How do I reach the next stage of my career?


There comes a point for many people when they feel ready to move forward with their career. Whether you want to take on new, additional responsibilities or simply expand your reach, you may feel ready to enter the next stage of your career. While there is no one-size-fits-all path for career development, there are a few simple steps that can make the next stage a reality.

1. Create a career plan.

It’s one thing to feel ready for the next step in your career, but it’s another thing to be ready. Creating a personal career development plan can help you look objectively at where you are right now and where you want to be. Not only will it help you identify gaps in your knowledge, skills, and abilities, but it will also give you a chance to come up with a list of successes you can offer when you approach your boss.

2. Conduct a needs assessment.

A traditional needs assessment may be conducted over several days or even weeks. A mini needs assessment will give you a chance to identify the needs in your current position as well as potential solutions in a short period of time. Ask yourself three basic questions:

  • What needs in my department are not currently being met?
  • Why am I the best person to meet those needs?
  • What is my plan to address the needs of my environment?

It may help to create a one-page document that outlines the needs you have identified and potential solutions. This gives you something to present to your boss as well as a reference point for your conversations about advancement.

3. Schedule time.

Asking for more responsibility at work isn’t something you can bring up casually over coffee in the break room. Schedule a time to talk to your boss about your findings and career development assessment when you won’t be interrupted or tempted to discuss other parts of your job. Then, be sure to stick to the scheduled time. You are far less likely to have your request met if your 30-minute meeting runs over into your boss’s next time block.

4. Be specific with your request.

We spend way too much time dancing around our requests and not enough time asking for what we want. Once you have presented your findings, be specific with your request. If you are looking for additional pay for the extra work you are doing, ask for the raise you want. If you are looking for additional responsibilities and a commiserate pay increase, be specific with what that looks like and when that will take place. If your supervisor wants additional time to think about your request or needs an opportunity to speak to their boss, schedule a time to follow up with them.

5. No doesn’t necessarily mean no, forever.

If, for whatever reason, your request is rejected, take heart. When it comes to a raise or promotion, “no” can actually mean several things. It can mean it is not in the budget at that time for you to receive a raise. It can mean your company policy requires a bidding process for promotions. It can mean your boss doesn’t think you are ready for additional responsibilities. If your request is met with “no,” thank your boss for being honest, but be sure to ask follow-up questions like:

  • What knowledge, skills, certifications, abilities, or performance indicators will improve my chances of receiving this promotion in the future?
  • How do I apply for a promotion within the company’s policies and procedures?
  • When can we follow up on this discussion?

If your employer is unwilling to discuss your career advancement or seems unable to meet your demands in a way that is satisfactory, you can decide whether you are ready to move on to the next opportunity with another organization. 

Taking the leap into career growth requires a little planning and a lot of courage. In the long run, asking for what you want will help you find new and exciting opportunities that will stretch and strengthen you in your career and beyond.