According to Joseph Weintraub, the Founder and Faculty Director of the Babson Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program, “you can’t assume that the organization will take care of you just because you do a good job. There is a degree of self-promotion that’s needed.”

We know that asking for a promotion can be awkward. Sabina Nawaz, Global CEO Coach says that discussing your career with your manager puts you in a vulnerable position as your manager is probably evaluating every move you make at the company. And, as Nawaz says, you are either judged worthy or unworthy of career advancement. 

At Fellow, we understand that there is a lot of pressure associated with these types of conversions. Thus, we are about to share with you 6 tips, a handful of example questions to ask, and a meeting template to follow to make sure that your discussion goes as smoothly as possible!

How do you discuss career growth with your manager?

Learn how to discuss career growth with your manager by following these 6 tips…  

1 Prepare for the conversation

Preparing ahead of time for the conversation of career growth with your manager will ensure that you sound confident with what you want to say. Coming into the meeting feeling confident will also help you feel less nervous about the discussion.

To prepare for this conversation, try practicing what you are going to say with a friend or co-worker and ask them for feedback. You should also put key talking points that you want to bring up during the meeting on the meeting agenda

“In theory, everyone understands that preparation can make or break an important meeting. The more work you do before you walk into the room, the more productive and efficient you’ll be.” 

Harvard Business Review 

2 Choose the right time

If you wait around for the perfect time to talk about your career with your manager, you’ll never find it! Rather, know when is NOT a good time for this discussion.

Rebecca Knight, Harvard Business Review contributor, says to be savvy about when you have this discussion, suggesting avoiding times when your company makes several layoffs or loses a big client. Rather, she says trying to ask when something good has happened for the company – like signing a new deal or hitting a new milestone. 

It is also important to consider what time of the day and month you discuss this. If you try discussing this at the end of a quarter when everyone is rushing to hit their quarterly goals or at the busiest time of the day, your manager will likely feel overwhelmed with work and not give you their full attention. 

Try asking when everyone’s workload is manageable, and your manager has some extra time.

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to organize your talking points in a collaborative meeting agenda.

One on One Meeting Tool

3 Understand the value you bring to the table

Knowing and communicating what values you bring to the table will modestly showcase your skills. Be proud of what you have accomplished and voice these accomplishments! A good tip to follow is to document your achievements so that when these types of conversations come up, you can present your work.

Knight also suggests creating a one-or-two-page memo outlining your track record. She says to includes things like:

  • Concrete metrics of your impact on the company
  • Solutions you’ve provided
  • Financial outcomes you’ve produced
  • Positive employee or customer surveys about you

4 Acknowledge your areas of improvement

Acknowledging your weaknesses is a strength! Oftentimes, in a meeting where somebody is discussing career growth with their manager, they will focus on highlighting their strengths. Yes, this is good to do, but it is also important to highlight your weaknesses. 

It is important to showcase your weaknesses because it shows your manager that you acknowledge what you need to improve on and how to improve on it. 

Pro tip: Explain how you are going to improve on your weaknesses to show accountability!

“The best managers acknowledge their weaknesses and aren’t afraid to show their vulnerabilities.” 

Peter Bregman, Harvard Business Review Contributor. 

5 Don’t hesitate to ask tough (and awkward) questions

Don’t be afraid to ask tough (and sometimes awkward) questions while discussing career growth with your manager. This will show them that you don’t shy away when things get awkward and that you go after what you want. 

As hard as it can be to ask for something, you never know until you try! And remember, the worst that can happen is that your manager is unable to give you the answer you want. Which yes, sucks, but nothing you will lose your job over.

6 Clarify next steps

Discussing your career with your manager very rarely results in a promotion on the spot – But if it does, congratulations! This initial discussion is to plant the idea in your manager’s head that you want to move up in the company and take on more responsibility. 

So, now that you have told your manager what you want, be patient. It may take a while for your manager to act on this (if they do at all) but, you have done your part. You can also consider following up with your manager if a considerable amount of time has gone by to remind them of your discussion. 

Additionally, you can ask your manager what the next steps in the process will be. For example, when you can expect to hear a decision. And, if you are lucky and are offered a promotion on the spot, you should ask about the next steps in that process. 

Career development questions to ask your boss

Let’s learn what types of questions you should be asking during your career discussion…

  • Can you give me feedback on how I can improve my work?
  • What is my biggest strength?
  • Are there opportunities for growth in this position?
  • Are there opportunities for growth in another position?
  • Are there opportunities to take on more responsibility with my current role?
  • Are there opportunities to expand my experience?
  • Since I started, what improvements have you most observed?
  • Where do you see me in the next few years at this company?
  • What is the most valuable thing that I bring to this company?
  • Can you suggest a mentor for me to learn from in this company?

One-on-one meeting with your manager template

Now that you know the 6 tips to follow when talking about your career with your manager, let’s get you set up with a template to have the perfect one-on-one meeting agenda – remember, being organized is key!

Fellow has curated a list of perfect one-on-one meeting templates, which includes a template for one-on-one meetings with your manager following 5 key topics. These topics include:

  • Personal preamble
  • Your section: updates, learnings, and achievements
  • Manager’s section: cascading information, roadblocks, and feedback
  • Priorities for the week ahead
  • Development and growth: skills development, stretch assignments, and career goals

Parting advice

You are now ready to have the best career discussion with your manager! Whether you want a promotion or more responsibilities in your current position, if you follow the above tips and template, you will be prepared.  

And remember, if you do not get the promotion you are hoping for, know your worth and stay positive. At the end of the day, everything happens for a reason and as long as you are putting your best foot forward, you will succeed!