How to Have a Career Discussion with My Manager?

career-discussionTo be successful, you not only need to be able to work smart and be recognized for it, you also need other skills to help guide you in your career progression.  One of these skills is the ability to discuss your career plan with your boss without seeming like you are complaining about your position, or looking to move on.

Your boss holds an important position in your career.  They can support you in your career goals or they can get in your way of your career goals.  Therefore, in addition to communicate with your boss about your work, you also need to be able to have effective career discussions.

This can be tricky.   You should not just talk to your boss about your career when you are unhappy at your job.  You should try to do it on a regular basis, every 6 months perhaps, so you can communicate both what your goals are and figure out where your stands.  Therefore, it is important to not come off like you are complaining about your job when you discuss where you are headed in your career.  No boss likes that approach and that would immediately put them on the defensive.

I would suggest setting up a meeting with your boss to ask for feedback on your work. You can title the meeting “Feedback and career progression discussion.” You are asking for feedback. This will not put your manager on the defensive. On the contrary, he or she will feel good that you are proactive and want his/her advice.  During the meeting, you can ask him/her a few key questions like the following. May even help to put these questions in the meeting request so that he/she can think about what to say beforehand

  1. I have worked in this job for xx months, I would really like to find out how I am doing? What is my strength and where I can develop?  Ask your manager for specific examples to truly understand his or her perception of your work so far
  2. You have been working at this company for awhile.   I would really like your advice on my potential career here. What do you think my career can look like in this company? Where do you think I could be in 2 years, 5 year? What options do you think I have?

If your manager is any good, he/she would make a concerted effort to show you options and where you could be in a few years. He/she should in reverse ask you where do you want to be? what do you hope to develop? This may even lead to another career discussion about how you like your job now. Be prepare to answer this and have a dialogue. If you want changes in your job now, be sure to come prepared with a few suggestions instead of just complaints.

A career discussion is a good thing. I have been a manager for many years and appreciate it when my team members approach me for this kind of discussion. Just by setting up this meeting, you are subtly signaling to your manager that you have ambitions and want to go places.

Depending on how the conversation goes, you can either decide to trust your manager more and have more career discussions about your future in this company. or you can decide that this company may not be a long term place for you.  Either way, you can benefit with more knowledge and therefore make more sound decisions about your next steps in your career.

Your comments: Have you had a career discussions with your boss? If not, what are you waiting for?  I look forward to your comments.

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3 thoughts on “How to Have a Career Discussion with My Manager?

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  3. Belinda

    I want to thank you for writing this article. I have been thinking about asking my manager’s feedback from a while was struggling to figure out how I should initiate it.

    Both of your suggestions are short and sweet. Most importantly, it really takes the worries out of me thinking if there would be any downside of asking… And you are right, regardless what the result is, it will always be something that could help with career decisions on the next step.


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