"Umm, what do YOU think about my career?" won't cut it.
July 27, 2009 2:13 PM   Subscribe

How do I approach a "career coaching" meeting discussion with my manager?

I do customer service work for a large insurance company in Canada where I'm content but not necessarily permanently planted. I've a career coaching discussion scheduled this week and I'm not sure what I should say to my manager.

I asked him what I should prepare and he said, "It's your meeting, it's all about you. Maybe you've seen a job posting you want to talk about... anything you want!"

With my previous manager I usually stumbled through these meetings without any clear point or purpose. I find them awkward and I never know what to say. I can't do that with this manager and don't want to as I've heard he's helpful during these sessions.

How can I generate and direct half an hour of conversation about my career when I'm not sure what my aspirations are or whether my career will be with this company at all? How can I make the most of this coaching session?
posted by cranberrymonger to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're not in trouble, it's an opportunity for you to suck up by telling your manager that you look forward to a long and prosperous career with the company and want to climb to corporate ladder. Your boss can then advise you on how to look good and be more productive and whatnot so that he can justify promoting you if he wants.

At my previous employer I was brought in as a senior engineer; the next step up the ladder was principal engineer, and I made my point in these monthly meetings by slapping the desk and shouting "PRINCIPAL!"

"Well, I'm glad to hear you say that. What do you think you need to do to get there?"

"PRINCIPAL!" *smack*

"Okay, great, um, let's talk about..."

"PRINCIPAL!" *smack*

My boss was good-humoured enough to enjoy this, and the meetings served mainly as relationship building. But the short version is that you can go in and express some happy feelings about the company and your career there, let your boss advise you on how to impress him, and walk out having scored some boss points, and maybe some insight into what you need to do to look good, and what you should avoid.

What your boss gets out of this is 1) having done some career coaching, which is probably part of his deliverables, and 2) weeding out the slackers who sit there and drool through the meeting. Show up, play the game a little, and reap the rewards.
posted by fatbird at 2:24 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are a couple of ways you can play it, as I read your question. It isn't really clear whether you want to get through the discussion without appearing to be a dweeb or whether you want to get your boss' help toward some specific end. Either is, of course, a perfectly reasonable objective.

If your primary interest is in appearing professional in front of your boss and availing yourself of whatever assistance he can offer, then fatbird has provided some excellent advice.

If your interest, though, is in helping to nail down your career aspirations, you could certainly focus the discussion around that. In that case, you would go in prepared with some (admittedly elementary) thoughts about your preferred career direction, and enlist his aid in helping you figure out which would be best for you, what your next steps would be, etc. (I would strongly suggest leaving out the part about how your career progression might take you to another company.)
posted by DrGail at 3:00 PM on July 27, 2009

It's a pretty good idea to go over or point out your achievements over the past three months (supervisors often forget about those, highlight your competencies (it's better if you decide what these are and broadcast these positive traits), and set the course for where you would like to be one year from now. I don't think it is a wise idea at all to identify areas where you need improvement. You need to make the discussion positive. If you supervisor has issues, s/he can bring them up.

Basically, you need to take control of the narrative here, say all the good stuff you're doing, what you're good at, and what you want to do.

Break it down, create some bullet points, and rehearse the conversation. Make sure you ask your supervisor if s/he has any questions etv.

What a great opportunity.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:05 PM on July 27, 2009

Two days ago, someone asked a similar question. Mutant had a great answer, in my opinion.
posted by Houstonian at 5:34 PM on July 27, 2009

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