A new opportunity can be a raise, promotion, management opportunity, switch teams, anything you are asking your manager to help facilitate. I’ve always seen it as my job to use my company to help people craft out a career path both inside the company and beyond. As a result of preaching this regularly, I get a lot of people asking me and my managers what they would like in their careers, having gotten a few hundred of these in my career I am finding myself saying the same things.
I created a template for you to alter, copy or edit to fit your unique situation, but I hope that the doc helps you to communicate in a way that is likely to give you self reflection and something that makes a solid case to your manager. The only ingredient this requires is a strong sense of self-evaluation, with that I think this could help a lot, on to step 1...
Huh? Shut the F up? Really?
People are more talk than action, if you want to stand out, act don’t tell. The secret is that 8 other people came to your manager this quarter with what they want too, odds are none have taken many steps to make it a reality BEFORE telling their manager. You will stand out.
So lets say you want a job in project management, but you are currently in account management.
Don’t tell your boss, yet. Don’t tell co-workers to politic for it, if you need people to politic for you, you’ve already lost the battle, your “fit” for the role should be obvious to your manager if you take the steps I outline below.
First go to lunch or coffee with every person you feasibly can currently doing the job today that you want. (This might help you decide if you really want it). It will also be impressive when you finally tell your manager what you want and you follow it up with this statement.
“I sat with 10 PMs over the last 10 weeks, I met with 1 a week and asked each one what they think I need to do to prepare for the role. They gave me 10 ideas, I have completed 5 of them, have 3 in the works, and I think I’ll struggle most with these 2 areas that are just not my style, can you help me?”
Now compare that to your coworker who wants the same gig. They sit down and ask their manager how they can get to xyz role in their annual review. When the manager says “Hey what have you done to start getting prepared for that role”, that manager hears crickets.
You get the role, so just STFU long enough to get some momentum so you can show not tell.
Don’t ask for a new job unless you are slaying it in your current role.
Don’t ask your manager. Find out what % of your clients are the companies biggest, most challenging, most critical. Are you getting more or less of those? Have you specifically asked for additional challenges within your current role as a chance to prove yourself?
Lets say you ask for a raise or promotion while your manager is not thrilled with your current work, expect to be seen as someone out of touch and discontent. Don’t play your hand, instead ask your manager how you “stack up” across the organization. I remember once someone who was doing poorly in a marketing role asked me for the COO role at Seer, I knew that person was out of touch and discontent, so I started interviewing like mad, so I would be prepared for the 2 week notice...It came 2 months later.
Lay out 5-10 wins in your current role, and make sure those wins actually matter. For instance if the amount of revenue your team is responsible for grew 20%, that is a great stat, just make 100% sure that the growth came from intentional and purposeful acts you’ve done. Not from the work of your manager or others.
Build a robust plan
Nights and weekends, are key, don't ask your manager to give you 5 hours back a month to study up on how to become a web designer. Instead show them that you are willing to fight for what you want and will put in the extra time to get it. Get that plan in a Google sheet (link to my google doc) where you can use notification rules or a shared trello. Never let it get out of date, update it every week (use followupthen.com to remind you), that consistency will be impressive over others who just wake up and say “I’d love to do X” when you have been sharing a doc and updating it weekly for 4 months! That is 16 updates to your manager, vs someone else’s 0.
Once you do this tell your manager that "they'll see" your progress, while you continue to slay it in your current role. Don’t ask for anything, just let them know “they’ll see”.
Managers love people who can evaluate themselves. So after telling your manager the role you want, put your cons on the table. If you are asking for a role in management this is especially important. This shows a manager you understand where you are weak, build your 5-6 month plan around how to improve in the areas you are weak so you can go toe to toe with external applicants. This is especially important when you do not have the majority of the skills required for the job you want.
Keep in mind external applicants will come with that experience already, its your job to convince your manager with actions (not words) that you are worth the risk and the wait for you to get up to speed. Starting by saying the job needs XYZ, and I only have Z, but here is what I’ve been doing to learn XY, that is how you gain confidence & patience.
Don’t make your promotion your managers problem
Realize you are leaving a hole to be filled when you get promoted or moved to a new department.
Are you saying “toodles” and leaving your manager to back fill the role? Or are you showing your manager a plan on how you are going to train others in the organization to help them prepare / level up into your role.
Are you going to help do some recruiting to help fill it? You are getting the opportunity you want, and that is great,so don't make it your managers job to fix, train up others and fill the hole. They will be more likely to help you move into the role you want, if you help show a plan on how you are going to make filling the role your priority, not their problem.
Study the role
If you are seeking a role that you don’t have a whole ton of experience in, ask yourself how you will show your manager that you are learning? Want to become a manager, ask your manager what books they’d recommend, and actually read them.
Heck, ask them if they’d discuss it over drinks with you. Want to become a designer? Go build out something...take a class. The goal is to show your manager that you didn’t just wake up yesterday and have the idea, but that you’ve been putting in work before you said anything.
Solve a big problem for your manager
This happens less than you would think, so it will give you a big leg up. Ask your manager what is something they have wanted to get to and haven’t for the last 3-6 months and get it done, don’t try to get it done. Get. It. Done. Sheryl Sandberg has said that she has interviewed thousands of people in her career, what stopped her dead in her track and made her jaw hit the floor? When someone asked her what problem she needed solved, When time comes around for that promotion or job change, you are able to let that manager know...hey even if I don’t have the skills yet....I have a track record to asking you about the big issues we face and finding a way to fix them. Just make 100% sure that you agree on what success looks like at the outset, so you don’t find yourself taking credit for a success that your manager won’t see the same way.
Understand the business dynamics
If you want a new project in a different department or reduced workload to work on a special project, that is great. Getting an understanding of how that move impacts margins and revenue for the business. Are you asking to work in a position that is overhead? Are you asking to spend 80% of your time in a new division that is losing money? If so, that doesn’t mean NOT to do it. It means you need to make part of your plan to accommodate for that hit in margin..
So you want to manage but have never managed people before....mitigate risk, your manager is thinking what if they suck and the whole team quits or becomes less productive and we don’t hit goal, then you’ll quit under the pressure making more work for them? That is how a manager might look at it, they have to balance the upside with the risks of the downside. How can you protect their downside? Get innovative.
Become a temp
Get to know the workload of that other division you want to work with. Find a way to help them solve issues without switching teams. Wanna be a manager, have you ever asked the managers if you could sit in on their meeting for some time? Even if they say no, you are making an impression! Wanna be a designer or HR person someday, have you ever asked to sit in on one of their weeklies? Have you done that every week for 2 months? If you get a Yes, and I hope you do, allows you to get exposure to the work. Ask the head of that department, what you can do to help them at 5 hours a week. Ask, if I gave you 5 hours of my week (on top of your current workload) what problems would you like me to help you solve.
This also lets you and your manager work on improvement while you are working on the opportunity.
I was going to write this as an internal post at our company but realized a lot of these examples could help a lot of other folks get “unstuck” and move from asking to earning opportunities to grow at your current company, and I hope a lot of managers can forward this to teammates who want to level up. Any other positive ways to help team members who are seeking new opps, I’d love to hear em.