Having the Conversation with Your Boss about Career Development


In today’s competitive economy, it’s critical to develop your career by enhancing your skill set and marketability.

A crucial factor in professional development is engaging in an open dialogue with your boss about what you want to do and where you want to go with your career. Your supervisor can be a strong advocate for your future progress, so it’s important to maintain the lines of communication. He or she can also serve as a mentor, providing advice and guiding you toward your career goals.

These conversations should not be restricted to your annual review—make it an ongoing dialogue throughout the year. At least quarterly, set aside time on your boss’s calendar, have an idea in advance of what you’d like to discuss summarize your accomplishments and make a clear ask as to what you want.

Start off by doing some homework in advance of the meeting so you can offer cost-efficient solutions that will benefit both you and your company. Then you can ask your manager about specific training and development opportunities available and how you can be considered for them. There are many options to choose from, including joining career-related membership associations, taking continuing education classes, going to conferences and pursuing certification related to your field.

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., highlighted ways in which employees can prepare for this conversation earlier this year in this “Ask HR” column in USA Today: “Being proactive is always better than being reactive. If you’re doing genuinely good work – and can prove you’re ready for the next step – don’t waste another day waiting to be seen. Step up and start the conversation yourself.”

But Johnny also cautions to be clear about your message. “Before speaking with your supervisor, though, consider what’s at the core of your promotion pitch. Is it all about you? Or, is it about you and the organization?”

Want more advice on how to have the conversation with your boss about advancing your career? Check just some of the many resources on SHRM’s website, or search “Career Development” in the search tab on SHRM’s website.

And be sure to check out the blog next week for the latest installment of the Workplace Wednesday blog! Thank you for reading!

James Connors is senior specialist of certification communications at SHRM. He can be reached at [email protected].