How To Have a Career Growth Conversation With Your Boss

career growth conversation with boss get promoted

There’s a right way to have a growth conversation with your boss – plan, understand and make a stand. By taking these three achievable steps, you will take control of your career and impress your boss.

1. PLAN – design your next career move

People overestimate what they can do in a day, but underestimate what they can do in a year. These questions can help you determine your career goals for the next year or two:

  • Do I want to move up the career ladder? If so, what would that position and responsibility look like?
  • Do I want to jump sideways to another part of the company?
  • What’s a reasonable salary or pay rise for this point in my career?
  • What fires me up and keeps me excited during each workday?

Once you’ve figured out what you want, you’ll need to consider how to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

Five things you can do in a year to grow your career or get promoted

  • Find a mentor: A mentor will push you to do what’s needed to achieve your career goals. They can roleplay your career conversation with you until you get it right.
  • Join a peer network: Surround yourself with people who inspire you to think strategically about your career and industry.
  • Offer to job shadow: Find someone who is doing the job you want and offer to shadow them in your own time or buy them a coffee and pick their brain.
  • Upskill your education and knowledge: Do you need a qualification to succeed in a different job? Would communications training give you extra confidence? Start now with an online course that you can easily finish part-time within one to two years.
  • Keep your success stats: Record your workplace wins. Define the key measurements that apply to your job and graph your progress. Your boss will be impressed by clear, succinct results.

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2. UNDERSTAND – know what is needed and wanted

Find ways to excel at doing what your company needs and wants so that you are front of mind when a career opportunity arises. Do you know the vision and strategic goals of the business? Who are the key players? Is there a board? Show your commitment by asking your boss to fill you in. If there is a strategic plan or business plan, request a copy – and read it cover to cover. Be crystal clear about how your job and the job you aspire to have, contribute to the aims of the business. Ask your boss, mentor and peer group to help you brainstorm new ideas that support the business strategy.

It’s important during this time of preparation to build trust with your boss and colleagues by always arriving on time, meeting team deadlines, putting your hand up for a task that no one wants to do and making sure you follow through. Reading books and blogs or listening to podcasts (relevant to your career) is another great way to build your skills and confidence. You may also keep a career journal where you write quotes, insights and ideas.

If you’re hoping for a promotion or lateral job move, improve and document your current job so it’s easy for your boss to hire for that role when you transition. If you’re hoping to stay in your current role but secure a pay rise, research what the industry salary standards are. Make sure you keep track of any “extras” you contribute to the business and include that in your calculations.

3. MAKE A STAND – have the career growth conversation

Now you are ready to sit down and have a career growth conversation with your boss. Here’s how:

  • Look at your boss’s diary ahead of time, then request a 30-minute meeting when you know they will be available. Send a meeting confirmation and state the purpose of the meeting.
  • Prepare for the meeting by making notes on how your career growth plans align with the business growth goals. Perhaps create a simple PowerPoint or Canva presentation to support your meeting.
  • Always begin by thanking your boss for their time.
  • If you feel nervous, it’s okay to say, ‘I feel nervous because this meeting is important to me’.
  • Get to the point quickly, state the purpose of the meeting (to discuss your career growth) and your desired outcome, (to open doors for promotion or to develop a career pathway that supports the business).
  • Present your key job stats and accomplishments. Keep it brief and be careful not to overinflate your importance. Be humble, respectful and confident.
  • Show that you understand the strategic growth aims of the business and state how they inspire you to do a better job. If you have any ideas for improvements, ask for permission to share them.

What do I do if…?

  • If they want to think about it: Graciously agree, thank your boss again for their time and request a follow-up meeting in 4–6 weeks.
  • If they say it’s not a good time: Politely ask when would be a good time. A good boss will admire your persistence.
  • If they reject your request or say you’re not ready: Ask them what you would need to do or achieve to get a raise, promotion, etc. Press them for specifics and confirm these over email after the conclusion of the meeting.
  • If you feel their response is unfair: First, take some time to cool off. Consult a mentor or trusted friend: were they out of line or are you just disappointed? If it’s definitely unfair, set up a meeting with your boss’s boss or the HR team to discuss the situation.
  • If they agree and you get what you want: Thank them effusively and confirm when the promotion or raise kicks in. Make sure you get it in writing.

Your career is yours to design and create. You’ll find that done the right way, having a career growth conversation with your boss will be rewarding and successful for both of you.

Download my Career Action Plan