Career Development Goals – How to Take Your Job to the Next Level
You’re interested in taking your job to the next level and want to talk to your boss about your career development goals. This is good news, as you can impact your professional development more than you may realize. In fact, some managers only consider promoting employees who proactively request a development and promotion plan. To help you take control of your professional career development goals, this article covers the following topics:
- Develop rapport with your boss
- Request a job description and development plan
- Deliver high job performance
- Set up a performance evaluation meeting
- More career development tips
Your boss’s support is imperative for your career development. Before you initiate a career development discussion, get to know how your boss operates. Pay attention to your boss’s working style, interactions with others, and the type of feedback – if any – your boss gives you. For example, is your boss detail oriented or interested in the big picture? Does your boss openly give you feedback about your work, or do you have to pull teeth to get this information? Your understanding of your boss’s character traits, working styles, and people skills helps you formulate a career development plan that your boss will likely support. Your career development is ultimately about you, but your goals should be crafted in a way that makes sense to your boss – a key stakeholder in the development process.
While it might seem elementary, you must also work well with your boss if you want your boss to work for you. Understanding and getting along with your boss help you develop rapport that’s necessary to begin talking about your career development plan.
After developing a good relationship with your boss, it’s time to set the stage for your career development. The easiest way to begin this process is to request a copy of your job description, which is a list of all the duties you’re required to perform in your current position. Many organizations have formal job descriptions prepared and ready to distribute. If this isn’t the case where you work, ask your boss to outline your job responsibilities. Take good notes, and keep a copy for your future reference. You may even wish to ask your boss to sign off on the description you’ve created.
While a job description lists what you’re accountable for in your current role, a development plan is a document that lays out what you'll achieve before you can progress to the next level. A development plan may include tangible projects to complete or intangible competencies, behavioral skills, or technical aptitudes to master before you’re given a new assignment or a promotion. Your development plan should include specific, measurable goals that you’ll work toward over a certain time period, typically six or twelve months. Meet with your boss to create a development plan that’s both fair and challenging.
As you’re reviewing your job description and creating a development plan, let your boss know that you have a vested interest in your career development. Tell your boss exactly what you expect of the career development process and how you’re willing to work to achieve your goals. Your boss will probably appreciate your dedication to your professional success. After all, bosses are successful when their direct reports are.
You have a clear idea of what’s expected of you – now it’s time to execute. If possible, make sure your boss knows when you reach each one of your goals. Because this isn’t always easy, keep detailed records of what you accomplish at work by doing the following:
- Keep a log of projects, responsibilities, analyses, client interactions, presentations, and anything else you complete that’ll help you achieve your performance goals.
- Write down each accomplishment, date started, date completed, who you worked with, and what you learned.
- Save e-mails from your boss or others in the company that contain performance feedback.
To make sure you’re on track, read through your job description and development plan at least once a month. If you’re not getting the opportunities to tackle some of your goals, take control of your own development and approach your boss.
The final step in any given performance cycle is your evaluation, during which you and your boss discuss what you’ve accomplished and how well you’ve satisfied the goals set in your development plan. Most managers schedule a meeting to discuss your performance and give you feedback. If your boss doesn’t, make sure to set up a meeting. Prior to your performance evaluation meeting, review your detailed records of completed projects and work. The more prepared you are, the better your chances are of having a successful performance evaluation.
If and when they think you’re ready for your next challenge, bosses typically discuss career advancement during a performance evaluation. If you follow the four steps outlined here and meet all of your goals, your boss is more likely to advance you to the next level.
Here are more career development tips:
- Maintain a positive attitude. Your attitude truly drives others’ perceptions and opinions of you and is paramount to your career development.
- Conduct all communication regarding your career development in private – this is a sensitive topic regardless if you’re talking to your boss or a colleague.
- Discuss career development with your boss in a diplomatic manner – don’t compare yourself to others, stick to the facts, and use tact in everything you say.
- Document and save all career development discussions. You may need to refer to something that was discussed a year ago, making your notes invaluable.
- Find a mentor that you can speak with about career development. A mentor is someone who has typically been in the business for awhile and can offer sound and trustworthy advice.
- Consult human resources (HR) for more information related to career performance and development, especially as they relate to your place of employment.
Hopefully this information can help you guide your career development in the direction you wish to go. Good luck!
By: Gale Bowman
After graduating from Notre Dame, Gale realized that young professionals need a source of reliable information as they face “real world” challenges. Gale manages WhatCollegeForgot.com and is pursuing an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.