Telling My Boss About My True Career Goals
Illustration by Erik Blad

In Ask Help Scout, long-time customer service professional Mat “Patto” Patterson answers readers' most challenging customer support delivery, leadership, and career questions.

Dear Patto,

I’m on day two of my new job, and my manager just asked me about my career goals. I want to have fun, make things, and do good work while keeping enough time and energy to fully enjoy life beyond my job. How can I be honest about that without seeming unmotivated or disengaged?

Thanks, Not Just a Worker Bee

Dear Bee,

Congratulations on finding a manager who cares about your career progress! I’m certain you know that is not always the case.

Like a lot of business practices, career goal discussions have been defined and promoted by the type of people who are seemingly born with a 78-year-long career plan, plopping out into the doctor’s hands while simultaneously checking “☑full term delivery (natural)” off said list.

Not everyone is made that way (I’m certainly not). There’s no need to pretend to be passionate about whatever business your company is in or about climbing a specific career ladder.

What your manager is (probably) actually looking for is something more prosaic. They want you to perform well at your job, contribute to the company’s success, and stick around for a while so they don’t have to go out and replace you. It’s their job to figure out how best to use all the various resources they have on their team to meet their own goals.

So your role in this discussion is to figure out what you want to get from this job, what you can give, and to let your manager know that.

For example, you mention wanting to make things. I bet you’d hate to see a fun, creative project get handed to someone else because your manager didn’t know you’d be interested, right? So let them know what does grab your interest and which new skills you’d love to have. Focus on those things, and in that discussion you can share the engagement and motivation you obviously have in your life.

Here at Help Scout, one of our customer service professionals, Kristi, has been able to contribute to company-wide culture-building projects. She shared her interest with her manager, and they spotted an opportunity for her to take on.

There are limited spots for leadership in any company, but there are plenty more spots for hard working people who want to do good work at work and then go home without having to think about their job until the next day.

Best of luck achieving that balance!

P.S. Even in a role like customer service there are plenty of different paths to follow, and great teams need both players and coaches.

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