How To Talk About Career Goals With Your Boss in 8 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 2, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Setting goals can help you move into the next phase of your career. They give you something to work toward and encourage your personal improvement. Talking with a supervisor about these goals may help you set plans for advancement at your current company. In this article, we review when to discuss career goals with your boss, provide steps to start the conversation and explore tips to help you plan and reach your goals.

When should you discuss career goals with your employer?

There are certain times in your career when it may make more sense than others to talk with a supervisor about your goals. These situations may include:

When you're looking for new challenges

If you find your everyday work easy to complete or too repetitive, consider talking to your manager. You may be able to take on additional responsibilities or increase your workload. Asking for a new challenge may also open you up to promotions or other career advancement opportunities.

When you're looking to make more money

If one of your career goals is to earn more money, you may talk to your manager to see if that's an option. Some situations that may influence your decision to make more money include paying off your student loans, buying a house or starting a family. Explain how your life and career goals intersect when speaking with your supervisor.

When you want a change

If you decide you want to do something brand new, talk to a supervisor about other roles open within your company. Often, wanting a change doesn't necessarily mean you have to leave your current organization. You just may be unaware of the other opportunities or roles you could take on in your team or department.

Related: 10 Effective Goal-Setting Techniques for Achieving Your Goals

When you discover a new opportunity

If you hear about an upcoming opportunity that interests you, schedule a meeting with your manager. They may be able to help you prepare to apply for or test for the position or placement. The earlier you show interest, the more support you may receive and increase your chances of meeting that goal.

How to talk about career goals with your boss

Use these steps to help you prepare to talk with your boss or supervisor about your career goals:

1. Prepare your information

Think about the current job you do and your strengths in that role. Consider the transferrable skills that you could apply in other areas of your company. Create a list of the accomplishments you have in your current job or from past careers and education. Reflect on any significant impacts you've made with your current organization.

If one of your goals is to apply for a specific role, look up what responsibilities that job entails and the expected salary. Put all this information into a digital document or write it down. You can use it later to discuss your goals and plans in a meeting with your manager.

Related: Choosing a Master's Degree To Fit Your Career Goals

2. Schedule a meeting

Each manager may have a unique method for how they like team members to contact them and schedule meetings. They may prefer your request via email, online program or calendar invite. Some may ask that you schedule meetings in person. Follow their recommended guidelines to get on their schedule. Share the theme and topic of your meeting to give them time to prepare. This may make your supervisor more receptive to the conversation.

3. Share your accomplishments

To begin the meeting, share the data you compiled from your research phase. Remind the manager of your professional achievements related to the company and your growth as an employee. Listen to their feedback. If they're receptive and supportive of your recap, they may be more likely to advocate for you and your goals with higher-level management or other department heads within the company.

4. Share your career plan

Next, tell the manager where you picture your career in the future as an employee of your company. Consider using definitive year ranges, such as where you see your career in one, three or five years. Think about what other responsibilities you'd like to pursue, like management or working with different clients. Consider the skills you'd like to develop, the knowledge you'd like to build and the experiences you hope to have as you grow. Keep this vision in line with your organization and share how your growth positively affects the company.

Related: Guide To Long-Term Goals (With Examples)

5. Ask for opportunities

If you've already decided on a new assignment or promotion you'd like to have, ask for it. Even if you don't have a specific role in mind, you can ask your supervisor if there are any new opportunities within the company. You may also ask them to contact you if they create a new job, role or project in the future. Explain why you'd like to further your career with your current company and how their training and guidance can help you become more successful and confident in your abilities.

6. Gain support

Before leaving the meeting, persuade your manager to help you meet your goals. This could include advocating for you in meetings and situations where new opportunities arise. To do this, consider sharing your research documents. They may show that you're competent and dedicated to furthering your career with the company. Ask for their help in coming up with a few ways you can take the next steps and lead to meeting your career goals. You may also consider asking if your supervisor can introduce you to other colleagues that could help or recommend you for extra responsibilities.

7. Recap the meeting

Following the meeting, allow yourself time to sit, think about and understand everything you discussed. You'll likely have additional questions or ideas for how to create a plan to meet your goals. Take notes about what you're thinking and things you want to research further. This can help you remember your exact feelings following the meeting and guide the process further.

8. Stay persistent

Reaching your goals and staying connected with your supervisor may require additional meetings. You may have more questions about advancement or provide updates on your personal progress. Logical times to hold subsequent meetings include after learning about a new opportunity or learning additional skills. You can also use secondary meetings to clarify information they give you or get approval for the next steps in your advancement process.

5 tips for setting and achieving career goals

Use these tips to set career goals and work towards achieving the success for which you plan:

1. Take charge

Though it may be helpful to get outside perspectives on your goals, such as from your manager, remember that you're the only person who can decide what you want. You're also the only person who can take the steps towards success. Even after you've started the journey, you are the person who can make, set and change your career goals whenever you want.

2. Do your own research

When looking for new opportunities, there are many ways you can develop ideas. Do your own company research. Look into other departments within your organization to see if you'd be a good fit, or if they're doing anything that interests you. Contact people in your network, at your company and others, to learn about new projects they're starting. Finding issues with solvable problems may also be areas where you could find a goal.

3. Ask the right questions

Sometimes, to meet goals, you may have to ask for the things you want or be assertive. Ask your supervisor for constructive feedback and areas where you can improve with your current responsibilities. Prompt your supervisor to suggest development programs or training sessions that may make you more qualified for a new role or a promotion. This can help you learn more about how your supervisor views you and what you bring to the company to help identify areas for goal setting.

4. Understand your motivators and values

Think about what things are important to you, both in and out of the workplace. Consider what things make you want to do better at your job or learn more. Knowing what motivates you and what information and ideals matter to you can help you set goals. They can also help determine if you'll be successful on the way to meeting them.

Related: How To Achieve Your Workplace Goals

5. Take notes

Take notes at every step of the process, from goal-setting to execution. Write information in meetings, during research and anytime you get a new idea. This can make your planning and goal identification process easier. It's also a way to track your success and see how far you've advanced toward making the goal a reality.

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