I thought I’d share an email from a past coworker, who we’ll call Samantha, on her question about professional development at her current workplace.
“Lately my boss asked me which areas I would like to grow and develop in. He approached me twice already, but I didn’t say anything except ‘thank you’. I know my supervisor will transition to another role and may move her office on another floor. It might be a good chance for me to apply to her current role if it really does open up, but I’m not sure how to present my interests to my boss…. Could you help to advise me on this?”
Unfortunately for Samantha, her polite “thank you” must have come across as her shrugging off her manager and that she wasn’t interested in growing within the organization or department. Even with her manager asking a second time, Samantha still didn’t change her response.
Though I’m not her current manager, I know from my own experience I most likely will not offer future opportunities for development a third time. For me to consider training or development, I would need the person to take the initiative and approach me. And if they did, I’d like to know what changed and if they truly want to contribute to the company or just want the training to get a new job with a different company.
I’m a strong believer that growth and development of employees are good for the organization as well as the individual. Training, whether it is formal training in classes, hands-on training or creating opportunities to use new skills benefit the company. I’m sure Samantha’s manager was thinking the same.
So, how should Samantha have answered her boss’ question?
Had Samantha said “I’m interested in getting more into a leadership role. I’d like to develop my skills in …..”, it would have created a much different impression. It would demonstrate Samantha’s initiative, her desire to stay within the company and also awareness of her own potential and confidence. It would have also indicated that Samantha wants to be considered for future positions in the organization.
To do that, Samantha should know what she wants to develop. Based on Samantha’s email, I’m guessing she wants to move up within the organization. She should know the qualifications required for this job and know what skills she is missing. This will allow her to have a better discussion on areas of growth. She could also ask for feedback or suggestions on her current work performance and skills and how to develop them. This does not necessarily have to be a formal performance review but could be a simple discussion addressing the manager’s question.
Ok, now that Samantha has replied with only “Thank you”, what should she do now?
She should try to set up a meeting with her manager, telling him that she had time to seriously think about the question. Since Samantha missed the opportunity, Samantha should make sure she is well prepared since she is now requesting the meeting.
Samantha told me that she is going to think about the skills she would like to develop and will set up a meeting with her manager. Hopefully he will be open in giving her a third chance to share her ideas of her growth and development.
Have you had such opportunities by your manager or supervisors? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your experience!
About the Author: Jennifer York is the manager of the Job Options BC program in Vancouver, Surrey and Port Coquitlam for ISSofBC. While working as an employment counsellor, she facilitated and coached immigrants, professionals and students in their job search, both in group and individualized sessions. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.