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How to talk to your employer about career development

Posted on February 20, 2024

Have you been in your role or industry for a few years and are looking to take the next step up? Want your boss to invest in your development but not sure how to talk to them about it? We’ve all been there! But, it pays to advocate for yourself in the workplace. Whilst a good manager will help you grow and progress; you can, and you should, take your career into your own hands.  

At Creative Access, we want everyone to feel empowered to be the drivers of their own careers. We support people in developing the confidence to advocate for new work opportunities, equal access to training, pay rises and promotions, whilst building networks with people across the creative sectors. 

So, here’s our advice on how to talk to your employer about career development… 

What is career development? 

Career development is anything that helps to evolve your skillset and contribute to growth in your role. This includes: 

  • Skills-based training 
  • Mentor-matching 
  • Workshops  
  • Courses  
  • Coaching  
  • Wholistic career development programmes 
  • Attending industry conferences 

Accessing any of the above can act as a pathway to a greater sense of validation, confidence, skill or portfolio development, improved leadership capability and belonging, as well as recognition through promotions, pay rises and achieving your career goals.  

Preparation is key!  

First thing’s first: know exactly what you want to talk to your manager about before you schedule a meeting. It’s a good idea to sketch out your career goals and identify any skill gaps beforehand that you’d like to address in the meeting. It’s advisable to revisit your existing job description or development plan, as well as looking at the job description of the role above you – this firms your understanding of how success is measured in your role as well as how your role contributes to the bigger picture, and what you’ll need to do, to take that next step up. 

If you’re not sure where to start – have a look at industry bodies relating to your role, as well as searching on LinkedIn for people with similar jobs in similar companies. This can help you gage what other people on your level are doing and what accreditations you can gain.  

We’d also advise using SMART goals to lay out your aims. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. By using these parameters, you can help make sure you goal is attainable within a certain time frame.  

Example:I will improve my facilitation skills, focusing on problem solving, and host my own session within 6 months by regularly looking for training opportunities and attending at least three within this time.” 

Book in time with your manager 

The next step is about giving yourself a deadline by scheduling uninterrupted time with your line manager, an influential figure in your progress. This may be easy enough if you have regular 1:1s with your line manager, but if not, schedule in a meeting stating the purpose to have a catch up on your career development. Performance reviews can also be a perfect chance to raise the case for career development with your manager. 

Once you’ve set out your plan, you can prep for what you want to say and lay out clearly what you’re looking to gain from your training, mentoring or course. Remember, a good manager is invested in your development and will help advocate for your development in the workplace so there’s no need to be nervous!  

Why this and why now? 

Two things to think about are: What has your contribution been to the organisation so far and what would be the benefits of you accessing further support or training? It’s important to emphasise to your manager how it would benefit both you and the wider company.  

Example: “I’ve just been promoted and now I line manage someone. However, I’d love to attend a training on this to support both my development and the person I line manage.” 

Or another example: “For the last 6 months, I’ve been reporting on our monthly digital statistics across social media and the website. To make sure I’m maximising existing tools, and stretching my abilities, I’d like to go on this course I’ve found, ran by X organisation.” 

You can also research wider industry trends and bring in industry statistics to back up your argument for why you need to access to training, coaching or mentoring.  

Be confident in yourself by investing in your future, your company is more likely to gain a loyal employee. So, it is in their best interest to support your progress. 

Bonus tip: Widen your network 

Remember, you don’t just have to network up! You can network laterally with your peers inside and outside of your organisation too.  

Talk to your colleagues, ask for recommendations on what kind of career progression tools they’re using for inspiration on what you can do to progress your career. You can also seek out groups and communities related to your field, join them, attend events, expand your thinking by tapping into folks you don’t directly work with but who work across different sectors of the creative industries. 

Industry bodies, unions and networking communities to check out: 

Thrive with Creative Access!  

Thrive is our flagship career development programme for those at mid-level designed for and by people from under-represented backgrounds* in the creative industries.  

Our unrivalled 12-month long programme of training, networking and support aims to ensure participants develop a leadership mindset; increase influence; build resilience; develop new skills for career progression; increase confidence; build contacts across the creative sectors; and most importantly, take strides to achieve their career goals. 

Next steps to claim your spot on our unrivalled career development programme? If you’re eligible for the programme, you can ask your employer to fund your place. Find out more about the programme and how to enrol.  

“This was a great opportunity to take stock of how far I have come and connect with other like-minded people. The training really gave us a sense of our potential as future leaders; just the confidence boost I needed as I move on to the next stage in my career” 

*To participate in this programme, individuals must be from a group that is underrepresented in the creative industries. This includes, but is not limited to Black, Asian and ethnically diverse candidates, disabled people, and individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.