Professional development starts by creating a development plan with your boss. If they don’t approach you, take the initiative to make sure that your career development doesn’t end up at their mercy.
Melvin is bummed. It seems another year has gone by without any promotion or increase in his job responsibilities. He’s listened to my episodes on recording your work accomplishments and brought those up at his review. He also took the advice from my episode on How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk. But nothing seemed to work.
“Have you asked for career advancement?” I asked him. He looked thunderstruck. “No, do I have to?” he asked. Well, if it’s not happening on its own, then yes, it’s time to ask.
Ask Your Boss for a Professional Development Meeting
If you find yourself stalled in your career, bring it up. Ask your boss to schedule a professional development planning session. If your boss doesn’t know what you mean–and sadly, many bosses have never even thought about developing their people–say that your agenda will be to discuss your career so far, and what you need to do to take it to the next level.
This can seem scary! What if your boss says “No”? Well, if you aren’t getting a promotion and your boss refuses to discuss the situation, that’s important information for you. It could mean that you’re stuck in a dead-end job. Better you know now, while you’re still young enough to plunge into despair over the situation, write some deeply existential poetry, and win a Pulitzer, thus launching a new career.
Frame the Meeting About Career Advancement
If your boss agrees to the meeting, go in there armed with an idea of how you’re going to frame the discussion. You’re in a learning mode. “I want to find opportunities to grow within the company, and would like to talk with you about how to make that happen.” Your boss may immediately try to deflect by saying, “There are no open spots right now.” That’s fine. This isn’t about right now. This is about how you can develop new skills so when there is an opening, you’re in the running.
Ask About Possible Growth Paths
If you already know what growth path you want, great. Maybe you want to be a Vice President of Product Development. If so, start the conversation there.
Sometimes you don’t know what the possibilities are, however. So ask, “What career paths could I take from here?” Collect different options. Be open. Consider directions you’ve never thought of. I’ve known a receptionist who became a computer hardware repairperson, and an HR consultant who left to run a manufacturing plant.
You don’t need to limit yourself to jobs that are available now. This is about your overall development, not about applying for a specific job.