Episode 251: January 22, 2013
by Stever Robbins
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.
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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.
Drill Down to Skills You Can Develop
Once you have ideas for growth paths, discuss what skills you would need to demonstrate in order to be considered for that kind of job. Since it’s probably your boss who will promote you, or who will be your champion within the company, you need to have an idea of how they would decide to recommend you for a job.
They may want you to develop project management, public speaking, leadership, or sales skills. Ask how they would know you’ve acquired those skills. Do they want you to take a class and pass it with a certain grade?
If they want to see you use the skills, ask how you can create the opportunity to demonstrate them. If your boss wants you to develop sales skills, and you think it will take you six months, ask, “Can you send me on a sales call in six months, and come along to watch how I work?” If your sales skills aren’t up to snuff by then, your boss’s observation can help you figure out where you need to work next to master the skills.
Create a Relationship-Building Plan
Not only do many jobs require skills, but they also require relationships. If your goal is to be promoted to Director-level, start noticing who Directors talk to, and about what. Start making an effort to build relationships to similar people, and learn about the topics you’ll be discussing once you’re a director. Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone is a great place to start learning about how to build relationships. Ask your boss for assignments that will help you meet the people you’ll need to meet to make your next career leap.
Ask For Assignments to Develop Skills
If you’re serious about your professional development and your boss doesn’t have any suggestions, it will be up to you to do all the work. Find people in the jobs you someday wish to hold, and ask them how to prepare. What skills do you need? What relationships? What credentials?
If your boss won’t arrange the opportunities to develop those, take matters into your own hands. Seek out assignments you believe will cause you to grow. Take classes on your own. Build relationships.
Now that you’re in the workforce, you need to take control of your professional development. Meet with your boss. Design a plan to build and demonstrate your skills and relationships. If your boss won’t help out, then do it on your own. A career is a terrible thing to waste.
This is Stever Robbins. You can find this episode’s transcript at getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com
I help high-potential leaders plan and develop their careers. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
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