How to Talk to Your Manager about Professional Growth

Have you had productive conversations about your career path with your manager?

Do you feel engaged in your current job and optimistic about career growth opportunities at your company?

Do you clearly understand how you are contributing to the company’s bottom line and core business goals?

How to

If you shake your head in response to any of these questions, it’s long past time to have the first – and not the last—meaningful career conversation with your manager.

Personalized career paths matter.

Randstad’s 2015 Employer Survey found more employees leave jobs for career growth than money. A poll of 11,000 U.S. workers found 26 percent of employees who left their jobs in the previous year cited lack of career growth opportunities as the top reason for leaving a company, followed by low compensation at 23 percent and poor leadership at 19 percent.

Millennials are even more likely to job hunt if they do not feel engaged in their current positions.

Career advancement, or the lack of it, clearly affects the bottom line.

By providing better career opportunities for employees, organizations can decrease turnover by 33 percent, saving an organization with 10,000 employees $7.5 million dollars per year, according to a CEB survey of more than 12,000 employees worldwide. That same survey also found a lack of future career opportunities is the number one reason why people quit their job.

To avoid unhappiness about your future prospects with your current company, you and your boss need to talk about where you want to go. Don’t wait for your manager to approach you.

In research from Robert Half Finance & Accounting, 40 percent of professionals said their managers never discuss their career paths with them.

If you feel the need to have a conversation about career advancement and a coveted position, you may have to initiate it.

Here are seven winning tips on how to approach your manager to get the conversation started:

  1. Break the ice. Ask your boss to lunch to discuss his or her career path, challenges encountered and lessons learned. This can be a great segue into sharing your objectives and talking about the skills and knowledge you need for the role you envision.
  2. Be prepared. Know what direction you want to take your career in. Be clear about what you want—and why—so you can clearly convey your career goals to your manager. Have short and long-term goals, as this will allow him or her to provide tasks, projects and other opportunities that will open doors for you.
  3. Seek advice and industry insight from your manager. Drop by the office every now and then to tap into your manager’s wisdom. By doing so, you will see him or her in a different light and show that you consider your manager a valuable resource. This also enriches conversations while allowing you to build a better working relationship. If time is tight, discuss what’s happening in the industry or learn more about the company’s history over lunch.
  4. Establish regular “career trajectory” conversations. Ask if you can build in a few minutes each month to discuss your plan, which should address mentoring and training opportunities as well as leadership development. You can’t wait until your annual performance review to talk about your progress or possible improvements to move up within your organization.
  5. Succeed in your current role. Delivering on your current responsibilities is the best way to build trust and credibility. Your manager is more likely to invest in your future when you already have a winning track record.
  6. Set a realistic timeline for your expectations. You may not get a specific result from every conversation. But it is important to have continuous conversations that are formal and informal.
  7. Demonstrate initiative. Professional training is no longer confined to off-site conferences and workshops. You can brush up on new skills and knowledge during work breaks or an occasional lunch. Document how you use your free time to show your boss he or she should be willing to invest in your professional development, too.

Customized career paths require communication, commitment and cooperation. Start the dialogue to create your personalized plan and to feel more engaged in working for the success of your company.

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