Karen Darrin

You are great at what you do, but don’t have a clear path for getting promoted to bigger and better things. It’s a challenge many employees face today. Business News Daily reported that less than 50% of employees see viable career roadmap with their companies. Based on what I hear from my clients, I believe it is higher.

Additionally, consider that only about a third of managers effectively discuss career development as part of the performance management process. Important discussions just don’t happen when the urgent tasks consistently hijack the day-to-day.

The bottom line? If you want a viable future at your company, you’d better get ready to take the situation into your own hands. That means sitting down with your manager to have the big “where is my career going?” conversation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Take Ownership

No one is more invested in your future than you. Waiting for your manager to enlighten you with his or her version of your ideal next step is not a strategy. Instead, own up to the fact that neither your organization nor your manager is in charge of your next step. You are.

Clarify Your Accomplishments

Document where you performed well and how that can position you to be successful in your next role. Outline your key accomplishments and quantify the results, if you can. Describe what you have specifically achieved for the organization.

Describe Your Vision

Where do you see yourself in one, three, or five years? Don’t get tangled into details like job titles. Have a general sense for where you’re headed. 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 acquire?
  • Are you hoping for a promotion, new assignment or a new role in a different area? Be clear on what it is you are asking.
  • Finally, share how these things can help the organization solve some of the company’s business problems.

Conduct the Meeting

Timing is everything.  When are you at your best – early or late morning? early or late afternoon?  When is your department not crazy busy so you can get time when your manager (and you) are not frazzled and distracted? Even if you find that sweet spot and get to the meeting, if some emergency derails you or your manager, reschedule.

At the meeting, you want to be calm, centered, and clear as you walk through these speaking points:

  1. Thank your manager for the time. Promise to keep to the allotted length for the meeting and you hope that this will be an ongoing conversation – which is the ideal approach.
  2. Explain that you want to discuss next steps for your career and how you desire to contribute at a higher level for the organization.
  3. Remind your manager of your past 1-2 key accomplishments, including specific outcomes.
  4. Then, describe your vision for your career. What is it you want?
  5. Next, ask your manager, “what ideas do you have about what my next steps here could be?” Now, let the conversation begin.

Next Steps

Facilitating this conversation lets your manager know you want to move—preferably within the organization—but intimates that it may have to be elsewhere, if necessary. If your manager is all over it, spilling with creative ideas to support you, congrats!

But, if your manager is at a complete loss for what to tell you or how to direct you, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Here are some options:

  • If you want to stay with the company, but your boss has no ideas on how to help you, ask your boss if you could research other departments that may need your skill set and experience. Ask your boss if he or she would support you if you find a fit?
  • Ask your boss for introductions to other leaders you may not know but would like to investigate other opportunities.
  • Check connections you have in the organization. Is there a fit elsewhere?

If, however, you can’t figure out how to make that happen or your manager is unwilling to help open the doors to make that happen, your next move will need to be a move out of the organization.

I recently had a client who went through the process outlined above. Nick was a mid-level loan officer with a local bank in a small college town. There had never been any career discussions with his manager.

Nick was pretty sure there was no movement up the food chain for him, but he was loyal to his company. They had been good to him. And, living in a small town, how he handled this was critically important. The last thing you need is to be blacklisted by former co-workers that you would see regularly in town.

While Nick prepared for his career development discussion, he also began quietly networking with others in his LinkedIn and professional circles. A number of new opportunities presented themselves and after his due diligence and interviews, he selected a broader and higher level role with a larger, competitive bank in town. This was not only a promotion for him but provided a new organization with future possibilities for his career growth.

Before Nick signed his offer letter though, he went to his current employer and facilitated a career development discussion. It was received well and, despite the fact there was no future for him at this bank, they came back with additional salary to try to retain him.  Even with the increase, Nick’s career options at the new bank were beyond the scope of his current employer.  He is now happily settling into his new role and left on the best of terms with his former employer.

Bottom line:  Whether you move into the next big job where you are or head out to a new organizational frontier, you’ll be better off having gone through this process. Asking for what you deserve is a career skill you need—and one that will continue to benefit you well into the future.

CALL TO ACTION:  Are you unhappy with your job situation? Let’s brainstorm strategies to get you excited about your career again. Slot a complimentary 30-min consult here:  Schedule Free Consult.

Sign up for more weekly wisdom hereKaren Darrin Blog and receive a free gift, “How to Create Meaning in Your Life.”