I'll never forget the day my boss came to me and shared that we were going to be hiring for a new, higher position on our team. “Do you want to step up into that role or do you want us to hire someone else for it so you can grow in other ways?" she asked.
I was honored that she cared enough about my growth at the company to include me in this decision. We talked it out, I decided I didn't want the role, and we brainstormed other ways I could continue to develop my career. I left feeling unbelievably valued and excited for my future at the company.
Now, for those of you reading this wishing your boss cared about your happiness that much, I've got good news. Yes, some of what made this conversation possible was the fact that I had a pretty stellar manager. A bigger reason for the discussion? My hard work for the company meant that she wanted me to have room to develop alongside the business.
Whether you're looking for a major promotion, asking for your company to help pay for a class, or just want to get looped into projects a little outside your wheelhouse, here are some ways to make sure your boss is excited to help you out.
1. Do Your Job and Do It Well
This is the baseline for getting your manager excited to invest in your growth—you need to show that you're a strong asset to the team and you're worth investing in! So before you ask for a new opportunity, make sure you've shown the value you already bring to the team.
Equally as important is continuing to excel at your core duties, even while you're working on additional projects or taking classes on the side. Unless you and your manager have discussed shifting some of your responsibilities for you to focus on new areas, letting your performance lag isn't likely to earn you similar opportunities down the line. Show that you're willing (and even excited) to put in the extra work to invest in your own growth, and your boss is more likely to encourage it.
2. Make the Benefit Clear
Yes, keeping you engaged should be enough benefit for your boss, but when workloads are heavy and budgets are tight, sometimes you need to add a little extra incentive to your request. So make it clear how gaining a new skill will help you out on the job, such as new projects you'll be able to work on or additional KPIs you think you'll be able to hit with the extra training.
If you're creative, you can find a way to show this value even if what you're interested in learning isn't directly tied to your job description. For example, if you're a marketer who wants to take a graphic design class, talk about how you can help with quick social media graphics, reducing the load on your designers and making the turnaround time faster for small requests.
3. Do The Work For Her
Remember, your boss is busy and as much as she wants to help you grow, she may not always know how. So walking into your check-in one day and saying, “I want to become an email marketer," and then staring at her expectantly may not work so well. And if it does— well, we have a lot of questions for your manager.
Just like with any request, you want to make it easy for your boss to say yes. So do a little legwork first so you can come prepared with ideas for how you could attain this growth goal: “I really think learning some email marketing skills could help me grow into a larger role here in the future. I found a few well-rated classes that look like they could be good and was wondering if we had any budget to help me cover the costs?" Pro tip: Anticipate possible objections or hesitations to your ask, and have some responses ready.
4. Go in With Advice, Not With Demands
That said, you don't want to be wedded to only one way of reaching your goal. While you should come to your boss with ideas, you should ultimately be having a conversation to figure out the best next steps together.
Maybe there isn't budget for you to take a class, but your boss knows of a project the current email marketing whiz is about to start, and thinks you might be able to shadow her on it. Often just knowing what areas you're interested in can help your supervisor see opportunities that you wouldn't have even known were possible.
5. Play the Long Game
Ultimately, if you want the person who signs your paycheck to be invested in your growth over time, you need to make it a regular conversation, rather than just a one-time request. Establish a precedent of talking about your growth—maybe during one check-in a month you chat about the areas of improvement you see for yourself and how you can work together to make them happen. If your boss isn't already asking you questions about where you see yourself in the next few years, bring it up yourself, asking her advice on how you can get there.
By keeping the conversation going, you and your manager can find several, sometimes small, ways for you to grow over time—likely setting you up for major leaps in the long run.