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Having a Career Conversation

By Sara on December 8, 2015

You got the job and have been working hard in your new role!  Now you are starting to think about your career goals, what is next for you and how to prepare for that opportunity.  You may not be ready for something today but you know you will be soon.  You recognize it is a good idea to start planning ahead and talking to your manager so you are prepared when the right position opens up.

Having a conversation about your future can be daunting (even for seasoned professionals!)  You do not want your manager to think you are unhappy in your current role, though you do want them to know that you have aspirations beyond what you are doing today.  This conversation is an important one worth planning for as no one has a more vested stake in your success than you do.  Rachel, a Hiring Expert at Emerson, stated “You are in charge of your career and should raise your hand and let your intentions be known.”

Schedule the conversation

Don’t wait until you are frustrated or ready to move on – have the conversation before you get there so that you can develop a thoughtful plan to prepare you for your next great job.

Start by scheduling a meeting with your manager being certain that they understand the intention of the meeting.  Be mindful of timing allowing at least a few days for you both to prepare and avoid critical times at work such as when significant deadlines are looming.  Charlene, Hiring Expert at Gap Inc., suggests you “set aside time with your supervisor and talk about a very detailed career path.”
 
Prepare for the conversation

A career conversation can be much like an interview – it is the first step to your next role!  As you would with an interview, you will want to prepare for the conversation.  “You need to be prepared with evidence of your outstanding work, and additional duties you carry outside of your typical requirements” says Sylvia, Hiring Expert at Hewlett-Packard.
 
You should also be prepared to discuss your career aspirations and what positions and opportunities will prepare you for that dream job.  You may want to review some of the job descriptions for positions that you aspire to in order to understand specific projects or training that will help you get ready for that future role.  You should also honestly assess your strengths and development needs.  It can also be helpful to consider what feedback your manager will give you – to take step back and look at your work and behaviors through their eyes.
 
Have the conversation

During the conversation you do not want to leave your manager with the impression that you dislike your current role or that you are in some way are dissatisfied (unless that is the case – and that is a different conversation!)  Jamie, a hiring expert from Worthington Industries says “Let them know you like your current role but would be interested in taking on more.”  Be specific in the things that you discuss such as projects you could work on to prepare you for future opportunities.

When you have expressed your desires and what you think you need to do to get there, ask your manager for their perspective – whether your aspirations are aligned with their assessment and what else you need to work on to get ready for your next position.  Practice active listening and seek to clarify any points that are unclear.
 
Follow-up on the conversation

As you conclude your conversation with your manager, walk away with clear next steps and ensure that you are both in agreement on what those are.  Summarize your understanding of the conversation and who has what actions next – even if you did not define a clear plan you should have some good ideas and should have a follow-up meeting to solidify your development plan.
 
Shara, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup sums it up very well:  “Sit down with your manager to discuss your goals and where you see yourself going with the organization.  Have a plan and articulate it.”  As you finish your conversation Shara goes on to say “Be specific.  Ask for dates and when the topic can be reviewed again. Be willing to go above and beyond, ask for the extra work, if applicable and ask what you can do to get to the next step.”
 
Best of luck as you take the next steps in your career! 

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