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.
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.