How to be Well-Prepared for a Career Conversation with your Manager

how to be Well-Prepared for a Career Conversation with your manager. map, notebook, camera and magnifying glass

In our last blog post we talked about Creating the Right Environment for a Comfortable Career Conversation with your Manager.  Now you’ve got that planned, today we want to focus on how to be well-prepared for a career conversation with your manager.

Reflect on Your Journey So Far

Preparing effectively for that conversation should start with having a solid understanding of your skills, talents and abilities. This is pivotal when taking ownership for your career. It’s also important to know your areas for development and how you plan to improve on them. Complete a self-assessment to get an understanding of your strengths and areas of development. Reflect on your journey so far in your current role or over a specific time frame. Identify the elements of your employment and your role, that you have really enjoyed. Think of successes and achievements you’ve had as well as challenges or difficult situations you’ve overcome. Write down these experiences and examine any similarities.

To help you with this, it is worth taking notes regularly. Keeping a career journal ensures you’ll have accurate information at your fingertips when you meet with your manager. It’s an excellent way to recap your accomplishments and note areas where you need to develop your skills. You can also record potential career development discussion questions as they come to you. Your journal can be a Google Doc, a note on your phone, or a physical book. All can be used to make sure you don’t miss anything important from one career development meeting to the next.

Define Your Future Success

Career conversations help you define and refine your personal career goals.

Those goals don’t always involve a promotion. In fact, a promotion might not be what you need to achieve your career goals at all. Career growth could mean improving your credentials, so your peers or customers have greater confidence in you. Or it could be about developing better relationships with your manager, colleagues and other departments. Your career path is your own, and if you’re applying your skills in a way that benefits the organisation, your manager should support it.

Take time to identify the experiences you want to amplify and the elements of your role you might like to leave behind.

Consider these questions:

  • Do you want to manage people, or would you prefer being an individual contributor?
  • Work with higher-profile clients?
  • Stretch into a new area or become the expert in a current field?
  • What skills do you want to develop?
  • What experiences do you want to have?
  • What knowledge would you like to get?
  • Are there problems or challenges you would love to get your teeth into?
  • Are you hoping for a promotion, new assignment or a new role in a different area?

Think about what future success might look and feel like for you.  Don’t limit your opportunities by describing future success by grades and job titles. Instead, describe the experience you wish to have at work in concrete terms.

“Success for me looks like…”

“In the next few years, I would love to have the opportunity to…”

“I could see that I could add value to what we are doing on….”

Understand the Organisation Landscape

Before initiating a career conversation, familiarise yourself with the organisation’s current situation. What are the most important activities or trends related to your organisation and your industry? Is it in a growth spurt? Is it under threat? Are they managing a lot of disruption and change or is it steady state? When you understand the priorities, you can bring this insight into your career conversation. Pushing for career advancement might not be the best course of action if the organisation is going through a downsizing exercise. Instead, focus the discussion on the skills you need to better serve the organisation at its current stage. In doing so, you’re showing a commitment to the organisation while still honing your abilities.

Do your research

The first step is to do research. You may not be aware of all the different options and career paths available to you. So, it’s important to gain an understanding of the different functions and roles you might be interested in. Take time to look around. Are there parts of the organisation that hold appeal? Perhaps you would like to move sideways, not just upwards? Invest some research time into knowing what is out there. It doesn’t have to be a current vacancy. Your research could lead you to a possibility or a relationship or a new area of work that, over time, you would like to explore.

Create a business case for yourself

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

Expect Questions

Your manager will have their own thoughts, suggestions, and opinions about your career path. Try to anticipate their concerns before the meeting. Consider the types of questions they’re likely to ask and practice answering them. So take the time to prepare answers to the following questions:

  1. What are your values? This response should include your top five values in life. The importance of answering this question is to be sure your career goals match your current values. For example, if you value innovation, that influences your career choice and objectives.
  2. What are your motivators? This response includes examples of what motivates you. Is it fast-paced work with short deadlines? Is it structured work or flexible work? As with your values, you want to be sure your career objectives align with your motivators.
  3. What is your short-term career goal? This response should be about where you see yourself in the next 12 months. If you want to be in a new assignment, then you should state that, as well as what that assignment could be. Or perhaps if you want to remain in your current role but perhaps take on extra duties, then include that information in this question response.
  4. What is your long-term career goal? This response highlights your ultimate career ambitions. Some people do not know what this is, but if you do, it is important to share it with your manager. This helps you tailor your career plan to your ultimate career goal.
  5. What are your strengths? This response focuses on your current strengths that you can leverage as you grow in your career.
  6. What are your developmental areas? This is about the areas where you need to grow so you can reach your career goal.
  7. What are you willing to do in the next 12 months to reach your career goal(s)? This response should focus on some specific, tactical items that you can work on over the next 12 months. Consider this your action plan to reach your goal.

We hope you have found our tips and ideas on how to be well-prepared for a career conversation with your manager useful. Our Career Compass Workbook is designed to help you think through these points. Find out more about how it can help you think proactively about your career development.

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