Spotlight on: career plateaus

You have spent time developing your management skills and have a focused and challenging personal development plan. You are confident in your abilities and lead your team effectively.

But what about your career development? Most of us have heard of ‘plateaued performance’, but this concept can also apply to careers. What should you do if your career has reached a standstill? Have you considered whether you are heading in the right direction and what your next steps will be?

These are questions facing many managers, as research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Department of Trade and Industry revealed last year. The report, Management Development Works: the evidence, showed that only 18% of organisations offer career planning for all managers.

The evidence suggests that managers must take responsibility for their own career development if they are to progress. Most people are fortunate in that they can turn to HR for help, but where can you, the HR professional, turn?

Developing your career is a process of understanding, exploring and decision-making, taking into account your life, family and work in a wider context. The process is complicated by the constantly changing nature of careers and organisations, particularly now that changing demographics have led to new attitudes to work and an end to the concept of the career for life.

Graduate career guidance services are widespread, but similar services for those further along in their careers are not so common.

Managers who have reached a plateau in their careers, and who are looking for new challenges or a new direction, need to identify possible opportunities that will stretch them.

Members of the CMI are able to do this through the institute’s new online career development tool ( The resource enables managers at different stages in their careers to diagnose skills gaps and learn about a variety of career routes and job descriptions. They can use career analysis tools to help managers at a turning point decide their next steps. It also gives them guidance on how to make successful job applications.

Resources of this type can help individuals analyse whether they have the necessary skills to set up a business, for example, and how to address any gaps. It can help you plan the first steps to developing business ideas, and offer options to consider before further development. Tools like this can also help those who want to change the pace of their career.

However you choose to plan your career and uncover new challenges, make sure you avoid the plateau by considering where you want to be and how you can get there, at every stage of your career. Remember, although you have responsibility for the development needs of employees, you also have a duty to yourself.

To achieve success in your working life, analysing your future and the variety of career options available to you must be a priority.

Avoiding a career plateau

  • You have a duty to yourself, so prioritise your career
  • Diagnose your skills gaps
  • Research alternative career routes and job descriptions
  • Identify opportunities that will stretch you and help you develop new skills
  • Regularly review where you want to be and how you are going to get there

Jo Causon is director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute

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