If you’re a college graduate preparing to start your first job, your head is probably swimming with all kinds of career dreams, goals and aspirations. I know when I was fresh on the work force, I had a 5-year plan detailing exactly where I’d be, what I’d be doing, and what promotion I would be shooting for next.
But even the best-laid plans can get sidetracked from time to time, so don’t be surprised if a year or two in, you find yourself hitting a career plateau.
What’s a career plateau, you ask? The definition varies, but basically, it refers to a period when you’ve been in the same position with the same company for awhile, you haven’t made an upward move in some time, and you’re not really learning anything new. (Some also call this career stagnation, but that’s a little too negative for my taste.)
So why do employees plateau? There are plenty of reasons. A really comfortable position, family or other consuming outside stresses, or a bad job market can all contribute to career plateaus. And the fact of the matter is, most of us will hit one at some point in our lifetime, and that’s ok. These quiet times can actually be transformative, if you know how to take advantage of them.
3 Ways Career Plateaus Are Good for Your Career
Career Plateaus Are Like Base Camp
Despite years of training, even the most experienced mountain climbers can’t make it to the top of Mt. Everest in one day. They need periodic stops at base camps along the way to rest and let their bodies adjust to the changing altitude.
Your career is the same way. If you’re constantly on the move to the next promotion, you don’t have much time to sit down, acclimate, and evaluate. Use the career plateaus you encounter to assess your situation: Are you happy on your current path? Is their a new industry or position you want to try? Do you have the same goals in mind that you did when you graduated from college? Once you have the answers, plot your new course accordingly.
Career Plateaus Give You Time to Learn
Sometimes to make it to the next great position, you need additional training. Career plateaus are great for that time in your life. Knowing your job inside and out means you have extra energy and mental space, which you can easily put towards online and weekend classes that will help you get the knowledge you need to take your career to the next level.
Career Plateaus Give You Time to Develop Your Own Business
If you’ve always dreamed of you owning your own business or starting a side venture, but you don’t have a million-dollar nest egg to help you do so, a career plateau can be your new best friend. It gives you the stability of a regular paycheck and health insurance, and also the mental freedom to start cultivating your hobby, freelance career, or budding business on the side.
So the next time you hit a career plateau, don’t get sucked into a cycle of depression and self-pity. Instead, see it for what it really is: an opportunity to explore and expand on the career goals you originally set for yourself.
About the Author: Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. Noël writes and edits the career and education blog, myPathfinder, and is passionate about using these technologies to help students and job seekers alike find the degree program or career that is right for them. Visit myFootpath.com to find the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD program that’s right for you. Connect with Noel on Twitter!