Career Management: Manage your career by setting expectations

career goal
Are you managing your career goal?

Career goals

Are you managing your career goals? Most of us think we are managing our career, but we want to provide you the tools so you are confident you are managing your career. Remember, Career Tracker isn’t successful unless you are successful. Let us ask you the following questions:

  • Have you talked to your manager about your 1 or 3-year plan?
  • Have you talked to your manager about your next opportunity, position or title? Specifically, what you are going to do to land the next big thing?
  • Have you talked to your manager about your next big project and specifically, what skills you will use or show off on this project that can help you attain your goals?

The above conversations starters should happen on a regular basis. Driving quarterly conversations so your manager knows you are serious and committed is a good place to start. 

Hard work not paying off

  1. Are you a hard worker? Check.
  2. Do you show up on time? Check.
  3. Are you completing your projects on time? Check.
  4. Is your manager happy with your performance? Check.
  5. Is your career going up and to the right? Hmmmmm.

If you checked the first 4 boxes, this doesn’t confirm that you are managing your career or career goals. It means you are earning your paycheck twice a month, but career management? Meh!

Most employees think that their manager knows and understands what they want out of their individual career goals. But if you ask employees question number 4 and 5  listed above, the answer will usually be “Actually, I haven’t recently talked about my performance or my career goals”

If you haven’t talked to your manager about your long-term aspirations and specifically how you are going to attain these aspirations, don’t expect them to happen. If your manager doesn’t know your specific goals, they don’t know how to help you. Your manager is not a mind reader.

Exit interview evidence

When I conduct an exit interview with an employee that has turned in their 2-week notice, in about 50% of the cases, the employees didn’t manage their careers. The employees leave because they think the company failed them. They did the hard work, but the company didn’t know what the employee wanted to do long term. The reality is that the employee failed themselves.

“I didn’t get this title, and I didn’t get that account”

When I ask an employee that turns in their two weeks why they are leaving, I usually hear the same answers:

  • “I haven’t been offered a new opportunity”
  • “My manager didn’t help me get promoted”
  • “I haven’t received a pay raise or a specific large account to manage”
  • “Co-worker Incompetent Johnny got one of our largest clients”

I always ask the following:

Did your manager know you wanted a specific title, specific project, or a specific large account? Have you shared these expectations with your manager?

The usual answers which lack the individual career goal

  • “Uhhh, I haven’t shared the specific title/project/large customer account aspiration with them.”


  • “My manager should know what I want. Doesn’t everyone want the next title, project or large customer?”

Typical HR response

“Well Johnny, I wish you had spoken up about your career goals because you are a strong performer and I am sure we could have put you on a plan to accomplish your goals. I gotta’ say, I don’t like to try to salvage an exiting employee with more money, more opportunity or more projects because the employee rarely lasts more than 6 months. Once an employee has started to think about leaving, it can be tough to retain that employee long-term. It can work, but it is a high maintenance relationship built on a premise. The employee is going to be doubtful and take the “trust and then verify”  approach.”

Mindreaders don’t exist

Exiting Employee: “But they should know what I want.”

HR: “Which one would you want?”

Exiting employee: “Any of the prior mentioned opportunities of course! I would take any of them!”

The voice in my HR head says

OMG. You are going to leave because you didn’t get what you DID NOT ask for? You are going to give it all up and start all over because we assumed our manager is a mind reader and knows exactly what you want? If you didn’t speak up here, what makes you think the NEW manager at your new employer is going to be a mind reader?

HR rational voice

I can appreciate the exiting employee’s point of view. From a guy that is looking across the entire organization, I can say that if management assumes everyone wants all of these opportunities, we will be considered arrogant and insensitive. For some employees, more opportunity means more work. Some employees, don’t care about the title at all, they just want the prestige of the biggest clients. For other employees, they don’t care about how large or small their clients are, they just want the bigger title. 

At the end of the day, as individual contributors, it is our career and we need to play the manager role in our careers. We need to show initiative and drive towards our goals. More importantly, we need to speak up about what we want and share the plan to get there with our manager. When our manager knows what we want to do, then they can help us. Then they will help us.

Managers want initiative 

Too many employees assume that their manager is going to reach out and ask them about their career goals. Many employees believe it is the manager’s responsibility to make sure their career takes off.  Unfortunately, fewer managers in the workforce results in more people on the team to manage. If we want our career to go somewhere, we need to speak up, put a plan in place and get our managers to buy into this plan. When they know what we want and know that we have put a plan in place to get there, they will probably step in and help. They just need to see some initiative and effort.

If you are putting in the hard work and showing up on time, make sure your manager understands your long-term aspirations and goals. With their help and advice, we can probably cut the time to achievement down significantly. Otherwise, we are just reinventing the wheel and struggling with no direction. 

Key Takeaway: Be very specific with your manager and keep reminding them on a regular basis what you want to do and what you have done to help yourself attain that goal. Managers are not mind readers. 

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