People managers wear many hats: delegator, goal-setter, accountability-partner, brainstorming buddy, performance evaluator, obstacle-mover, resource-allocator, and more. (This, of course, is all in addition to their day jobs of actual work.) And there's one critical role for managers that often doesn't get addressed: career developer.

According to research by Right Management, the global career and talent development expert within ManpowerGroup, only 16 percent of employees indicate that they have ongoing conversations with their managers about their careers. 82 percent of employees report that they would be more engaged if their manager incorporated ongoing career conversations into their day to day reporting processes.

Nevertheless, with all the other work that a supervisor has to do, it's not surprising that career development conversations can fall off the radar. But it's not only because there's too much to do, and not enough time: many managers are unskilled or uncomfortable (or both) having these conversations. 

For some managers, they may not know how to bring up career development without it sounding like they're hinting that it's time for their employee to move on. For others, they may not know what options for career advancement exist within the company, and therefore may not want to offer what they may not be able to deliver. And still others may resist discussing it with employees whom have made themselves indispensable in their roles. Think about it: why would someone want to bring up how you could move on to another role if they can't spare you?

Regardless of whether it's challenging or confusing, it is your manager's job to have these discussions. But that doesn't mean that it's not also your job. Ultimately, you are accountable for how your career advances. So, if your boss isn't bringing it up, you should. And if your boss is only bringing it up once a year during year-end performance evaluations, you'll need to increase the frequency.

That is, unless you're truly ready to stay in the role you're in for the long haul.

Let's assume you've taken the initial two steps of 1) telling your boss that you'd like to discuss your career goals, and 2) asking to schedule the discussion at a time that works for both of you. What do you say next? Here are three ways to address your career development with a boss who may putting it off, fumbling for words, or avoiding it completely.

1.    Focus on your desire to be challenged.

"I'm anticipating that I'll be ready for a new challenge in the next 3-6 months. I'd like to talk to you about what opportunities there are for me to do that here."

2.    Talk about fit.

"I'd like to share the parts of my job that I enjoy, and feel like a good fit for my skills and interests. And I'd like to tell you about the parts of my job that feel like a mismatch. I think there are other roles I might be better suited for."

3.    Make it about mastery.

"As part of my overall career plan, I would like to master a new set of skills/learn about a different area of the business. Can we talk about how I can do that here?"

And then what? Have a dialogue, and listen for clues and cues that your boss is open to partnering with you for your current--and future--career success. 

Managers take notice of employees who show initiative in their own career development. And if the notice they take isn't supportive about what you want for your learning and growth, it may be time to find a new manager -- or a new job.

Published on: Apr 9, 2019
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