If you are looking to get ahead in your career, then getting support for your career goals from your current boss should be at the top of your agenda.
But before you even approach your boss for help with your future career, you first need to do your homework. Working on the answers to these questions is great preparation for that conversation:
- What exactly are my career goals for the short, medium and long term? Are my goals aligned with supporting my company’s purpose? You need to think hard about what motivating things you can achieve; they should be challenging goals without creating too much unhelpful pressure.
- Is my behaviour and output at work in line with what is expected of high achieving employees? Some honest self-reflection is helpful here. If you think you can improve your performance by better applying your capability make a conscious decision to fix this now.
- Am I capable to do the work of my current role and do I have the potential to progress to my desired role? Having a clear understanding of your current capability and future potential is important to get the balance right when setting goals. It can also be very motivating.
After you’re clear on what you want to achieve, you need to think about how to approach the person who right now probably has the most impact on your career progression – your direct manager or supervisor.
A practical thing that many people don’t appreciate is the importance of establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with their boss. As I’m sure you know, at times this can be easy to do and other times it isn’t. For example, if you already have a negative relationship, clearly you will find it more difficult. But regardless of how easy it is to do, right now it should be your priority. Some things that we have found useful to help create a positive relationship with your boss are:
Show an interest in them as a person
Showing an interest in someone is essential to building a positive relationship. It is important that you don’t just view them as someone that calls the shots or makes your work life difficult. Having a negative perception of them can inadvertently make your work life tough through how you unconsciously interact with each other.
Your manager has their own goals, dreams and challenges and more often than not will have their own boss, just like you. You could ask about what they do outside of work, their family and career goals. Remember the things they tell you and bring them up in future conversations. Obviously, the strength of your current relationship will depend on how personal these discussions get, be careful not to overstep the mark.
Establish a mentoring relationship
Having your boss as a mentor can be great for your career. You can learn plenty and it is an excellent way to gain an advocate for your career progression. First of all show some curiosity and thirst for the things you can learn from them, ask about their career and how they got to where they are now.
Think about areas of expertise they have that you are interested in then direct conversations toward those topics. You’ll be amazed how people enjoy sharing and passing knowledge onto others, especially when they are passionate about the subject. Through these conversations you’ll be creating the basis of an informal mentoring relationship, which in turn will give you the confidence to ask your boss to formalise the relationship. When formalising a relationship like this be mindful not to over do the formalities, paperwork or unnecessary bureaucracy, making it minimum sufficient to achieve the purpose is the best way to go.
It’s a two way street – How can you support them?
A key part of any strong, rewarding relationship is that interest and support goes both ways. Being on the lookout for ways you can support your boss, whether it is little things around the office or asking specifically to support them with something will increase the likelihood of them supporting you. The way you behave with them, as well as how you talk about them with others is important. If you are on the lookout to promote their best interests there is a good chance they will do the same for you. Who knows? Maybe one day your boss will get a promotion and you will be the perfect person to progress into their role.
Try to see what they see
One final and very important thing to remember that will help get the most out of any relationship is to see the world from their perspective. If you spend time reflecting through the lens of your boss and let that inform your behaviour you will be amazed at the positive impact it will have.