How to Initiate a Career Conversation with Your Manager

Several years ago, I had an epiphany.  I realized that the only person responsible for my career was me!  It sounds so simple, right?  But for a long time, I had expected the company to be responsible for my progression.

After three years of no performance reviews, I realized I had a choice. I could wait for my manager to talk about my career development in my future performance review.  Or I could take the initiative to start the conversion.

So I wrote an email to one of the leaders in the organization, asking her to have lunch with me to talk about my career.  I was scared to hit the “send” button, but I am glad that I did as she agreed to meet. And over sushi, we talked about the direction of the company and my goals for career development.

We identified some key areas of skill development as well as ways that I could incorporate my new skills into my work. Moving forward, the company gave me some flexibility with my schedule to attend classes. They also paid for few of my professional development activities.  And my manager was always open to any new projects or ideas that I brought forward. 

Begin with Reflection and Research

Even if you do have regular performance reviews, you can still initiate a career conversation outside of review time. Before starting the conversation with your manager, you need to take some time to think about what you want to get out of this conversation. What is your end goal? 

A great place to start is through some personal reflection and company research. Here’s what you might want to be thinking about.  

  • What are the strengths that I can bring to the company?  What are some of my accomplishments thus far?  What areas do I want further development in?
  • What do I see as being the next logical step in my career progression at this company?  Is this what I want or do I need to explore other options within the company?
  • What skills and experience are in demand in my industry? How could I obtain them within the company or through my own efforts?
  • What training or professional development are necessary for me to progress in my career? 
  • Can I build my skills through taking on additional work or a special project at work?
  • Where do I need improvement and how to do I get there? Is there one area that I consistently seem to struggle? 
  • What do I foresee as being key priorities for the company in the future? How could I add value?

Before your meeting, you may also want to put together some supporting documents of your work such as client reviews or work samples.  When you are ready, book a meeting with your manager. Be sure to let them know why you want to meet. In my email, I included a few of the questions that I was looking to have answered.  This allows your manager time to think and check into company policy before your meeting.    

Hopefully, your manager will appreciate your initiative and be supportive of your career progression. But at the end of the day, know that you are ultimately in charge of navigating your career!

Kristin from Career Story helps people navigate their career management process. Talk to her today about how she can support you at info@careerstory.ca or connect with her on Facebook at @careerstoryca.