How to work with your boss on a career plan

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No matter what your job is you have likely thought at some point about career progression and your long term career plan. If this is something that you do on your own that is a great place to start but you can achieve much more if you include others in the plan. The most important people to include are your manager and the boss of the company. By taking these key stakeholders on your journey you are ensuring you have the best opportunity to get ahead quickly. Follow our key tips to ensure you navigate this tricky situation in the best way possible.

The first step is to ensure that career progression is a constant part of the conversation. You should try and meet your manager once a month or at minimum once a quarter to discuss how you are performing in the company, and what your long term options are. This takes the awkwardness away from discussing your career plans. If you surprise your boss with this kind of conversation it can catch them off guard. If they know it is coming then they will be prepared and likely want to help you.

Try to approach this meeting on their terms. Different managers have different approaches and few will be impressed if you start trying to run the meeting or plan their day. Try to determine how they like to run meetings and how often and make it work for your plan. Take this idea a step further and don’t make the meeting all about you. Instead try to find ways to help them with their job. Most managers will say that the best way an employee can help is by doing their job well. That is clearly the minimum expected and if you are not doing your job then you can’t start asking about promotions or kicking ass in other areas that aren’t on your to do list as some attempt to show off.

The first step then is to do your job well. This will allow you to feel comfortable to ask about long term aspirations and promotions. People who are underperforming are likely more afraid to have these conversations as they are worried that the manager will simply say they are not doing well enough at their current position. Start kicking ass and everything gets easier.
Not all managers are there to help you and for your best interest, in fact very few are. If you are really good at your job they may not want to promote you as they risk losing a key member of their team. If you perform some tasks to help them they may just take all of the credit. To avoid this ensure that you are respecting the chain of command by meeting with them but also taking an opportunity you can to meet with the bigger bosses up the line. This will ensure that your name and face are known by the top brass and that they think of you when a job opens.

If your manager is not interested in your career development then this is a sign that you need to make plans to move away from them anyway. Don’t waste your time making them look good when it is going nowhere for you. If your manager is interested in helping then their title and network can open a lot of doors for you and introduce you to the key people you need to get ahead. Work with your manager to achieve the career plan you have in mind.

One of the most important things when trying to plan a career is to have a mentor. This could be your manager but it doesn’t have to be. Find someone in the company who has the position that you want in five years time and ask if they can be your mentor. Most will accept the offer as they know what it was like when they were in your position. If they do accept, just remember that in five years time you need to pay it forward too.

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