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How to prepare for a comfortable career conversation with your manager

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Talk­ing about where you want to take your career can some­times feel uncom­fort­able and awk­ward, but those con­ver­sa­tions are vital if you want to achieve your aspi­ra­tions. Unless your man­ag­er is good at hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions, they are most like­ly not going to hap­pen if you don’t bring them up. Many man­agers avoid hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions, either because they don’t want to lose you from the team, or they might not want to make any promis­es that they can’t keep. The onus is on you to have that con­ver­sa­tion. Accord­ing to Deb­bie Mitchell, Organ­i­sa­tion­al devel­op­ment con­sul­tant, There is a mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty between man­ag­er and employee…As an employ­ee I can take that respon­si­bil­i­ty to chat about where I am going, what I’m doing and what my options are.” How­ev­er, it can be daunt­ing, which is why we have laid out the things you need to do to pre­pare for a career conversation.

Do the research

Before hav­ing your career con­ver­sa­tion, research the role that you want. Research­ing the skills you need will help you ask for the right train­ing from your man­ag­er and will also show your man­ag­er that you’ve put a lot of thought and ener­gy into know­ing what is required for that role. Research­ing your ide­al role will also help you under­stand what the aver­age salary is. This is impor­tant when it comes to nego­ti­a­tions, because you’ll have an idea of what to expect and will know whether you are being offered a below aver­age salary or one that’s real­ly good. Web­sites like Glass­door can help you find the aver­age salary for the role you want. 

If you want to have a career change, rather than pro­gress­ing in the same field, it may be worth speak­ing to peo­ple who have tak­en a sim­i­lar route and under­stand what they did to make that suc­cess­ful change. If you don’t know any­one in your cir­cle, reach out to peo­ple on LinkedIn — peo­ple are will­ing to help! Alter­na­tive­ly, you could speak to a career coach who could guide you on how to make the change to anoth­er role. Although chang­ing careers can seem uncer­tain at times, the aver­age per­son changes careers 5 – 7 times dur­ing their work­ing life! If you feel your cur­rent field no longer ener­gis­es you, it’s fine to move on and try some­thing new that does make you happy. 

Sched­ule in a meeting

If you want to be seri­ous about hav­ing a career con­ver­sa­tion, make sure you sched­ule a sep­a­rate meet­ing with your man­ag­er where you can have it. Deb­bie Mitchell explained in our recent webi­nar on career con­ver­sa­tions that the soon­er you are clear about your plans with your man­ag­er, the bet­ter it is for you. She says,

Clar­i­ty is kind­ness, from a HR per­spec­tive and an employ­ee per­spec­tive. You are see­ing more employ­ees reflect­ing on their growth poten­tial and hav­ing that clar­i­ty on their end. They should build trust in their rela­tion­ship and have those con­ver­sa­tions as ear­ly as possible.”

Giv­ing this con­ver­sa­tion a dif­fer­ent time and space helps to show that you are seri­ous about hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion, and it makes your inten­tions known from the get-go. Hav­ing a sched­uled-in meet­ing also gives your man­ag­er a heads-up, so that they can think about how they can help you. Your man­ag­er may want to do their research and look at what skills you need and what they can do to help you acquire them. 

The 5 most important performance conversations

Learn everything you need to know about having good performance conversations from our bundle of free resources.

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Con­nect with your man­ag­er and make them your sponsor

When you bring up the con­ver­sa­tion about your career with your man­agers, try and get a feel for how they feel about it. A man­ag­er can either be a huge advo­cate and spon­sor, but oth­er times, unfor­tu­nate­ly they may be a block­er — espe­cial­ly if they feel threat­ened. Research from the Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Human Resource Man­age­ment found that a third of man­agers devel­op feel­ings of inse­cu­ri­ty with sub­or­di­nates that are competent. 

Talk about where you want to take your career, and what your 3‑year or 5‑year plan is. If your man­ag­er is sup­port­ive and talks about help­ing you get the skills nec­es­sary for the job, they could be an excel­lent spon­sor for you in the com­pa­ny and an advo­cate for the great work you do. Work with them to help you get where you need to be. For exam­ple you could ask for reg­u­lar feed­back from them, or make a record of feed­back that you’ve got from employ­ees, to help sup­port your career conversations. 

Pre­pare for the skills you need

When you’re hav­ing career con­ver­sa­tions with your man­agers, it’s essen­tial that you ques­tion them on the skills required for your career pro­gres­sion. Ask your man­ag­er what skills you need, how to get them and cre­ate a plan which will help you get there. For exam­ple, if you want to man­age a team, you prob­a­bly won’t get there overnight. You may want to start off by men­tor­ing some­one in your team or hir­ing a junior before pro­gress­ing to a team man­ag­er. If you play an active role in seek­ing the skills required for the job, it’s hard for your man­ag­er to not pay atten­tion to you and offer you more oppor­tu­ni­ties. The use of tech­nol­o­gy can help with keep­ing a record of the skills you are learn­ing. For exam­ple, Per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware like Clear Review, lets you cre­ate devel­op­ment goals which could include learn­ing a skill. Hav­ing a record on there and being able to track its progress can pro­vide evi­dence to your man­ag­er that you are learn­ing the skills required for the job. 

Cre­ate a busi­ness case for yourself

Cre­at­ing a busi­ness case for your­self is essen­tial in mak­ing your employ­ers under­stand why you are per­fect for the new role. When you cre­ate a busi­ness case for your­self, high­light what your skills are and align them with the company’s goal. Explain how pro­gress­ing into the new role will help the com­pa­ny achieve its goals too. Per­haps you could talk about some of the things you are already doing to help you in the new role — like per­son­al devel­op­ment goals or cours­es you are tak­ing. A good per­son­al devel­op­ment plan for exam­ple can help you show the organ­i­sa­tion that you’ve thought about what skills you want to devel­op and that these skills are essen­tial for the company. 

Many busi­ness­es pre­fer to pro­mote some­one with­in the com­pa­ny rather than hav­ing to go through the cost of hir­ing a new per­son and train­ing them in the sub­ject mat­ter. By learn­ing a few skills and show­ing your com­mit­ment and pre­sent­ing a good busi­ness case to pro­mote you, you’re already on to a winner! 

Liked what you read? Learn more about career conversations

Watch our webi­nar on career con­ver­sa­tions where our expert pan­el dis­cuss what a good career con­ver­sa­tion looks like and share some real world exam­ples of career con­ver­sa­tions in the cur­rent climate. 

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