Getting the Most Out of a Career Discussion

Today I thought I’d take on a more serious tone in lieu of my recent cheery posts.

I had my bi-annual career discussion today. I haven’t really taken these seriously until now and saw them as a waste of time. It didn’t help having a manager that wasn’t interested in my career or personal development. As a result I got myself into a position where I felt my career was going no where. One thing I’ve now realised is that a lot of this stagnation was my own doing. Don’t get me wrong, management should help you with your career. However, instead of looking for them to develop your career, use them to facilitate. Trust me. You will get more out of it.

I’m pleased to say that a recent structural change in my job has resulted in a change in management. My first meeting with the new boss, was a pleasant experience. I have to admit though, I definitely didn’t get the most out of it as I was unsure what kind of manager she would be. Now though, I have some confidence in her ability to deliver so I wanted to make the most of this meeting.

This brings me to the topic of this post; getting the most out of a career discussion. It doesn’t matter how junior or senior you are, or how well defined your career path is. These are your most important meetings for the year. This is why you must make the most of it otherwise you may find the next 6 months will be wasted. The trouble is more often than not, you may not know what you want or what options you have. Nonetheless, the following ideas are a great place to start.

1. Select Your Role Model

The right kind role model?

I can’t stress enough how important having a role model(s) is. There are too many variables in the work place for you to go it alone. The lone wolves sometimes seem successful but they always have one major handicap so I do advise against this option.

This meeting is no better time to address this topic. Role models are often senior staff members that may seem daunting to approach. As such, your manager should be able to help facilitate some rapport. Or if you don’t know who you want, your manager should help you choose one. Try to choose one that has personality traits or skills that you desire. Don’t worry if they turn out to be completely different to how you thought they would be. These meetings are ‘regular’ for a reason. Take it as a learning experience and re-evaluated your position at the next one.

2. Career Goals – Short Term

The short term is for trying

Choose a time period (6 to 12 months) and tell your manager what you want to accomplish or achieve. Discuss areas you feel you are strong in and therefore would like more responsibility. Similarly discuss areas you are weaker in and would like more guidance. An engaged worker is a good worker and management (if they are any good) will respond to this. Try to get another person that knows you along to the meeting as they will be able to help support and steer you through the discussion.

3. Career Goals – Long Term

Don’t give up on finding that long term goal

The time frame you pick here should be in the 2-5 year range. What you say here isn’t binding but if you can determine something to work towards, your job may not seem such a drag. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Re-evaluate in 6 months time and never stop trying.

In the meantime, good starting points are linked to who you choose as a role model (i,e. you eventually want to emulate them). If you really can’t think of anything, maybe look at why that is. Is it because of a lack of support in your local setting? Is it because the work that stimulates you occurs in another office? I encourage you to discuss possible career paths with your manager and therefore hopefully you can pick one that seems right for you at this point in time. Don’t be scared that your dreams may be bigger than what the home office can currently provide. You may be surprised to learn that a new initiative is going to be rolled out or there is a position that can provide that experience elsewhere.

4. Personal Development

Personal development is all about moving forward

This is your chance where you can discuss what personal skills you want to develop. It could be becoming better at public speaking, handling pressure or anything you or your manager feels is not as strong as it could be. You are only as strong as your weakest point and your manager is there to help facilitate your personal development. Remember they can only help people that want to be helped. So try to keep an open mind even if they say something that is a bit negative about your skill set.

You can also use this opportunity to get to know each other better. Chances are your manager has also had their fair share of things to overcome. Ask them about their faults and how they overcame them. There’s no better way to learn and gain perspective than by asking them to relate their own relevant struggles.

5. Discuss Your Own Ideas

Your ideas don’t have to be as game changing as George Lucas

Manager’s love initiative and they love nothing more than someone identifying a problem and also providing a potential solution. Just remember though that your manager isn’t supposed to be your therapist or the referee during your discussion. So leave all the pettiness aside and try to remain calm and constructed when talking about something you aren’t happy with. If you can’t think of anything don’t fret as the most productive outcomes don’t necessarily need to be game changing to the business.

If you really can’t think of something processed based, how about ofering something in terms of company morale. Morale in the workplace is one of your manager’s greatest responsibilities. However, they can’t do it alone. Therefore, any idea for facilitating positive morale has to be a team effort. As such, you should be discussing ways you think morale could be improved.


Hopefully starting with these points will lead to a very successful discussion; one that leaves you optimistic and enthusiasm for the work ahead. There will be speed bumps along the way, but instead of seeing this as a sign that this won’t be your year, treat it as a learning experience and actually learn from it. This all rests with you and until you realise and accept that, you aren’t going to be able to build from a position of strength.

I hope your career discussion is as effective as I hope mine was.



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