5 Tips for Holding a Great Career Conversation with your Manager

5 Tips for Holding a Great Career Conversation with your Manager - career conversation in progress between two people

In our most recent blog posts, we have been looking at having career conversations with your managers.  The first of the series looked at Creating the Right Environment for a Comfortable Career Conversation with your Manager. The second looked at How to be Well-Prepared for a Career Conversation with your Manager. In this blog post, our third and last in the series, we’re going to look at having the conversation. 

Here are five tips for holding a great career conversation with your manager that are worth bearing in mind:

1. Set a positive tone

Start the meeting in a positive way by thanking your manager for the opportunity to talk about your career development. Begin the career conversation with thoughtful and clear intent. Explain you want to discuss the next steps for your career and how you desire to contribute at a higher level for the organisation

“I’d really like the opportunity to discuss how my future might evolve at xxx. I really want to be able to add more value and to understand how to navigate the great opportunities that exist here.”

2. Ask the right career development questions

Meeting with your manager is a great opportunity for constructive feedback. Ask your manager to share what they think your greatest skills are and in what areas you could develop. Discuss their long-term goals for their team, and you. Question what future they see for you at the organisation and if there’s room for growth.

In general, you’ll want to develop five to seven good general questions to kick off the discussion. Here are five questions that you might want to use and build upon:

  • How can I better serve the needs and objectives of the team and the organisation?
  • What knowledge and skills should I develop to help achieve the team’s goals?
  • What is one thing I could be doing 10 percent better?
  • Can you give me one piece of advice to improve my work performance?
  • Are there any upcoming team or organisation changes that offer an opportunity for me to enhance or add to my skill set?
  • Are there any opportunities for me to take the lead on an upcoming project?
  • Are there any employees or managers you would recommend me to job shadow?
  • Can you suggest someone in the organisation who would be might be a good mentor for me?
  • Can you recommend any extra assignments or training to help further my career goals?
  • What is the growth potential of my current role?
  • How do you see me getting to the next step in my career? 

Another tip for holding a great career conversation with your manager is to limit yourself to a few discussion questions per meeting. The goal isn’t to get all the information you want at once. It’s to create an ongoing career conversation that becomes part of your relationship with your manager.

3. Listen, listen, listen

Stay calm, talk honestly and listen carefully. Remember that the goal of the meeting is to gain new and better information from someone with a different perspective than yours. Take any feedback and constructive criticism seriously and with the assumption that it’s designed to make you a better employee. Emphasise to your manager that you value your current position and want to be of value to the department. Ask for advice on how to move forward and improve. Sometimes, the most important career advice is that which makes you the least comfortable. 

4. Bring an Open Mind and a Notebook

An open mind is essential. Recognise that your manager sees you differently than you see yourself. He or she has seen your work, knows some of your strengths and shortcomings, and has a perspective of where the organisation is going.

It is quite likely that he or she will make observations, offer suggestions, and go in directions that you didn’t expect. Yet, he or she has your best interests at heart, so you need to be open to what he or she says.

One of the ways you show your commitment to the process is to take notes during the meeting. Notes suggest that you will take action (which you will absolutely need to do). They also assure that you don’t forget something that was said during your meeting.

5. Follow up

First, say thank you.

Second, send a summary of your conversation once it’s over. Review any feedback and create a plan to work on action points that arose from the discussion. This will be the strategy you can focus on to achieve your career goals. Managers tend to think favourably of employees who proactively work on career development. Your goal is to keep moving forward, working with your manager to develop the skills and experience you need to make your career dreams a reality.

Our final tip for holding a great career conversation with your manager is to remember that this conversation is just the start. Give yourself time to digest the new information from your meeting. Contemplate any new options and let questions arise. If you need to, schedule further meetings to gain further clarification or approval for next steps.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our 5 tips for holding a great career conversation with your manager. Good luck!

If you’re looking to prepare effectively for Career Conversations or supporting your employees in preparing for career conversations with managers or mentors, our Career Compass Workbook can provide the tools and templates needed.

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