Tips for Talking to Your Boss About Your Career Goals

You can’t make a career on your own. Even the legendary entrepreneurs who started billion-dollar enterprises in their garages needed help at various points on their road to success. Investors. Mentors. Partners.

If the Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs of the world needed assistance to make their way, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek whatever guidance you can. An obvious choice for your starting point: Your current boss.

Your supervisor is in the best position to help you navigate your current company, and point out improvements you can make and skills you can develop to maximize your advancement potential.

They are also a good source of general advice. As a (presumably) more experienced person in a field you work in, they can impart some of the benefits of their hard-won practical knowledge.

However, to get the most out of the interaction, there are some rules you should follow. Keep these tips in mind when approaching your boss about your career goals:

Have a Specific Mission

A meandering conversation might pleasantly pass the time (if you happen to like your boss), but it won’t move your career forward much. Worse, you could end up wasting everyone’s time, which could alienate your boss from having any future conversations.

Go into the discussion with specific goals. You want a recommendation. You had heard about a potential promotion and wanted to know how to apply. Or, you want some advice. Have a purpose and stay on point.

Think About Timing

Don’t wander into your boss’s office when they are on a tense-sounding phone call and hover by the doorway waiting for a constructive conversation about your career path to materialize organically. Also, don't try to schedule a discussion as everyone hurriedly prepares for the next quarterly budget meeting.

Find a time when your boss can relax and focus on your request. Pick a time of the day when you know they aren't busy, and when they are likely to be receptive.

Go In Prepared

When you meet with your boss, make sure you can make an informed pitch. A small amount of research can go a long way in convincing your manager to help you out.

Gather facts and consider how you want to position your goal.  Know what you want to say. Research the ways your boss can help and anticipate possible responses.

Don’t Expect Too Much

Ultimately, your boss can only do so much. Don't set your expectations too high about the level of support they can offer.

When you are setting your goals, make sure they remain well within reason. Also, don't be disappointed if your boss can't help you. They might be receptive to another attempt down the road and you don't want to overreact to a rejection now and create a source of tension.

Keep a Plan B

Because your boss has limited resources to invest in your advancement, you can’t solely rely on their help. They might not be able to give you the support you were looking for.

For that reason, make sure you have a backup plan. Think of other people you might be able to approach. Also, keep in mind alternative methods for achieving the career advancement you're looking for.

One way to spur further advancement: Teaming with a strong staffing firm. A recruiter can give you advice and lead you to prime opportunities for building your long-term career.

Contact United Personnel to find out more.