Talking with the boss about you

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Theodore Weibel
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Chief of Safety
One of the most awkward conversations we have is telling the boss what we want to do in life, how we want to serve, and what our goals are. 

Having counseled hundreds of officers over the years on career development, I've seen the same thing over and over. The member sits down, fidgets, looks at me, then their lap, and then starts mumbling what they think I want to hear. 

They tell me about 20 plus years of service, going to school, the joint staff, commanding a squadron and so on. All admirable, but I usually stop them right there, look them in the eye and ask if they believe what they just said. 

I get all sorts of responses to that. At this juncture I usually tell them about one of my analogies. Talking to your boss about your career often feels like talking to your parents about reproduction -- yes the "S" word. It is uncomfortable for most people and the context of the discussion is frequently misunderstood. 

OK, so we've broken the ice. What does the boss really want to know? What should you tell him? Simple -- the truth, whatever that might be. 

If you want to be a general, a stay-at-home mother, test pilot, or a high school teacher, tell the boss your vision. Don't fret it. This is between you and boss, who wants you to succeed both professionally and personally. 

He wants you to be competent and capable within your career field and a betterment to society. If you tell him exactly how you want to serve and what your goals are then he can best guide you in the right direction to achieving them. 

Where do you start? I am a firm believer in having a plan. A plan for your career, your family, your education: they all intertwine. When you talk to your boss about your future tell him about your plans. 

Put some time into this and write it down. I recommend drawing a simple graphic. Write from left to right across the bottom of paper a timeline starting in 2009 and a tic for each year for another 10 to 15 years. 

At the upper left-hand of the page on the left, make a dot above 2009. That is here and now. 

Draw a line horizontally to the right to the year correlating to your next move. At this juncture, you'll start making branches. 

Those branches, as you move right on the timeline, indicate the various career paths, jobs or assignments. Label them. Likewise, when those events end, you'll have more branches extending to the right. 

Along the timeline at the bottom mark significant points in your career such as promotion boards, school eligibility, testing, life events, and draw vertical lines intersecting your potential jobs and assignments. 

If you don't know some of these, look them up. Rather quickly you'll have a thorough and easy graphic to refer to. This is your plan. 

Back in your boss's office, you're discussing your career. Show your boss the plan you've been working on to get feedback. This will generate a lot of discussion points for you and your boss to resolve. 

Once the plan is reviewed and your boss concurs, it is time to put it in motion. Start off with visiting the Air Force Personnel Center's Website and fill out your Airman Development Plan. Your boss now has a clearer vision of what best suits you in your development and career goals. He will seek to enable your plan via jobs on base and assignments down the road. 

Finally, things will change. You need to review, adjust and update your plan each time you have a feedback session with your boss. Policies change, life events occur and new opportunities sprout. Be ready for them and best of luck in your future endeavors.