How do you handle a career conversation, when your manager asks what areas would you like to focus on for your development and what you really want to say is no thanks!  As your future career is anywhere but this place!

If you are not ready to share your future plans with your manager this is about achieving a balance between your needs and those of the organisation and team, avoiding any negative perceptions or repercussions.

This is the exact scenario a blog reader is facing and has asked for my help to resolve, here are 5 different points to consider in your answer enabling you to strike a balance between you and the organisation.

1.  Other areas of the organisation that can add value to your future plans

If you have an idea of your future career direction, consider if it would be helpful to know more about another part of the organisation or to enhance your network within an area as part of your intended career move.  For example, if you are interested in progressing in Human Resources it be beneficial to see if you can spend time with these teams within your organisation.  Doing so can provide you with insight and it could open a door to you from within the organisation.

Or maybe there is a project opportunity that could enable you to work as part of a cross-functional team and build your connections and knowledge of your desired area. 

If your future plans involve you creating and building your own business, consider if there are part of the organisation which could help you build your knowledge in preparation, such as marketing, communications or finance?

If your manager and company are supporters of internal moves this could be a good solution but if this is not typical you may need to think creatively about how you position it.  For example, you could perceive a need for the marketing team to have a greater awareness of the work your team do so you would like to spend time forging a stronger relationship and exploring how the teams can work better together.

If you don’t yet have a clear idea of your next career move, maybe this is about finding an opportunity to explore different areas of interest within your organisation.  Is there a team that intrigues you, why not think about this as a work shadowing opportunity in which you can gain a deeper understanding of a role?

2.  Development of generic transferrable skills

Consider if there are any generic transferrable skills you could develop further which would be equally beneficially to your existing role and your future plans.

Perhaps your new career path will require you to be more confident with public speaking and while you are required to talk in meetings from time to time this would become more common if you were to progress within your existing profession.

3.  Make your life easier

Although your intention is to leave the organisation, if this is longer-term, consider if there is any area of your current role which you could improve and in turn would make your remaining time easier. Additionally, this could free up energy and mental capacity to work on your exit plans. 

For example, if your position requires extensive analysis but your excel skills are not at the level you would like them to be which makes this more time consuming than it needs to be. 

Perhaps you have responsibility for budget forecasting or report writing but all your knowledge is self-taught and you recognise you could be more effective.

Consider where you spend a lot of time in your existing role and if you had stronger skills or knowledge, time and energy could be saved.  Think about what you dread doing, a task that you struggle with and avoid, is it because you don’t feel confident in the area, could this be an option?

4.   A time to consolidate my learning

If previously you have had extensive development you can acknowledge the investment the organisation has had in you and how now you would like to take this time to embed it.  Furthermore, if you have plans outside of the organisation that you are able to share this can be a way of supporting your proposal.  For example, if you are getting married, moving house or have already started studying in a completely different area you could respond with something similar to the following:

“Over the last few years I have been fortunate to have had a lot of development and now I want to take this year to really embed my learning.  I am also conscious that I plan to move house within the next 6 months and I want to make sure my work is not negatively impacted and I am focused on applying myself to the role.”

5.  Time to share

Perhaps now is the time to start to hint at your plans?  This is a very personal decision and will depend on a number of things such as how supportive you feel your manager will be, how clear you are on your plans and whether your plans could have mutual benefit.

This can be something vague such as “longer-term I am not sure I see my future within the area of X although I have no intention of making changes in the short term.  However, I want to be honest with you so my development is more generic and you can think about your plans for the team with that in mind.”

In doing so you are demonstrating a commitment to the team by making sure any return on training and development is not wasted, giving your leadership team time to consider any wider implications such as succession planning and how they backfill your role or maybe they don’t and this could be an opportunity for you to take a redundancy package.

And if you would like to stay with the organisation but move into a different function, by sharing your plans with your manager, you could ask for their support in building connections and then working together to ensure the timescales work for all parties concerned.

A career development conversation doesn’t have to be fake if you think about how you can strike a balance between your future and that of the organisation.

If you are facing a current career challenge and would like help, drop an email to and get your questions answered in a future blog (your anonymity will be protected).

If you found this blog helpful you may benefit from one of the following:

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