Open communication about career goals and professional development is beneficial for employees and employers alike. Here’s how to conduct the discussion
The sense of moving forward in our working lives is important – it motivates and inspires us. Some professionals like to move up the career ladder as quickly as possible, while others want to experience new and different things from their careers. Whatever you feel about your career progression, being able to convey this – and feeling comfortable about communicating your thoughts to your manager – is pivotal when developing and shaping your career.
But 44.8% of UK workers feel uncomfortable discussing their career progression with their manager, according to research by recruitment consultants Badenoch & Clark. Young professionals aged between 16 and 24 years old, are least likely to ask their manager about personal development opportunities – 59% of respondents said that such a conversation would make them feel uncomfortable.
While it can be difficult to approach your manager to discuss career progression – and even harder to judge when this discussion is appropriate – the dialogue is essential for organisations and professionals alike.
Discussions about career progression drive employee engagement and productivity. They play a fundamental role in creating a dynamic workplace that is both rewarding to employees and employers.
Breaking down communication barriers and encouraging greater discussion regarding career development between managers and employees enhances the attractiveness of an organisation to professionals and can increase retention rates. A culture that values personal development and career progression will see the results of its investment in an engaged, happy and productive workforce.
But these discussions also encourage individuals to control their career path, and allow employees to demonstrate that they are serious about their future within the organisation.
Personal development is all about good counsel: getting the right mix of technical training, behavioural insight and mentoring to help employees excel in their job and feel personally and professionally fulfilled. It is not a one-way street and employees should push for development opportunities if they’re not openly presented with them.
While it can be difficult to initiate and engage in professional development conversations, here are five tips for employees to make the experience more fulfilling and less unnerving:
Book your time
In a busy work environment it is crucial you and your manager have sufficient time to discuss your career progression. Ask for an appointment and be clear about what you want to discuss. Remember to ask for enough time so that you can have a lengthy discussion about all points you wish to raise. While managers may be busy, they should understand that it is important to make time for this. Until you chat you may not realise the opportunities available to you – this is particularly important in the current economic climate.
Preparation is key
To prepare, reflect on your achievements, strengths and abilities, and consider areas for development. As well as shaping your thoughts and focus, this preparation is important in a busy work environment to ensure your discussion is as constructive as possible in the time allocated.
Think carefully about who can help you
While your line manager will often be the first point of contact when discussing career development, there will often be a number of other individuals in your organisation who can help you with this discussion, particularly the HR and personnel department. Thinking carefully about who is the best person to approach will make sure the conversation is as useful as possible.
Developing good relationships with your colleagues can be very useful when developing your thoughts and ideas about your career progression. Hearing about other people’s experiences can foster development and focus your career goals. Having these conversations ahead of discussions with your manager will frame your thoughts about your future and what is achievable within your organisation.
Express a willingness to engage in learning and development opportunities
Demonstrating that you are willing to engage and manage your own development will be noticed. Sharing your experiences and keenness to increase your skills and knowledge with your manager and other influential people in your organisation will encourage them to support you.
Nicola Linkleter is managing director of Badenoch & Clark.