 

If this sounds like you, you might have hit the dreaded career plateau. 

It’s essential to recognise the signs of a career plateau early on to pivot and recalibrate your career path. Here are three significant indicators that you’re on a career plateau.

 1. You feel a drop in confidence

It’s natural to have ebbs and flows in confidence throughout a career. But if you find yourself constantly second-guessing, or if the thought of contributing an idea fills you with anxiety, it’s a sign that something’s amiss. 

Perhaps lately you’ve become less energised and reticent to speak up or drive new ideas. According to a study by KPMG, titled “Advancing the Future of Women in Business”, 67% of women have experienced a lack of confidence in their careers. However, this isn’t just about self-doubt. This decline often comes from not feeling challenged or stimulated by the work.

Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and known for her work on the growth mindset, once said, “Effort is one of the things that give meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it.” When you’re no longer putting in that effort, perhaps because the challenge or meaning has dwindled, it’s a clear sign that you might be on a plateau. Reconnecting with what’s important and where you want to exert your effort can be pivotal in reigniting that spark and moving past this stagnant phase.

 2. You’re less visible

In the digital age, visibility isn’t just about physical presence but also about influence and connection. At first, being off the radar might feel like a break – less pressure, less attention. But then a realisation strikes. You’re less connected with key stakeholders, your influence is waning, and crucially, you’re missing out on pivotal conversations that shape the organisation’s future. 

A Harvard Business Review article from 2019 highlights the importance of ‘networking’ and how it’s directly correlated with career success. They found that managers who consistently networked were more likely to receive promotions and opportunities than those who didn’t. Being out of sight is often out of mind in the corporate realm. When you’re not a part of essential dialogues, it’s easy to be overlooked. 

3. Lack of opportunity

 Once upon a time, the best projects, opportunities, or promotions seemed to naturally come your way. Today, it’s crickets. No one is approaching you with an exciting new venture or even considering you for a fresh perspective. 

In their book “The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance In the Changing World of Work”, authors Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson emphasise that career growth isn’t always vertical. Sometimes, it’s about lateral or diagonal moves that offer a wealth of experience. If you’re not seeing any opportunities, even laterally, you might be on that dreaded plateau. 

Landing on a career plateau, while daunting, isn’t the end of the road. It’s a phase – and like all phases, it’s temporary. People climb off plateaus. They rediscover their mojo, realign their career compass, and charge forward. The first step is recognising that you’re on one. The next steps? Seeking guidance, continuous learning, networking, and most importantly, being proactive and making a plan to move forward. 

Remember, a plateau is merely a vantage point for your next ascent. Don’t view it as a setback but rather a set up for your next big leap in your brilliant career.

At Your Brilliant Career, we offer personalised coaching programs designed specifically for women to help them RISE in their careers. Our founder, Gillian Fox, is a women’s career expert and leadership coach with over 25 years of experience helping women achieve their career goals. Discover the RISE Accelerate and RISE Elite programs to explore how career coaching can help you achieve success in your career.