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Career Advice From Your Boss? No Way!

Effective career planning never occurs in a vacuum. There are times when we truly benefit from the feedback of others - even our bosses.

OK, bosses can be jerks. They can be clueless about what makes you tick. And sometimes they are threatened by your skill level or simply want to keep you under their thumbs. But sometimes a boss is a potential friend who can be of great value in your career.

For many bosses, this means observing you firsthand. He may offer ideas about how to go after that next job in your company, one that you're the perfect candidate for. Or, she may point out unproductive work habits or personal blind spots that are getting in the way of your success.

And guess what?

Seeking out your boss for career advice may prove more pleasant than you imagined. You may even find that you have a secret admirer. Moreover, the occasion of a career discussion can enhance your relationship with your boss. That's because most people are flattered when asked for career advice. It gives them permission to talk about themselves.

What happens when you have both innovative communication technology and managers trained to communicate more effectively? Employees begin to look forward to coming to work because they have a relationship that includes open communication with their manager.

Here are 6 tips to help you seek out career advice from your boss:

  1. Don't pretend to admire a boss you don't like. If he's a jerk, don't ask for counsel about what you should do next with your professional life. Instead, find a mentor, colleague, or co-worker with whom you can talk candidly about job goals and career plans.

  2. Take responsibility for initiating the discussion and follow-up. Don't wait for the occasion of your performance review to discuss your career goals. Instead, raise your career inquiry: "When it's convenient, I'd really like to chat with you about my long-term career goals. I think you might have some good advice for me."

  3. Have a clear agenda. Have in mind specific ideas about what you want next professionally and how your boss might be able to help you. Discuss your top two or three professional goals and ask for advice on how to achieve them.

  4. Create a career alliance with your boss. For example, here are some sample statements that best create this alliance:

      • "I've admired the way you have had a chance to move around inside our company to broaden your professional background. What advice do you have for me about doing the same?"

      • "I believe I need additional project experience within operations. What do you think of that idea, and is there a way for us to make that happen?"

    The key is to give your boss a chance to offer you advice. This is a very effective way to "manage" your boss. After all, don't you want to work for someone who is committed to helping your professional development?


  5. Encourage your boss to share her professional experience.

      • What was their career path and background?
      • How she progress in different jobs?
      • What did he find especially important to his success?

    Few people can resist that kind of invitation. It can also break through the stiff, professional demeanor that a lot of people display in the workplace. You are likely to get honest, forthright answers. And, who knows, it may lead to a bond between you and your boss that you hadn't experienced before.

  6. Find professional development opportunities. Ask your boss what development steps  she would recommend for you right now. After sharing her own professional experience, she may offer some immediate opportunities: "Well, you have all the formal credentials. I'd suggest that you now broaden your experience in our industry by joining more cross-departmental project team."

These tips offer great examples for building your career within your company or organization. Ideally, they are what you want career discussions with your boss to be like. Not only will you benefit from your boss's experience, advice, and hindsight, but you will also enhance your relationship by infusing it with additional trust and mutual respect.

Source: Richard Koonce,  Career Power! 12 Winning Habits To Get You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

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About Larry and Compass Consulting Group

Larry is a Senior Consultant and President of Compass Consulting Group, a division of Larry Ferguson & Associates, Inc. The group is composed of three highly-experienced mentors, coaches, and trainers. We work with technically-skilled managers who are struggling to succeed in the face of limited skills and daunting staff obstacles. We focus on identifying a coaching client's strengths and weaknesses; then assisting them to create action-oriented development plans. We ensure successful results by defining measurable outcomes that document application, business impact, and (in some cases) Return-on-Investment while emphasizing accountability.

Copyright 2009   Compass Consulting Group    www.360compass.com