How to Talk to your Manager about your Career Progression

Two females speaking in a large empty meeting room

Discussing your progression with your boss might seem like a difficult proposition. But it’s something that’s well worth getting right if you’re looking to move up the ladder. Here’s how to go about doing it.

Approaching your boss to talk about how your career is progressing seems it could be a bit of a tall order. When exactly is the right time to approach them? And what should you say to get outcome you want?

Nevertheless, if you’re keen to progress your career, then taking the reins and actively discussing the plans, goals and aims you have with your manager is pretty much essential. Below we’ll run through how to go through these discussions, including how to set up a meeting, what to prepare and how to respond to any potential responses.

Knowing when it’s time to progress in your career

There comes a time in most people’s careers when they know that they’ve built up the skills, experience and abilities to move to the next level. Before you approach your manager, it’s well worth reflecting on where you are in your career, so you can understand your strengths and what might need developing. What successes and achievements come to mind, along with any challenges that you overcame – or might’ve struggled with that you still need to take some time to rectify.

A good way to help with this is by taking notes regularly. Anytime you’ve aced a project, met a deadline or received some feedback, jot it down. The same goes for anything that proved difficult. By recording strengths and weaknesses, you’ll have details you can point to when it comes time to discuss things with your manager over time. It might also serve as a reminder that you aren’t quite ready to move up the ladder just yet.

Weighing up your options

A little more preparation will help your case even further. You don’t want to show your manager you haven’t done your research ahead of time – nothing is going to convince them that you’re ready to progress any less than this, unfortunately.

So before that conversation, spend some time reviewing the organisation’s hierarchy and situation. The former will give you an idea of the logical next steps you’ll be able to take, while the latter will let you know how the company’s doing health-wise. Are they growing, going steady or on the downturn? Career progression is more than likely going to be stifled if the company is downsizing its staff or cutting funds.

How to discuss career progression with your manager

With your research collected and career overview carried out, you’re now ready to approach having the conversation itself. Here’s what you can do.

Choose the right time

Whether you ask for your one on one in person, over Slack or by sending your boss a formal invitation email, go for a time that works for both of you.

Be sure to check your manager’s calendar if possible to see when they’re free. Likewise, avoid scheduling meetings at the end of the month when everyone has deadlines to meet or during busy periods throughout the year. And as we hinted at earlier, schedule in the meeting when things are going well for the company.

Outline an agenda

Laying out an agenda with particular talking points will help you stay focused and on topic. You should also include your planned topics in your meeting request, so your manager knows what to expect from the discussion.

Potential topics you may want to talk about include:

  • Your professional short- and long-term goals
  • An overview of your current skills
  • How to enhance your skill set
  • General feedback on your performance


Be honest with how you want to progress

In these discussions, it pays to be candid. This isn’t the time to be tentative or unclear with your aims. So be honest and let your manager know what your plans are – and ask if the company can make them a reality.

Maybe it’s a management role you’d like to move into. Or perhaps you’re looking to develop new skills so you can move into different areas of work. It could be that you’re happy in your current role, but want to strengthen your skills so you can become a real authority within the industry.

Whether it’s any of these reasons, or it’s a promotion you’re angling for, then be explicit in your request.

Ask the right questions

Remember, this discussion isn’t simply a list of your demands. You should go into the meeting with a list of questions of your own to ask. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about things such as where you can improve or what you can do to help contribute towards business goals as a whole.

Consider asking things along the line of:

  • What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are?
  • Does my current role have any potential growth in this organisation?
  • Are there any upcoming changes in this team that could bring opportunities my way?
  • What performance objectives should I be aiming to achieve?
  • In what ways can you help me with achieving my goals


Be prepared for all outcomes

There’s a chance that things might not go as you hoped. There may be a few home truths you weren’t expecting to hear, or there might not be any opportunities for you to pursue at that moment in time.

In these cases, it’s important to not be disheartened. Turn it into a positive by asking them how you can advance or improve your skills in your current role instead. If you do disagree with what they’ve said, don’t be tempted to argue or criticise the manager. By all means express your opinion, but be professional in your approach, and point to figures and evidence to back up your points with.


To find out more about careers at SEFE Marketing & Trading please visit our homepage.

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