“I don’t think it’s the right time to talk to my boss about my career path. I’m [only an intern/ in the company for just a few months/ just starting in my new position after my promotion].”

Listen, people!

 

forging your career path is more than just

🙋 telling others you want a raise

🙋 asking for a promotion (or least more responsibility)

🙋 applying to open positions

 

those conversations with your boss? they can also be about

🌱 your recent achievements and how you accomplished them

🌱 what you love about your current role – and previous ones

🌱 anything you might want to learn to become excellent at what you do

🌱 understanding the business better

🌱 asking where you can help/ who you should get to know better

 

This was a LinkedIn post that resonated with quite a few people.

So I wanted to make sure that I break it down a little bit more because there’s so much more to professional and career development than your yearly performance review. 

Self-Talk That Steals Opportunities

This post was inspired by hearing someone talk about how it might not be the right time for her to talk to her boss about my career progression, or what she wants to do next, because she’s an intern. 

Many of us have self-talk like this that stops us from creating opportunities for ourselves:

  • “I’m only in an internship position”
  • “I’ve only been with the company/ in this new role for a couple of months”
  • “I’ve been here for so long, what do they think if I start talking about my career now”
  • “I’ve just been promoted, I don’t want to look greedy and ungrateful” 

I want to make clear that these “career conversations” don’t have to happen only once a year in your annual performance review. They don’t even have to be like those formal types of career conversations. 

And it’s not just about telling others that you want a raise. That may be part of it, but it’s not the only way of having a career conversation. 

It’s also not only asking for a promotion or more responsibility or applying to open positions.

Yes, if you want those things, you have to talk to your boss about them. But if you’re flying under the radar for a whole year and then come to your appraisal saying “Okay, now it’s time for me to get this promotion” or “Why wasn’t I considered for this project lead role?” people might be confused.

They’ll wonder “Did you want this? Do you enjoy this type of work?”

Even if you’ve been delivering stellar work in your current role, how can people know that this is the direction that you want to go into?

Conversations That Get You Noticed and Create Career Opportunities

There are other ways to have conversations with your boss or other managers to put you on the map, to get you noticed. 

1. Share your recent achievements and how you accomplished them. 

Is there something that you are at least a little proud of? I know, we all have high standards to ourselves, but what can you be proud of? What is something that has gone well? 

This is not just about the finishing of a three-year project, but equally about completing a phase or reaching a milestone. 

Have you done something for the first time you weren’t quite sure about at first? What did you learn from doing it anyway? Share that with people: “Hey, we just recently did [X]. And you know, what really helped me do this was [Y]. And now we’re able to [Z].” 

2. Tell people what you love about your work.

The second type of conversation you can have with your boss that makes you stand out and them understand what you are all about. Speak about what drives you, what motivates you, what you love about your current role, or the previous ones. What do you enjoy most about the type of work that you do? 

Because let’s be honest, when people start to really recognise your potential, talent, and hard work, they’ll make plenty of suggestions for new positions. We want to avoid that you have the feeling you have to jump on all of them, or that you feel pressured in a direction that you might not enjoy. 

Let’s say the part of your work that you enjoy most is being alone with your computer and your research. Then the last thing that you want to do is for your boss to only offer you a new position doing public relations for the team within the company. You wouldn’t enjoy that, which means you wouldn’t be doing a good job. 

3. What you want to learn to become excellent at what you do.

Share with your boss what you want to learn to become really excellent at your current role. You need to constantly reflect and assess yourself to identify those small gaps and not rest on your expert-laurels. There’s always more things to learn. 

These might be other technical elements of your current role. Or, if you’re on a high expert-level already, it’s a good chance to focus on personal development opportunities. For example:

  • better understand how your work fits into the strategic picture of the company
  • how to engage stakeholders across the company, so you get more endorsement for your projects
  • taking decisions despite having only limited information and in times of uncertainty
  • solving problems effectively and in collaboration
  • representing your team well in cross-departmental meetings and communicating clearly 

4. Ask questions to better understand the business.

You manager’s ears will perk up when you approach them wanting to understand the business better. This shows that you care about the business and about the company as a whole, and not just about your little part of it. 

We all like passionate experts. But those experts are of even greater value to the company, if they understand where they and their work fit within the bigger picture, how decisions are made, what strategy the company is pursuing and so forth. 

That way you then can also anticipate:

  • What other things might I bring to the table? 
  • What can I proactively trigger that goes in the same direction? 
  • How are decisions made, what factors and criteria are important? Who has a say in this? 
  • What are the most important business processes? How are they governed? And how are they run? And how can we improve them? 

5. Ask where you can help and who you should know.

We always need to be mindful of our own workload and not go off in too many different directions. Because we want to make sure that we keep the commitments we made.

But offering help to your boss, your colleagues or someone from another department is one of the most rewarding ways to help you get noticed. And ‘help’ doesn’t mean you immediately have to jump on a big project. Sometimes it’s just having a quick brainstorming session. Or making an introduction between others. 

You can also ask: Who should I get to know better? Who are the important stakeholders for our team? Who should I build a good relationship with? That way you help yourself succeed in your current role and authentically build a network in your company. People get to know you, start to trust and like you. And this is how you are considered for new opportunities. 


Want more introvert-friendly strategies to get noticed at work? Click here to grab my 5 favourite ones.

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