Having a conversation about the path of your career shouldn’t be difficult!
Communication is one of the more critical skills a marketer must master. Often, however, that communication is about a product or service and how it fits into the prospect’s organization or solves their business challenge.
However, the ability to speak effectively about yourself is a challenge for so many people, whether marketers or not. In some cases, we have difficulty “tooting our own horn” so to speak as we’re challenged to describe why we are good at something.
However, career advancement often rests on soft skills like communication. Not only do you need to be an excellent communicator for your company, but you also must learn to represent yourself with precision and determination.
So often we’re advised that to reach a goal we must first say it out loud – to make ourselves accountable. Articulating your desired career path is no different.
Here are some tips increase your success when you talk to your boss about your career goals.
Do your research.
As with any marketing strategy, doing your research is essential to the success of your efforts. You probably have an excellent idea about what you want to do in your career future, but have you thought about how qualified are you for the job you want? Are you familiar with the skills, whether technical or behavioral, you need for this career path?
Your research will uncover advice from industry leaders and provide you with a list of ideas you might include in your plan. For example, in a recent post on Medium, Megha Parekh, Senior Vice President & Chief Legal Officer at Jacksonville Jaguars suggests,
“Think through what “grassroots” marketing you can do to help elevate your profile within the industry and to start on the road towards your career goals. As you develop your plan, highlight what is authentically you, and use that as the basis of your profile; you don’t need to be someone other than you to be successful, but rather the best version of yourself.” Source
As a side note, I love what Megha suggests “…you don’t need to be someone other than you to be successful…” She’s spot on!
The purpose of your research is both to help you understand what you need to do, and it serves to make you the subject matter expert of your career path. Research should also help you to formulate a specific set of actions you need to take to develop an actionable plan.
Put together a plan. Your plan.
Writing a plan seems so basic, but the reality is we sometimes expect that someone might pave our path for us. However, with career planning, this is not the case. We often cannot wait for our boss to notice or a senior team member to vacate the job we want. You have to take responsibility for your destiny.
Your plan is your roadmap, so make sure it’s an excellent guide to get you from point A to point B.
Try to circle the entire topic by answering the following:
- What exactly do I want to do?
- Why do I desire this path?
- How will I get there?
- What about this career path makes me feel most excited?
- How am I uniquely qualified for this ultimate role?
- What weaknesses do I need to work on to be successful in this role?
Beyond this, it’s important to look at the industry to determine what examples of leaders you might study to provide guidance toward your goal.
By the time your plan comes together, you should easily be able to articulate your ultimate goal. Many years ago, I knew that I wanted to be a VP of Marketing. However, more importantly, I knew that I needed to have a wide range of vision related to marketing skills, company direction, finance, and exceptional leadership experience to be a marketing vice president. That’s what my research told me, and it’s what gave me a path toward that goal.
However, a plan goes beyond just the idea related to the path itself. You have to plan your communication as well. Then practice, rehearse, refine, and prepare for delivery.
Practice your delivery.
Your discussion with your boss will depend significantly on your boss because, by this time, you are fully prepared. (And if you’re not, see parts one and two above!)
If you’re nervous about this discussion, that’s okay! I recommend asking your boss to be aware of your anxious state of mind by mentioning it. “Just for the record, I’m a little nervous about this subject.” In most cases, you will find your boss suddenly turns mentor and wants to cheer you along.
I am a firm believer that vulnerability is a powerfully positive quality!
Structure your delivery by explaining the types of work activities that motivate you and how this connects to your motivation to continue improving.
One of the more difficult discussions might be the reality that occurs when seeking your desired career path means you will be leaving your company. In some cases, this could be years as you develop the necessary skills or certifications, and in others, it could mean you are beginning your search.
In either case, this is where you’ll want to assess your relationship with your boss and choose how much you reveal based on your confidence or job security. The hope is always that your boss embraces your desires and genuinely desires the best for you. I always tell my team members that they have no obligation to tell me they might be seeking another job when their current role is not fulfilling their goals. However, I always hope they do tell me so that I can help them reach their full potential.
So let’s sum this up. Doing your research and putting together your plan are personal but essential steps you must take to clear the path toward your ultimate career. When you have determined what, why, how, and when you will pursue this path, you must be prepared to discuss this with your boss. While this can be a sensitive discussion, the hope is that your boss is your mentor and that her goal for you matches your goals.
Once you have completed these three steps, I applaud you as you navigate your path and I wish you every success!
I am more than happy to discuss my experiences with my career or to talk about yours. Please never hesitate to reach out.
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