When it comes to development opportunities, managers are well-positioned to stretch their team’s skills and support their reports. This doesn’t always happen organically in a fast-paced workplace.
Our Everwise community has offered up useful guidance on ways professionals can begin a conversation around development with their manager and gain their support.
Find Personal Clarity
Before you initiate a conversation about development, get clear on your own vision. Vandana Tilwani observes, “It’s important to have clarity on what you want to do and where you are headed before talking to your manager. While most managers care about their team members’ development, they are often oblivious to unspoken aspirations that team members may have.”
Tom Delmonte recommends developing up to six work goals and six personal goals to drive your conversation. “If you need some help in identifying those goals,” he says, “I would recommend a book called Deep Work, which focuses on helping us find work that is deep and, by result, meaningful.”
Collecting data on your performance and achievements over time is another productive angle during this period of self-reflection, says Roopali Kurve. It will give you objective insights about how you work, but also will help strengthen your self-advocacy in the conversations to come.
James Considine advises that taking honest stock in yourself is particularly important, because your next position or path forward may not even exist yet. “I’m seeing these days that there are fewer linear growth paths full stop,” he reflects. “Identify what you’re strong in, most driven towards, and perhaps most importantly, what you want to learn or experience. Then think about how you might go about getting those experiences, learnings, etc.” Having this clarity can help you create a development path tailored to you, even under ambiguous circumstances.
When you feel a strong sense of personal clarity, Nick Duggan recommends initiating a conversation about development with your manager sooner rather than later, and directing it towards longer-term career path options. “This treats them as a valued partner and advisor in helping to plan your next steps.”
Your conversation about the long-term should naturally work its way backwards to the question of “What should my immediate next steps be?” and at that point you can gauge how the situation is feeling with their involvement and support. You may eventually discuss the possibility of seeking another internal role, but this approach allows you to dial that in slowly.
“If you do set a meeting with your boss, come with proposals,” James Considine adds. “The meeting itself should be its own discussion, one you set up with an agenda.” Make sure to make it clear you’re interested in your manager’s perspective and asking for their feedback.
If you would like to change teams, Heera Ganjikota advocates for more prep work. “Work on the reasons why you want to make a move,” he says, along with messaging expressing how both you and the organization will benefit. Maybe you’ve gained new skills which are better utilized elsewhere, or you’ve become more efficient and are ready for fresh challenges. No matter what, he says, “Be open to suggestions, and be patient about opportunities.”
Make The Business Case
In certain environments, professionals may find it tricky to advocate for development in general, so making a strong business case becomes paramount. Similar to what Ganjikota shares above, Kurve explains, “You need to identify the benefits of developing employees within company and present them to the manager.”
Some examples of those benefits from Kurve’s experience include a higher level of employee engagement, increased productivity, better morale, and customer satisfaction. There are plenty of studies available to back your case for development, so make sure to do some research and come prepared with supporting facts.
“Employees then need to clearly identify their personal career path and goals,” says Kurve, “and sit with their manager to discuss how their personal goals can be achieved whilst aligning with company goals and objectives.” Highlight the alignment between your personal path and the business priorities of the organization and show that your company’s momentum is in your favor.
Explore And Expand Your Network
“A good manager should welcome a discussion where a team member wants to step up, grow, take more on,” says James Considine. He also mentions your manager may not spend enough time thinking about these questions for themselves, let alone for you. If you can engage your manager, they can be your best ally. In addition, there are likely others in your organization who can help you advance your development. Try seeking out a mentor, peer advisors, or a coach to keep your development goals moving.
Networking across your organization can also lend depth to these steps. By getting a better sense of the organization as a whole, you can discover possibilities you weren’t aware of, understand how your existing skills could be leveraged in new ways, and meet people who inspire you.
- Reflect and get clarity on your professional and personal goals
- Begin the conversation with your manager at a broad level and walk it backwards to immediate next steps
- Develop proposals for skills you’d like to develop, tying them to organizational goals
- Prepare to make a business case for why development matters
- Network within your organization to get perspective and uncover opportunities