Asking your boss to discuss your career plan with the company can send mixed signals. It could make him nervous because he thinks you’re unhappy or looking to leave. Or, he might be pleased that you’re being proactive about growing with the company. Knowing how to couch a career discussion with a manager will help you avoid potential closed doors and open others.
Review your personal career plan. Determine where you want to be in three, five and 10 years and what you need to do to get there. Consider if this path is possible at your current company, or whether it has limited opportunity to move horizontally into a new area of work. List the opportunities for learning and advancing within your company so you can focus a talk with your manager on those issues.
Create an outline for your discussion you can hold in front of you while you have your talk. Include the following topics: reason for the meeting, review of your current performance, job description review, opportunities for new work to increase your skill set, training opportunities, potential jobs you might hold with the company someday, and requirements for landing those positions.
Ask for a meeting with your boss. Explain the purpose of the meeting. Next, tell him you are happy with your job and the company, and that you want to learn about ways to stay with the company long-term and grow with it.
Write your own job description before the meeting if you don’t have one so you can review it with your manager. Add a list of things you could be doing for the company that will help you gain skills and experience. Include a review of your skill set, how it relates to your job and where else at the company it might be applied.
Begin your meeting by letting your boss know you’re not looking to leave. Reiterate your happiness with the company and your desire for growth within it. Ask for a review of your work if you don’t get regular annual reviews. Ask for a review of your job description to make sure it’s current. Volunteer the job description if you don’t have one and ask to discuss it. Ask your boss where he sees you three, five and 10 years from now. Discuss training opportunities, such as the company reimbursing you for college course tuition, sending you to workshops and seminars, or allowing you to sit in on departmental meetings to learn more about the company.
Discuss compensation and benefits issues if those are among your career issues. Use information you’ve gathered regarding people of your skill in the workforce using research you conducted at websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ask for a new job title in addition to or in lieu of pay if that will bring increased job opportunities and income.
Be sensitive to the fact that the only way for you move up might be to take your manager’s job. In this scenario, be prepared for your manager to volunteer that your desired career path will require you to leave the company. In some instances, bosses understand that employees might grow beyond a skill level the company can retain because they have limited positions. Many will help mentor you and give you opportunities to improve your skills.
Finish your meeting by creating an action plan. Include specific steps your boss will take, such as approving training, and set deadlines for them. Reiterate that you are happy with the company and want to grow with it, and then thank your boss for taking the time to discuss your issues. To add some gentle pressure, thank your boss in advance for the actions he is going to take on your behalf.
Remember that your boss might be responsible for your future at your company, but he’s not responsible for your career path in general. Wait for him to suggest you might need to leave the company one day to ask for mentoring help.