Let’s face it – you need your boss. Unless you work for yourself, the boss is still an organizational necessity, and a big part of your work experience. Your boss hands out work assignments, makes sure you get paid, keeps you from falling asleep in meetings, and hopefully protects you when you do something stupid. But sometimes the boss is the last to notice when you’re ready for something new. This is understandable. After all, they’re focused on making the team look good (not to mention themselves) and that can be a full-time job. No, it’s your job to manage your boss, and that includes telling her when you’re ready for something else. Like a new project or assignment, or even a new job somewhere else in the company.
Now, you have to bring a couple of things to this conversation. You can’t just walk in and say “I want to do something different”. First, you need to be on top of your current work – you better be knocking the ball out of the park, or asking for a better, cooler role is going to get you laughed out of her office. The one “must-have” for this discussion is a great performance record. It also helps to have a sense of the culture, and “how things work around here.” If you’ve only been in your role for a year, and the unwritten code is that managers need to “pay their dues”, well, you better factor that into your thinking. It’s probably going to be an issue.
Second, you have to bring a plan with you. You need to do your homework. You need to have an idea of what you want, and a few reasons why this is such a brilliant idea. You’re selling here, and you better be prepared to answer your boss’s questions. If you want to do more, why do you think you can take on more team members or responsibility? If you want to move to a new role, who will do your work? Who’s on the bench to replace you? Why do you need to make this move right now? What are your long-term career goals? Think through both sides of the conversation; anticipate what your boss is likely to say, feel and do – and be ready with your arguments. Prepare to defend your position, and try to steer the conversation toward why this is good for you and the company.
Lay out your ideal next job and the reasons why it makes sense. Maybe it’s expanding your current role or shedding some of what you do to focus on a specific task. Maybe it’s moving up in your current department, to a leadership position just above your current role. Or maybe it’s an entirely new job elsewhere in the company. Whatever it is, have your facts straight, and a strong rationale for your reasoning. Say: “here’s why I think this is good for me and the team/company.” Be firm, but don’t back her into a corner. The secret is to ask for her input and support in helping you achieve your goals. After telling her what you’d like to do, say: “I’d like to get your thoughts on this – what do you think?” And as the conversation goes along, don’t be afraid to ask for her support directly. Say: “can you help me make this happen?” or “is there anything else you need from me?”
Your immediate boss is probably the most important person in your work life, certainly as far as your career is concerned. Each boss you work for has the power to help you move forward, or put you in a box. They have the ability to accelerate your career, or frankly, derail it. Don’t be that manager who sits in the same job year after year waiting for the boss to offer a new and exciting role. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and go out and make the case for yourself. If you don’t do it, who will? Do you really want to risk putting your career in someone else’s hands? Make your boss an offer, present it with passion and conviction, and appeal to her sense of pride in helping you move your career forward. If you’ve nailed your current role, chances are good that your boss will be there for you. Just don’t be afraid to have the conversation!