career development conversation

How to Have a Career Development Conversation with Your Manager

By Nicole Martin


Do you love your job and give it your all every day, but don’t have a grasp on a clear path for taking your career to the next step? You’re not alone. Many workers aspire for higher positions, but just don’t know what actions to take to achieve them. If you want to secure a future at your company, you need to take an active role in charting out your path forward. And the best way to develop an effective strategy is having a conversation about your career development with management. This signals to leadership that you are interested in advancing your career with the company and provides you with valuable advice on what you need to do so.

I know such a conversation can be daunting, but it’s so integral in developing an effective plan of action. Management has the inside scoop on the types of skills and traits needed for the next level position and can help you map out how to break down your overarching goals into the smaller steps, as well as introduce you to the right connections that can get you there. So while having this vulnerable “where is my career going” talk may be scary, I strongly urge that you embrace the doors that it can open for you. 

Here Are a Few Tips to Help You Prepare for that Career Conversation

When preparing for a career development conversation, it can be easy to compare yourself to others in the company. You may look at someone who was recently promoted and see that you have longer tenure, or perhaps a stronger skillset. Or maybe your colleague who was promoted appears to have the same exact qualifications as you, and you’ve been wondering, “Why wasn’t I promoted?” I encourage you to keep comparison out of this conversation and focus on yourself. To make the most of your meeting, consider the following:

Know Your Options for Advancement

Assess your company’s organizational structure and review the open positions. Determine which positions might be the next logical step for you. Make a list of the qualifications for those positions and how they align with your current abilities and skills. Note areas where you may need some additional training.

Highlight What Sets You Apart

Prepare an elevator pitch on why you are a good candidate for the positions you identified. Highlight your unique selling points, i.e., skills, abilities, knowledge, and accomplishments. Point out any solutions you provided, positive outcomes you have contributed to, and concrete metrics of the value you bring to the company. Prepare for this conversation as if you were preparing for a job interview – after all, these conversations are not much different!

Create a List of Questions

This conversation is not just to promote your qualifications, but to gain insight on how to climb the corporate ladder. So prepare a list of questions that will give you information on how to proceed. Inquire as to how the organization’s promotion process works, i.e., the time you must put in before being promoted to the next position. You can also gain insight into where the company is going and how you might fit in. Pick your manager’s brain for the type of actions you should take to take your career to the next level.

Ask You Manager for a Meeting

Once you have all the above ducks in a row, ask your manager for a meeting to discuss your career development and advancement. Be smart with the timing. For example, if your team is in the middle of a huge project with an upcoming deadline, now might not be the best time to have the conversation.

Share What You Are Thinking

At the meeting, lead the conversation. Let your manager know you have been thinking about your career path, both your short term and long term career goals and where you see yourself in one, three, and five years. Share with them why you think you are ready for advancement, pointing out your skills, traits, and accomplishments, and acknowledging any areas where you could benefit from some development. Ask for their feedback on your qualifications for the next level position along with advice on how to position yourself for advancement.

Clarify Next Steps

Ask your manager what the next steps in the process will be. Thank them for their time and interest. Follow through on any advice they have provided. 

Again, it is important to keep this conversation focused on you and no one else. Keep an open mind and take any suggestions from management to heart. Hopefully, these strategies will help alleviate any anxiousness you may be feeling about embarking on a career development conversation with management.


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