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My boss isn’t going anywhere – what about me?

Q. I was wondering what you would do if you were in my place. I am an operations manager. I was scheduled to meet with my boss to review my career development plan. I wanted to talk about advancement and he said “We don’t promote every year, and the next job level in this group is mine and I am not going anywhere.” Now what?

A. Talking about advancement and career development plans can make a good manager uncomfortable and other managers who may not have been trained for these meetings kind of surly! I don’t know how long you have been with the organization, or if you have requested a promotion, but what I can tell you is that advancement carries a very broad meaning.

Your goals for career advancement should be focused on skill development. Which skills can you develop which will make you more effective at your current job? Are there weaknesses (developmental opportunities) that you can address which will make you a better manager, colleague, and contributor to the organization? Look at your peers and evaluate the skill sets and experiences you see which make them successful. Do the same for your boss and his peers.

Document these skills and prioritize those which you think can have the most positive impact on your career if you develop them further. Make sure to review hard skills – financial ability, technical skills etc. — and soft skills – communication style, presence, development of others (your boss might need a hint). Advancement depends on a balance of these.

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You might also look at ways to support your boss. Are there parts of his job you know he dislikes? Is this an area where you can develop an expertise, and offer to support his work? A positive conversation with him could sound like this: “I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my career and my ability to advance. I have learned quite a bit in this role, and want to continue to expand my knowledge and experience. There are a few things you do which I’d like more exposure to, and I wondered if I might even take over some of the responsibilities for some of these. For example…” – and then name something he doesn’t like to do all that much – keep it small and defined — “…I might be able to support you more when you are on vacation, or free up your schedule for other projects you want to do.”

This would also be a great time to find out which skills he thinks can make you most effective for the organization. You might also ask other managers at his level the same question, and perhaps find a mentor. Your boss may not be going anywhere but if you look around, and develop the right skills, your options for going anywhere internally or externally increase.

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