Career pathing: Keep to yourself or discuss with your boss?

Justin Thompson, CareerBuilder Writer

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When it comes to mapping out your career, you can't do it alone. But it's not always easy to ask for help in reaching your long-term goals. If you think you're ready to move up within your company, or even move beyond your company, can you tell your boss?

Jessica Campbell, human-resources manager for voice-over talent marketplace Voices.com, recommends taking the time to sit down and figure out what you want from your career. That way you'll be better able to determine the necessary milestones for meeting your goals and whether you're ready to share your thoughts with your boss.

"People's ideas of what they want and need from their career can change, and it's always good to be honest with your immediate manager about what you want out of the career you currently have," Campbell says. "Also, getting your immediate manager on board with your career-growth aspirations can only help you -- whether they are all for your ideas or [they] suggest new ones that fit better with the scope of where the company is going, you are sure to get some great feedback."

Tap your personal networks
In cases where you don't feel comfortable approaching your boss about your career path, utilize your personal networks instead. Connect with mentors or peers who may have advice on how to grow within your own company or how to position yourself to make an upward move when changing companies.

"It's crucial to get a sense for how your boss will handle your ambition before engaging him or her in career conversations," says Lisa Lipson, account director at KCSA Strategic Communications. "The best managers are the ones who help you, even knowing that, ultimately, they will lose you. It's a selfless, nurturing relationship. In contrast, when discussing career paths with their employees, some managers immediately become agitated and think more about who is going to take on this employee's workload, over how they can help that person achieve their goals."

Keep track of your successes
A good way to help prove you're ready to make an upward move is to document your successes. Do this throughout your career, not just when you're ready to move up. Keep examples of stellar work or client kudos so you're always ready to have a work-performance conversation.

Take responsibility
At the end of the day, you alone are accountable for your career path. JT O'Donnell, founder and CEO of Careerealism.com and CareerHMO.com, shares these insights to help you with your own career strategy:


  • It's your responsibility to advance your own career. Take ownership of the process and make it as easy on your boss as possible to help you achieve those goals.

  • You aren't the only person with goals. Your manager has other people to manage. Address your boss when it's important, but don't monopolize his time.

  • Be grateful. Express gratitude to anyone helping you with your career, especially if it's your boss. People are more willing to help someone who is polite and thoughtful.


Justin Thompson is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.



Last Updated: 30/04/2012 - 5:14 PM


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