If you feel career planning is something to consider alone, away from work, you're probably not alone. Caitlin Crawshaw, writing for the "Globe and Mail" in 2010, cites a survey of 700 North American workers that reports that fully 37 percent have never discussed their career with their managers. Yet, as John Beeson says in "Fortune" in 2013, few big companies help their employees develop a career path. Opening a dialogue that's rational and patient gives you the best chance of bringing the boss on board with your career plan.
Approach discussing your career in terms that will address your boss's priorities. Liz Grant, vice president with Right Management Inc., suggests in a 2010 "Globe and Mail" article that you should align your strengths with your manager's needs, even if it steps outside the bounds of your current job description. She says helping out with a project may open career doors. Career coach Michele Waters, based in Victoria, British Columbia, in the same article advises approaching your boss using his own style and preference to open the dialogue. Meeting on his terms gives him a sense of control and personal management. He is more likely to view your request as part of his job, rather than effort outside of it.
Setting the Tone
Beeson points out in the "Fortune" article that showing signs of ambition may raise warning flags with your boss. He speaks of "talent hoarders" -- managers who keep top performers close at hand, fearing that losing you will hurt his department. Beeson suggests opening a long-term conversation, discussing your career in patient, ongoing terms. Ask for a meeting and give your boss time to consider the idea before sitting down to discuss details. Points of emphasis, Beeson says, include stating you're looking to commit long-term with the company and seeking your boss's advice about skills you can acquire and how you can make a bigger, more effective contribution.
"Navigating through your company can be much more effective with your boss on board," says Cheryl Montgomery, assistant human resources manager in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "You can take advantage of his network, as well as your own, and even if you don't consider your manager a true mentor, he has experience and knowledge valuable to you, so respect and acknowledgement of that will keep your boss on your side." Your boss is a conduit to managers at his level and above, says Beeson in "Fortune," and approaching these managers on your own draws unwelcome notice to your motives. "In both hierarchal and collaborative workplaces, there's an element of working within the system required, and that means keeping your boss informed," adds Montgomery.
When you are talking to your boss about a current promotion opportunity, there is a deadline and urgency to your discussion. Otherwise, consider your career development a continuing project. Grant, the "Globe and Mail," recommends aiming for career discussions twice a year, and once the ground work is set, these discussions need not be part of a performance review or formal meeting. Career author Nicole Williams notes in the "Globe and Mail" report that how your boss approaches these discussions hints at how you're perceived by him. Promotion discussions show genuine investment in you as a worker, she says, and that a boss who avoids these meetings may be projecting his feeling that you're not promotion material.
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