How to Break Out of a Plateau

One of the most interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in skill development is when people hit plateaus. In weightlifting, this is when you lift but don’t see any muscle growth and you can’t move up to heavier weights. In case prep, this is when you do case after case but don’t see any incremental improvement. This usually happens anywhere between 20-40 cases, depending on the person.

Now, plateauing isn’t inherently bad. It just means that you’ve improved substantially from when you started and you aren’t going to see the same kind of growth / time as you did in the past. The problem is that plateauing can be quite deceptive. You may feel ready for your interviews when you’re still weak in one or more key areas.

The other problem is that plateauing is very discouraging. Once you feel like you aren’t improving anymore you’re less likely to keep trying and often people feel materially less confident because they think they’ve hit the limits of their skills. I’ve noticed when people  get to this point they start to become very outcome dependent and spend a lot of time worrying / speculating about all sorts of things that don’t matter.

How To Break Out of the Plateau

So what can you do? I think the key here is to:

1. Do a self assessment for each of the key skills in a case interview.

2. Focus on developing your weakest area.

3. Once you’ve improved your weakest area, go back to step 1 and repeat the process, until you feel comfortable that you’re strong enough across the board.

Honestly, you can always get better. The key is defining how good you really want to be and working towards that slowly.

Self Assessments

There’s probably many ways to do this. What I’d recommend is rating yourself 1-5 on all the key skills in a case:

1. Structuring

2. Brainstorming

3. Quantitative Questions

4. Analyzing Data

5. Taking Good Notes

6. Driving The Case (being “hypothesis driven”)

7. Delivery (i.e. being concise, confident, cool, and collected)

8. Being Proficient with all the Major Types of Cases

9. Business Terminology (i.e. knowing and using it properly)

10. Handling Decision Points

11. Being Creative

For example, my biggest areas of improvement are:

1. Brainstorming

2. Delivery (being concise)

3. Business Terminology

Developing Your Weakest Area

So how do you improve your weakest area? I’d say:

1. Communicate it to the people you practice with and ask them to focus on helping you develop this area.

2. Do some research to find out how to improve it on your own.

3. Break down each category further into sub skills that you can work on.

4. Keep reassessing.

I guarantee that if you focus on your weak areas like this you’ll break out of the plateau and avoid its deceptive / discouraging effects. Plateaus are all in your mind, after all :).

Conclusion

The danger of hitting a plateau is that you may get discouraged from practicing further or not be aware of your weak areas. To deal with this you should:

1. Do a self assessment for each of the key skills in a case interview.

2. Focus on developing your weakest area.

3. Once you’ve improved your weakest area, go back to step 1 and repeat the process, until you feel comfortable that you’re strong enough across the board.

Good luck!

Advertisements

One thought on “How to Break Out of a Plateau

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s