Managing Up: Regular One-On-Ones versus Career One-On-Ones
Product Manager at Cocoon
One thing that I have struggled with in my career is managing up. In the first two years of my career I went through 7 different managers. It was a series of unfortunate circumstances where managers were leaving the organization or leaving the company, and because of this, I had no one who was advocating for me. Especially because this was a larger company, there wasn't the culture of self-advocacy; you needed a manager to advocate on your behalf to their manager and so on. I quickly realized that I needed to figure out how to manage my own career. I needed a strategy for managing upward and outward.
The next company that I joined was a much smaller company than the previous. Everyone was running their own team and so it was up to me to evangelize the work that I was doing. I needed to have conversations with people directly and get them onboard. In a way, because there wasn't much of a managing structure, I was forced to advocate for myself and the work that I was doing. On the contrary, because of this lack of structure, and my previous experience, I felt that I was behind in my career and needed to play catch-up.
This led me to become more deliberate with my one-on-ones in the current company I work for. In these meetings I made sure that we were not only talking about the projects I was working on but how I was executing them. I wanted feedback on whether or not I was being communicative enough, proactive enough, and sending out enough comms. My manager and I would prep for the meetings the night before, writing notes of what we wanted to discuss. I would also include small status updates so that he could quickly glance them over. This allowed us to spend more time talking about how I was executing tasks and any insights he had on how to solve my problems (instead of him solving them for me).
Another aspect that I asked for was initiating career one-on-ones that were outside of the regular one-on-one meetings. This meant that on a separate cadence my manager and I would meet once a month to talk solely about my career. This gave great visibility to my manager and was a forcing function for me. I needed to determine where I saw my career in X amount of years. Then the two of us tactically talked about how I could get there. These meetings give me a line-of-sight to the goals I have and how I can achieve them. A second advantage to these discussions is that I am able to work on these goals in one month increments. I focus on a certain area within that one month and afterwards we meet and check in on my progress. This way, when performance reviews come around, I have documented proof of what I have worked on.
I have found that in the past one-on-ones tend to be very project and execution focused. This leaves little to no time to have career conversations, except during the necessary performance review cycle. So by designating a specific and separate career one-on-one cadence with your manager, you ensure that you are working towards your career goals and that you always know where you stand in terms of your career.
Be notified about next articles from Melissa Niu
Product Manager at Cocoon
Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders
We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.