How to survive early career plateau (1)


Akindele Afolabi

Every one reaches a point in his/her career when the possibility of a further advancement is minimal. This used to be a concern mostly for those who are nearing retirement but new trends show early career plateau.

Early career plateau, a situation that occurs when opportunity for promotion stalls at an early stage of one’s career is now very common. New business models requiring leaner organisation structure, emphasis on employability and continuous learning, un-abating economic challenges are some of the factors promoting early career plateau, making every one prone to this phenomenon regardless of age or length of stay at work. Others factors include inappropriate abilities or skills, flatter organisation and slow company growth.

Employees now find themselves stagnant at a time when they do not expect. For some, it takes years before they realise that they have plateaued. This could be very hard to deal with especially when there is no external support.

Constant ability to adapt and develop in the face of change is crucial to survive a career plateau. It is too dangerous for anyone to be stagnant for long in an ever changing business world. We must all be willing to take risk. If you are risk averse, then you are plateau prone.

The ability to adapt and develop is enhanced by having a personal career plan. Your career plan provides a framework for every step you take in breaking off the plateau otherwise your effort may end up being like the experience of Alice in wonderland. My first recommendation in surviving career plateau therefore is to carry out a career check.

Nonetheless, there are options available to you if you think your career has plateaued. My advice is that you create a sense of urgency to address the situation as employees whose career have reached a peak are always the first to be exited in a time of restructuring or economic downturn.

Career plateau may be organisational or personal, but whichever one it is, there are different categories of stagnation based on causes. I have suggested some of the steps you can take to address the situation depending on the category you fall into. These suggestions however exclude steps organisation could take to salvage individual career plateau.

  1. Employees whose competencies no longer meet the requirements of a restructured organisation. This usually happens after a restructuring exercise or when the organisation changes her model. If the employee is not yet exited, he is practically made redundant and there is no way he can grow upward in the new organisation. Some of the steps that can be taken include;

–         Find another organisation where your competencies are relevant

–         Acquire new competencies that are relevant to the new organisation.

–         Begin a career transition programme

  1. Employees who have a specialisation that was too small for the company to see market opportunities. An employee in this class may still be relevant in the organisation but with a very slim chance of career mobility

–         Diversify your skills

–         Search out for new areas where specialisation may be relevant both within and outside your current organisation

(To be continued next week)

Akindele Afolabi is a Professional Human Resource Leader, Career Counsellor & Capability Trainer and Principal Partner, Career Edge Limited.




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