Hey, You, Get Off My Plateau.
Does The Wall Street Journal know something I don't know?
There I was, doing scholarly research in the newspaper's online archives, searching for their annual CFOs in swimsuits issue, when an urgent news flash appeared at the lower right corner of my computer screen. “This article recommended for you,” the message said. I looked. I linked. And there it was – a Joann S. Lublin column titled, “Restarting a Stalled Career.”
Was my career stalled? I hadn't realized it before the WSJ pointed a digital finger in my direction, but once the death sentence was pronounced, I realized I had no choice but to do a little self–examination. An itsy–bitsy, teeny–weeny bit of self–examination, to be honest, but the conclusion was inescapable. I was not only stalled; I was in a 10–mile career traffic jam with nothing ahead of me but a sea of red lights.
Fortunately, in my stalled condition, I had plenty of time to read Lublin's prescriptions, and I can honestly say that my career is once again moving at warp speed. Or maybe I'm just so warped that it only seems like I'm moving forward when I'm really still mired in the muck. Either way, I've decided to share my learning with you. Because if I was a little stalled, you, my friend, are totally stucked.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. As Lublin points out, “Even star performers sometimes stall. Where they once won regular promotions, they're suddenly passed over – leaving them feeling stale and stuck. Their old ways never work. Yet they don't understand why.”
Now, you might think that there are worse fates than being stuck in a position. At least, you have a position! But the harsh reality of today's workplace means that if you're not going up the ladder, you may find yourself going out the door. “As businesses raise expectations for managers' performance,” leadership experts say, “even a little coasting can kill a career.”
The solution? If Lublin's article is to be believed, the solution is to immediately hire an executive coach. You may argue that being a coach is the essence of coasting, and I may agree with you, but one thing for certain – they certainly have plenty of opinions on what you should do to restart your career.
Like Coach Connie Kadansky, who “urges plateaued clients to set specific new goals by sitting down and writing the next chapter of their life story.”
Frankly, this doesn't sound like a good idea. Given your work place, and your work history, I'm afraid that next chapter will turn out like a horror story by Stephen King.
In fact, Coach Rory Clark had a really scary solution to his own “career malaise.” He fell in love with an “energetic extrovert. She gave him 'a reason for living and achieving.'”
This could work. Pick the right energetic extrovert to fall in love with and you may find yourself living with such a high–strung, high–energy, totally annoying partner that you'll constantly want to escape to the office, where you can experience some peaceful hang time with co–workers just as stalled as yourself.
If writing a chapter or marrying a maniac doesn't work, you may have to leave your plateaued position. The advantage to this strategy is that it will take a new employer a while to discover what a lethargic and useless worker you are. Since this will happen, later or sooner, be sure to start off your new job by seriously under–achieving. That way, when the first negative reviews come your way, you can easily up your game, without actually having to re–invent yourself or do a whole lot of actual work.
If you choose to stick with being stuck at your current job, yet another executive coach, Annie Stevens, recommends that you “talk to your boss about the steps required to realize your ambitions.” This is a risky approach, but give it a try. Explain to your boss that it is your ambition to get paid as much as possible for doing as little as possible. You might add that this is not an unreasonable goal, since it perfectly describes the work ethic of your boss. Seeing this level of admiration, your manager may reach down and pull you up, so that you both can sit on her plateau. Or she may kick you off your plateau and onto the street. If this happens, don't despair.
You may be stalled and completely unhirable, but you can always become an executive coach.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.