Taking Control of Your Career

Corvette Stingray - early 60s copyright Shelagh DonnellyAre you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your career? We came across this gorgeous red Corvette Stingray today and, while I’m not usually such a patsy for a car, this early 60s model signified, for me, someone who was in control of his or her life as opposed to the other way around.

Have you taken the time lately to assess where your career is going, and whether you’ve reached a plateau? I’m not necessarily speaking of breaking through the glass ceiling or otherwise securing a promotion; while that may be something for which you strive, I’m posing this question as a caution. The root of the word plateau comes to us from the French, where “plat” translates into English as flat or dull. Does this sound like your experience in the office, or stage in your career?

Why do we plateau? Let’s consider that, geographically speaking, a plateau is a generally extensive land area that is, at least on one side, significantly elevated from the adjoining landscape; it may be a region of little or no change.

If you’re an Assistant who has consciously embarked on a professional development (PD) program to elevate your career path, or climb that corporate ladder, this comes at a cost. Whether you’re taking credit courses or undertaking another commitment as part of this journey, it implies sacrifice or trade-offs: you may temporarily forgo time with loved ones – be they humans, pets, or plants! For others, our commitment to exercise or personal wellness may be the first to take a hit.

Little wonder, then, that after the final exam is written or once we reach that goal we established, we may need to pull back a little and enter a relatively stable period in our professional lives.  While I recall one ambitious friend, a former Administrative Assistant who barely came up for air while attempting to juggle her family life along with her job and the course work to complete her degree, not everyone is that driven, and something’s got to give. Many of us need a breather, and pause to enjoy simply having a bit of time again for ourselves.

Alternatively, your employer may be among the many that reduced hires or downsized in recent years, resulting in additional demands on your talents. If you’re among the fortunate whose organisations are growing and going from strength to strength, there are also stressors and additional demands associated with such growth. Once we’ve climbed that hill, and found ourselves a plateau, it may be highly tempting to simply stay put.

If you’re resting on a personal plateau right now after expending energy on an uphill climb of whatever nature, enjoy the breather.

You may have reached a plateau if:

  • You could run the office and probably half the organisation, for that matter, while in the Downward Dog – but are more likely heading into a downward spiral
  • You repeatedly hit barriers that block innovation in the workplace, or feel unappreciated; you’ve begun to question why you should even bother trying
  • You drag yourself into the office and can’t help thinking – or, worse, increasingly commenting aloud – that your turn with the lottery has got to come someday soon; you are bored, bored, bored, but need the income
  • You’ve made it through the stress of recent demands and challenges from your employer, but now you just want to collapse. You feel as though it’s the morning after having run the marathon – and, having run a grand total of one marathon, I can tell you there’s a wonderful feeling to be had in crossing the finish line, but your body may then protest for a day or two afterward.
  • You’ve attempted the marathon, but hit the wall and can’t keep up with the pace. Things are starting to slip but, to this point, you think you’re the only one who has noticed.

In other words, a plateau can also imply a period of little or no growth, or even a decline.

If you find yourself still on that plateau months after arrival, though, ask yourself why – and how you can build the momentum required to move forward.

Apart from missing the satisfaction you’d like to take in a job well done, these indicators may be the start of a slippery slope of underperforming, or disconnecting with your colleagues.  Watch for my next article, Moving Past Your Plateau, for thoughts on how to move forward.

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