So You’ve Reached A Plateau

It can happen at any level in an organization right from an entry-level job through middle management and right up at the top position in the entire organization; the plateau. You know, that sudden realization that you’re not making progress. It can be good or bad depending on your personal situation and it can be short-lived or go on for a long time.

For some the plateau is a dreaded thing; the creative juices have dried up, the muse no longer whispers in your ear, the ideas you’re cranking out are coming slower and the ones you produce are borrowed more than original. You’ve hit the wall, the ceiling – call it what you will but you’re no longer the employee on the way up; your stagnating… Well that’s one way to look at things.

Then again, you may have been overworked, strained to the limit and close to burning out and what others might see as negative upward movement you’ve come to perceive and appreciate as a period of traction. You can hold your own where you are now and while you’re not progressing at the moment, you’re refilling your tank, re-energizing your batteries etc. and when you’re ready can once again find the stamina for another climb on the corporate ladder. This plateau period is a welcomed period of calm… A second way to look at things.

Here’s another perspective; we’re human and as such have things which go on well beyond the walls of any organization we work within. Sometimes the life events we’ve got going on take precedence over our work priorities. For many of us we can handle the things which occur in our personal lives while functioning at a high level in the workplace. However, there are events which occur and impact us to varying degrees which demand our focus and attention; impacting therefore on our ability to contribute in the workplace the way we would like; the way we have.

At such times, the plateau or leveling off of our production is self-driven by choice. We do just enough to get by, pass on taking on additional projects and assignments that we just haven’t got the energy or time to commit to. This can be a healthy choice by design and the key is to perform at the level you’re at and not decline to a level that is detrimental to the team, department or organization as a whole.

The plateau is also something that can creep up on you unexpectedly. It’s when you pause in some moment of reflection and realize you’ve been coasting. Perhaps the job is one you know so well you can do it without much mental investment. You realize you’re going through the motions, the roaring fire that once burned inside is now a controlled burn with less intensity. In short, you’re consistent, comfortable, and you’ve leveled off.

In some organizations where the competitive edge is critical, they’d view this leveling off as dead weight. They need hungry workers who come to work yearning to make the big sales everyday, produce the next best thing or push to exceed their targets which only last week were achievements to be proud of.

So what’s up? Are you stuck and miserable as a result or are you content and happy to be where you are by choice; not wanting or needing to reach for more?

Not everyone has what it takes to move up to the next level in the organization and many organizations make the fatal mistake of simply promoting people based on the number of years they’ve been with an organization.

If you’re hopeful of making it to the next level where you work you would be well-advised to look at the skill requirements – not for you job but for the job you wish to aspire to. Look objectively at your skill set and find where you’re lacking. What do you need to develop and master in order to position yourself for the future? Who do you need to cultivate a good working relationship with and get better known by? How are you going to move from the circles you’re in now to those new ones? Are you going to be able to hang on to what you’ve got now and add more to your plate or not and if not, what are you prepared to let go of to get more?

The plateau you’ve landed on might have been a welcomed accomplishment in the past of course. However, if you find you want more and are ready for what’s next, it almost always involves the inclusion of one basic necessity; effort. Yep, you’re going to have to put in the effort to get beyond what you’re currently doing. This effort might mean heading back to school outside of your workplace, or taking a year off to get that certification you need. Could be that your work pays all or part of the cost of training or you have to make the investment yourself.

It might mean overtime too, coming in early, doing some of the mental or physical work beyond what you’re accustomed to. Maybe it’s more travel, assuming some leadership on projects etc. So how bad to you want to leave the plateau?

Could be too you’re out of work entirely and have hit a plateau where looking for work is too much effort. Plateaus are not reserved for the working.


Step 1 In Landing That Job: Take Inventory

Taking Inventory
Whether it’s looking for a job because you are out of work, or looking for a promotion, I don’t think you can get better initial advice than to take an inventory and KNOW yourself.

In any interview process where a job is up for competition the overall point of an interview is the employer, (as represented by their interviewer), is getting to know you better so they can ultimately decide if what you have to offer will fulfill their current and/or future needs.

So what is ‘knowing yourself’ all about?

1. Know what is prompting you to consider a position. Are you looking for an increase in your income, a change of scenery, a move to a new community, is it economic necessity or desperation? Have you had your eye on a specific opportunity and it’s finally opened up to external candidates? Are your parents forcing you to get a job or perhaps the spouse is egging you on to get a big promotion so the status you’ll get will also apply to them?

2. Know your strengths. If the things that you do well are strong requirements for the job, you’ll be more confident and able to demonstrate those strengths in an interview. This is turn makes it easier for the interviewer to see you in the role, performing the duties and succeeding.

3. Know your weaknesses. Thinking of the promotion, the new responsibilities beyond those you currently have, or the completely different things you’ll have to do from what you are currently doing, what would you need some time, training, support and guidance to achieve? Even in a case where you believe you could do the job right from day 1, are you really saying that three or four months into the job you’ll be no more efficient than you will be on day 1? That’s what, “I have no weaknesses” would mean and you’re either outright lying or you don’t know the job and yourself all that well and how the two will impact on each other.

4. Know your needs. If you require a certain shift, compensation level, accommodation due to health etc., you should be in clear possession of that data right from the beginning. If you aren’t aware of these, you might end up wasting your time and that of the employer which will only end badly and leave them thinking you’ve wasted their time. That could really mess up future advancement.

5. Know what jobs lead to other jobs. Sometimes you’ll hear of people who apply for a job, get the interview but the job is offered to another candidate. In feedback sessions, the person is often told they need more perspective and experience; so taking a lateral position in another department or under a different Supervisor is required in order to be more diversified. Diversified simply means you’ll bring a wider perspective to the supervisory role you ultimately want. Doing nothing but your current job could mean you’ll be forever passed over and held back.

6. Know what sparks interest. What are you motivated to actually do? Are you the creative sort who likes re-working existing practices and procedures, delving into new and better ways to work? Or conversely, are you the sort who gets a buzz from pleasing others, providing outstanding customer service or inventing things that save people time? What turns you on?

7. Know what you find deadly boring. Knowing what you don’t want to do is often just as important as knowing what you do. Start ruling things out. Can you see your brain cells dying as you perform some manual labour job in a factory setting? Would you hate being in a position where you type letters and take inventory again and again and again? Where some thrive, some die. Good advice for the teenager and even those into their twenties is to try a number of careers and jobs before feeling you have to pick one and that’s it for life. It isn’t; people often change jobs or careers 8 or 9 times in their adult working life.

8. Know your potential. Do you usually sell yourself short or do you even want to live up to your potential? Everybody has potential by the way – everybody. Some have amazing potential to move mountains and change the very fabric of society by developing new energy sources, new communication models, new technologies. Good for them, we need them. But someone with a disability has potential too. Rather than focusing on limitations, what CAN you accomplish? That’s potential. And as for the risk of failing? Who hasn’t at some point or other?

9. Know people. Network and talk to people. Find things in common with them and don’t be afraid to initiate communication. What’s the worst that could really happen? When you know people, and think about this….THEY KNOW YOU. Ahhhhhh….. And when people know you they are in a position to help you with information, tips, leads, references, insider data, and all of this can lead to your success.

10. Know ____________________. There are more than 10 convenient things you should know in order to really say you know yourself. And so, what would you add as number 10 on the ‘Knowing Yourself Inventory’?

All of these things translate into applying for the right job; one that will be a good fit. You’ll do better at interviews too, because you’ll know more about the job and yourself than ever before. That means you answer with stronger answers and more confidence.

To Tattoo or Not To Tattoo?

Watch some old movies, and the only people you are likely to see with tattoos will be sailors, fighters and unsavory types who you just know are going to end up being the antagonist in the plot. Times sure have changed.

Today, you can spot a tattoo on people fairly easily for a few reasons. First of all, more people have them, and those that have them usually have more than one. Another thing is that the clothing we wear today covers less of the skin surface in the first place.

If you are considering getting a tattoo, consider the design, size, location, colour and possible future implications before you get one. While I personally don’t have or want any myself, I can appreciate the artistic merit someone has gone to in creating the design, the colouring and the expertise in the actual application. No, come to think of it, I have had a tattoo; and it was a rub on transfer out of a box of Lucky Charms – maybe when I was 9 years old.

Interesting thing about tattoo’s is that every one usually has a story. Ask somebody about theirs if it’s in an openly seen place, and you’ll probably get a good narrative discussion started. Unfortunately, I’ve run into too many people who didn’t make well thought out decisions, and instead of enhancing their appearance, it rather detracts from it. For example, there’s someone I know who has a four letter swear word right across his forehead. Ironic that it’s so close to his brain but apparently it didn’t get used. I’ve also seen a number of tattoo’s honouring deceased children, parents and relatives, splashed across necks and 1 1/2 foot climbing vines stretching up legs.

While it’s one’s own choice to decorate their body or not with permanent ink, it’s really difficult to think ahead and make a decision today without knowing the implications fully that may occur in the future. For example, ANYTHING tattooed on the head is pretty much a career defining moment. Like it or not, employers in general just don’t positively react to this and the reason they don’t is because most of their clients won’t react favourably. There are exceptions of course however, in a competitive job market, don’t you want the maximum advantage you can get, rather than targeting employers who will be the exceptions?

Another woman I know has four tattoos on her face, and even the tattoo artists I know have told me they would refuse to have done the work, because they don’t want their trade thought of as a freak show, and they themselves think it’s sad to see how isolated she is as people avoid her because of it.

Now if you get a tattoo on the forearm or the shoulder blade, you can always cover them up for the interview with a blouse or shirt, and pray that the interview you get for the job of your dreams isn’t in the middle of August in a heat wave. However, sooner or later you’re going to want to unbutton that shirt or blouse and get into some short sleeve top. You might argue that by then you will have had the job and they can’t fire you today for having tattoos. You might be right of course…but they can pass you by time and time again for certain projects with discriminating important clients, and pass you by for promotions. Argue with me that it shouldn’t be this way – go ahead, BUT it does happen and it will for the forseeable future.

Don’t misread my post as a slam on getting a tattoo. You’re a big boy or girl now and can make your own decision. I guess I’m just your concious manifesting itself in these words, asking you to think carefully about future ramifications. Some tattoo’s are works of art…others are just a piece of work.

If you do get one, choose a reputable Tattoo Artist and check with past customers. Check with the health department who probably has some indication of their cleanliness using sterilized instruments too. Oh, and lastly, ask you dad what he thinks about getting a tattoo.

Father’s are very wise!