Hit a mid-career plateau? 5 assumptions that will keep you stuck?

Is it possible that you are your worst enemy when it comes to progressing your career?  Are you playing small, ruling yourself out or holding back from stepping up to the next level of leadership?  

I see smart, super talented, ultra-experienced professional women languishing in middle management roles.  They have what it takes to excel as a senior leader, but they get stuck. It’s frustrating and demoralising for them and a sad waste of exceptional talent. 

If you can relate – I’m sure you’re not doing it consciously. I don’t think any of us mean to hold ourselves back. 

You don’t set out to undermine your own success. You’re not deliberately underselling your brilliance or letting the best opportunities pass you by… but I’ve seen it happen. 

So how does it happen? 

It’s when we unconsciously hold beliefs that are at odds with our goals and ambitions. We make automatic assumptions that prevent us from taking bold action, raising our profile, speaking about our aspirations or applying for the ideal next role. 

Are any of these 5 common beliefs keeping you stuck at a mid-career plateau?

1. I’m not ready yet. 

Research shows that women tend to grossly underestimate their abilities and rule themselves out of more senior roles even when they are more qualified or experienced than the eventual winning candidate.

The truth is, it’s likely that you are ready.  You don’t need more experience or an MBA or validation from whoever you think knows you better than you know yourself.  You are way more capable than you think and the only way you’ll truly know you’re ready is by giving it a go! 

2.  It’s not the right time.

The last few years have been tough.  You may even feel mentally drained.  I get it we’ve all been dealing with a LOT.  But a new role or an exciting challenge may be just the thing to get you out of your rut and motivated to do your best work again.  

3. I’m too busy. 

The epidemic of busy continues to zap our time and our energy but to what end? If you were to do a quick 60 second audit of what has kept you busy today – has your busyness contributed to your health, happiness, fulfilment or professional growth?  

  • Are you busy doing what is most important to you, your team and your organisation?
  • Are you busy doing what will bring you joy, fulfillment and meaning?
  • Are you busy doing work that will contribute to your career progression?
  • Or have you become stuck in the busyness of life and checking off your to do list?

    4. I might fail. 

Yes, you might! But you might also excel! Imagine that!  And even if you do stumble, you are way more resilient than you might at first think.

We have a choice of settling for the status quo or to take a chance on ourselves. 

If the fear of failure comes up for you – ask yourself “If I did, could I handle it?”   Undoubtedly the answer is almost always YES.

5. I can’t afford it. 

Sometimes a financial investment is the best way to fast track career progression or to open up new opportunities. 

Have you ever found yourself saying…

  • I can’t afford to attend the conference I really want to go to.
  • I can’t afford to take that holiday that would really help me to pause, reflect and decompress. 
  • I can’t afford to invest in a development program or mentoring that would really help me to up level.

When we say we can’t – we make it true, and we immediately shut off the opportunity.

Imagine instead asking the question; “How might I make this possible?” This one simple question opens up possibility and choice. 

Which of these beliefs ring true for you?  Could it be the reason you’ve hit a mid-career plateau? 

Self awareness is the first step towards change and getting unstuck.  

Good luck.


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