You’re worried you’re plateauing. Perhaps one or more of these sound familiar:

  • You’re no longer getting promoted. You may even have been “laid off” or overtly fired.
  • You attended a top-tier undergraduate college but can get into only less prestigious graduate schools. (Take heart, less prestigious programs are often more practical.)
  • You're often intimidated in meetings, feeling you’re no longer a rock star or even an average contributor.
  • A-listers won’t date you. 

Well, you have three options.

Work on growing

Could your plateau be a wake-up call to improve? Can you think of something you lack that people have at that next level? Could you and do you want to develop that? With self-reflection? Self-study? A tutor? A webinar, course, certificate, or even a degree? Reading some articles?

But what if you don’t know where you need to grow? Consider getting a 360-degree evaluation: feedback from people who know you: boss, coworkers, supervisees, customers, friends, lovers, whomever. Are you afraid they won’t be candid? Try TalentCheckup. That gets you anonymous feedback by email from three to eight people of your choice. And it’s free.

Change directions

Topping out in one arena doesn’t mean topping out in all. Is it time for a career change or tweak? For example, one of my clients became painfully aware of her limitations as an intellectual property litigator—one of law’s most challenging specialties. She then tried transactional work in intellectual property but again felt she needed to switch. Now she does litigation in lemon law—cars that are seriously defective but that the manufacturer refuses to replace. She has won eight cases in a row.


We all reach our limits. And sometimes, rather than fighting it or changing arenas, it’s wise to accept ourselves as good enough. Up isn’t the only way.

For example, for a decade now, I’ve tried to go national with my NPR-San Francisco show, Work with Marty Nemko. But my many inquiries to the right people have yielded a big goose egg. Sure, I could keep trying. After all, some mega-successful people failed dozens of times before succeeding. But I’ve decided the odds now are too small and that it’s wisest from a practical and psychological point of view to replace my drive upward with gratitude for what I have.


So now we turn to you or someone you know who’s plateauing and wondering what to do about it. Should you reinvigorate your self-improvement efforts? Choose a different mountain to climb? Or replace your upward aspiration with self-acceptance and gratitude for what you have?

Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to the articles here on, many more of Marty Nemko's writings are archived on Of his seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. Marty Nemko's  bio is on Wikipedia.


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