The Simplest Way to Advance Your Career? Talk!

business people talking on business meetingEarly in my career, I had a job where I wasn’t feeling very challenged. So I gave my notice. When the CEO of the company found out, he approached me and the asked if I would be interested in staying and running a department. I was taken aback because I had no idea that he saw me as management potential. I told him that it would have appealed to me, but unfortunately I had already committed to my new employer. He said that he understood and told me that we probably should have had this conversation a while ago. In the end, it all worked out for me, but I still wonder if it was an opportunity missed.

Conversations about career advancement between employers and the employees don’t happen as often as they should. Bosses are often overwhelmed with the thought of having to build career ladders and creating professional development plans. Employees avoid the topic because, let’s face it, it’s just uncomfortable.

Don’t make it complicated, just talk. Forget creating complex plans, just start having these conversations when you meet. Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni in their book Help them Grow or Watch Them Go – Career Conversation Employees Want put it this way: “Genuine career development is not about forms, choreographing new assignments, or orchestrating promotions. It’s about the quality of the conversation between a manager and the employee.”

As an employee, don’t wait for your boss to bring up your career, take the initiative. If you’re not sure where to start, ask these two questions:

  • Where do you see our industry heading, and how should I prepare for any change?
  • What development goals should I have that will help me move on to more challenging roles?

Every boss wants to be seen as an expert, so most will be more than happy to answer these questions.

Remember that career advancement doesn’t always mean moving into a management role. In the new economy, the traditional career ladder has gone the way of the flip phone: that is, people are still using them but they’re not very functional. Advancement could mean a lateral move, taking on a new project, going back to school, or simply gaining more responsibility for making a difference in the organization.

So the next time you meet with your boss, bring it up. Having an ongoing discussion about your career will put you ten steps ahead of everyone else when an opportunity arises.


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