This post was originally published on November 25th, 2016 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.
One of the most important (and simple) actions you can take to advance your career is scheduling weekly 30 minute meetings with your manager.
I’ve been having one-on-ones with my managers over the last two years and it’s made a remarkable difference in my ability to grow and take on new responsibilities at work. I’ve learned more about managing my career during these short meetings than from all the books and podcasts I’ve listened to on the subject. And when busy projects cause one-on-ones to get skipped, things at work start to feel different, as that crucial chain of communication has been broken.
One-on-ones are essentially a miniature form of mentorship with the people you work with on a daily basis. It’s a chance for mentors who have “been there and done that” to share what they’ve learned on their career journey, and to provide helpful feedback and support to their mentee.
In this article, you’ll see why you need one-on-ones and how to conduct them.
Scheduling regular one-on-ones with your manager shows that you have initiative and want to improve and grow your career. It indicates that you care about what you do. These meetings give you a scheduled time to talk about how things are going at work and where you ultimately want your career to take you. It’s a time to talk about areas in which you could improve and to celebrate the excellent work you’ve been doing.
Also, regularly interacting with your boss will give you a leg up when it comes time for promotions or assignments to interesting projects, because they’ll already know what you’re interested in and can do what it takes to get you the interesting work you want.
And if you need even more reasons, check out this excellent article on the subject by HBR.
How To Run a One-on-One
One-on-ones can take any form you and your manager choose, but I’ve found 30 minute meetings, broken into three 10 minute chunks delivers immense value in exchange for very little time.
Present — First 10 Minutes
Spend the first block of time talking about the last week of work. Share what has gone well, what has been frustrating, and what you’ve learned from any mistakes you had made. Praise your teammates when they do great things, or tell your manager how grateful you are for their help.
Talk about whatever is making your day to day work enjoyable and let your manager know when things aren’t so great (bonus points if you offer a suggestion on how to fix the problem).
Future — Next 10 Minutes
Next, move on to the future. Talk about your career goals. Ensure your manager knows where you see yourself in 1, 3, and 5 years. Make short, medium, and long term goals to get you to where you want to be. Regularly review those goals and talk about the progress you’re making.
This is a chance for you to really shape your career, especially if your peers aren’t having one-on-ones with their managers. The regular feedback from your boss will let you grow in ways you couldn’t have done otherwise. And when it comes time for a promotion, you’ll be the first on the list because your boss will know exactly what you want out of your career.
Personal — Last 10 Minutes
Spend the last few minutes talking about whatever you and your manager want. Bring up that trip to Spain you’re going on next month. Talk about the Great Turkey Fiasco of 2016 that you managed to survive. Share pictures of kids and pets with one another. This is the perfect time to get to know your manager better and to make connections you might have missed otherwise. I’ve had one-on-ones lead to excellent four wheeling trips, board game nights, and a pile of wonderful book recommendations.
There’s really no reason not to have regularly scheduled one-on-ones. It only takes 30 minutes a week and provides benefits that will help you through your entire career. The regular communication provides a fantastic forum for you to improve your day-to-day work, set goals that will shape your career, and develop better relationships with those you work with on a daily basis.
If you’re looking to make your work life drastically better, give one-on-ones a shot. I promise you won’t regret it.
The One Thing: Schedule weekly one-on-ones
Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.