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How to Use One-on-One Meetings to Advance Your Career

Every week do you have a one-on-one meeting with your manager? If you do, are you losing an opportunity to advance your career with every engagement? One-on-one (1:1) meetings can be powerful tools for advancing your career when utilized effectively. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of 1:1 meetings to advance your career:

  1. Set Clear Objectives before the meeting. Outline specific goals and objectives you want to achieve. Do you want this meeting to be informational, solution oriented, or development focused? Do you need your manager to feel informed or make decisions? Use the 1:1 to keep your boss apprised of challenges you have faced and how you addressed them, discuss what projects you are working on or overseeing, inform your manager of any issues that may escalate, or if you are a manager, review how the team is doing advancing toward company goals and how you are working to develop your employees. Strategically use these conversations to not only keep your manager informed, but also communicate what you are doing and how you are exceeding expectations without raising your hand and saying, "Look at me, aren't I great?" 

  2. Prepare Agenda: I can’t tell you how often employees attend 1:1s and expect their boss to run the meeting. NO! This is YOUR time - not your boss's time. Create a structured agenda to guide the conversation to ensure all important topics are covered. Share the agenda with your manager in advance to allow them to prepare as well.

  3. Solve Problems: Most people use 1:1s to address any challenges or concerns they may be facing in their role and ask their boss for guidance, but I challenge you not to do this. A better approach is to summarize the issue and provide your manager with three solutions, including the pros and cons of each, and express your opinion on which you believe is the right direction. You may be wrong and that's okay! Demonstrating your ability to analyze a problem, propose solutions to overcome obstacles can showcase your overall value to the organization.

  4. Discuss Career Goals: You can use 1:1s to share your career aspirations and discuss how you can align your goals and interests with the organization's objectives. But of course, this isn't a weekly conversation. Once you are aligned on your goals and development areas, seek feedback and guidance on how you are progressing quarterly. It's not about "solving" or changing behavior once; it's about showing sustained improvement.

  5. Show Appreciation: Finally, use your 1:1 with your manager to express gratitude for the opportunity to meet and discuss matters related to your career or a problem you are trying to solve. Showing appreciation demonstrates professionalism and will continue to demonstrate your commitment to being successful in your job.

Once your 1:1 ends, send your manager a follow-up email capturing the highlights from the meeting and the action items for you to accomplish. This demonstrates proactive communication and continues to ensure alignment between you and your manager.



The goal overall is to proactively approach your 1:1 meetings with intentionality so you can leverage them as a valuable way to communicate important information, demonstrate how you are exceeding expectations and developing yourself for new and more advanced challenges.

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