How to Have Discussions that Will Advance Your Career
What is a career growth conversation? Many people have the misunderstanding that career growth conversations are simply about asking for a promotion or raise. While a promotion or raise is definitely one of the favorable career growth directions and can be part of this conversation, to have an effective discussion, you should broaden your view of career growth.
Here are some tips on having a career growth conversation.
With whom should you have your career growth conversation?
You should have your career growth conversation with your manager. It benefits both parties to work in a partnership to create a career growth plan. If your manager has a clear picture of the direction you want to go, he or she may already have (or can purposefully plan to find) developmental resources and trainings to help you achieve your goal. And it is very important for you to get your manager’s perspectives on your strengths and potential areas of development, given that he or she is the person with whom you work most closely.
However, it is not enough to keep the conversation between the two of you. It is a good idea to have the conversation with a second-line manager, as well, to get a better understanding of how your career growth can align with what the organization needs. If you have a mentor or a sponsor, make sure you have the conversation with him or her, too, to get a more objective opinion of what the next step in your career should be. You might even want to have the conversation with your peers and customers to discuss your strengths and your career aspirations. The more people you have the conversation with, the sooner the next opportunity may knock on the door.
When, where, and how often should you have your career growth conversation?
You should have a career growth conversation whenever you are assigned to a new project, become interested in a new technology, or reach a career milestone. If you haven’t had a conversation for more than half a year, schedule one as soon as possible, but give both parties enough time to prepare for the meeting. A quarterly career conversation is ideal–you don’t want to wait too long between talks, because it is easy to forget what was discussed, but you don’t want to schedule them too often, either, because there may not be anything to update. Whenever you schedule them, be sure to dedicate a time slot solely for the conversation itself, instead of trying to squeeze it in at the end of another one-on-one meeting.
It’s also important to have the conversation in the right location. To avoid interruptions, don’t have it in either party’s office. The conversation can take place at work or somewhere else, as long as it is in a private, quiet place. Remember that the conversation does not have to be one-on-one; you might have it with your manager and your second-line manager, or with your former manager and new manager if there is a supervisor change, or you make a lateral move.
How do you prepare to have an effective career growth conversation?
Make sure you are ready to have your conversation. Write your strengths (both soft skills and technical abilities) and weaknesses on a piece of paper. Ask yourself probing questions, such as:
- How often do I push myself out of my comfort zone to work on cross-functional projects or stretch projects?
- How motivated am I to coach others and be coached?
- Am I taking advantage of both professional and peer networking opportunities to constantly seek feedback?
- Am I utilizing reading and e-learning opportunities to learn new technologies?
It is also very important to align your career goals with the organization’s main area of focus before sharing them with your manager to get his or her opinion.
What should you discuss during your career growth conversation?
Be sure you talk about your current status and your desired next-step status. Ask the other party to provide his or her honest perspectives of your strengths and weaknesses, and be ready to listen and change accordingly, otherwise this feedback will not be meaningful. Share your short-term and long-term career goals with the other party to get his or her feedback. Last but not least, ask for your manager’s support and assistance to help you bridge the gap between your current status and your desired next-step status.
What should you do after the conversation?
Don’t make the mistake of doing business as usual after your career growth conversation. You should be ready to initiate a series of discussions that will require action planning and monitoring. Check back routinely on the progress of your action plan, make sure you pursue the activities you identified during the conversation, celebrate every milestone in your growth, and give feedback to the other party on your progress.
Remember, you need to be the driver of your own career growth, so be aware of all the possible directions your career can go to find the one most suitable for you at the moment. A promotion is not the only way to grow; you can also move laterally across the company to take on different responsibilities, or you can grow in your current role by learning new skills. Be open-minded, learn and develop within your current role and beyond. The best results come to those who think about their career growth and have frequent conversations about it.27