How to help your direct manager “notice” you and advance your careerFeatured

People often expect their managers to “notice” their work and help advance their careers. Although managers like that exist, you shouldn’t rely solely on this. As teams grow, it can become harder for managers to track everyone’s contributions, which can impact their understanding of your work.

Align expectations

Every manager is different and companies’ goals vary. This leads to unique cultures and expectations being established across teams within a given company. If you want to align with your manager’s expectations, you need to understand what they value in your role. During your next 1-1, you may consider asking the following questions:

“What qualities do you believe define a good software engineer?”, “What are your expectations of my contribution and everyday activities?”, “Are there any tasks you’d prefer I avoid or minimize?”, “Which upcoming projects would you like me to be involved in?”.

I once received the lowest salary raise of my career because I was not doing what my manager thought I should do. I spent a lot of time on code reviews and technical documentation because nobody else on the team was doing it, so I covered them all. I assumed that my work was very apparent and visible to my manager. My manager’s expectation was that I should write a lot of code and he had no idea that we had a problem with code reviews or documentation because I never raised my concern about it.

Communicate issues effectively

You are your manager’s eyes, ears, and hands. Sometimes, if you don’t speak up about issues that affect you, your manager remains unaware and unable to address them. Eventually, this silence can bring you into a loop of suffering and despair.

For your next 1-1 with your direct manager, think about what or who negatively impacts your day and any other challenges you may be facing. This may mean that managers need to consider improving the system and processes or give feedback to your colleague.

Managers generally want employees to be happy so they are going to be concerned if you don’t like something.

Be vocal about your goals and accomplishments

Voice over what you want and what you’ve accomplished. If you expect to be promoted this or next year - say it to your manager and come up with a plan with them. If you expect a specific salary raise at the end of the year - say it to your manager and ask how you can make it happen. If you are bored with your tasks or simply want something different - say it. If you are interested in learning something - say it. If you’ve heard about an upcoming exciting project and want to be a part of it - say it. If you did something that impacted the team or product in a good way - say it a couple of times. Here are some examples and scripts if you need help with the wording:

Script 1:

"The {name of the feature} I've implemented helped to {gained result} which brought {impact}"

Example: The Guest Checkout feature I implemented allowed more customers to complete their orders, which made the company more money.

Script 2:

"The {name of the bug} I've fixed helped to resolve the issue customer had with {area} which helped to increase customer's satisfaction with a product and its support."

Example: The bug with outdated metrics I fixed helped resolve the issue customers had with analyzing their data, which increased customers' satisfaction with a product and its support.

Script 3:

“The {action} I made let to achieve the {result}. {Description of the impact}.”

Example: When we had a kick-off meeting for the feature, I noticed inconsistencies in requirements and spoke up about that. It helped to understand that we need to step back to review them. This action is going to help us save time in the development phase which could be longer due to conflicting requests from Product Managers.

Stay proactive

Now that you know managers don’t have all the details either about your work or your struggles, you may consider being more proactive during your 1-1 with them.

A simple exercise for you: do you know exactly what your teammate did yesterday and issues they faced throughout the day, decisions they made about a project? Unless they tell you specifically what happened, you’re probably going to know very generic details: they’ve been working on the assigned ticket. This is what manager knows unless people tell them details ;).

So next time you meet with your manager, ask them about their expectations, set your expectations to them clearly, seek feedback, and speak up if you see any issues around you that should be fixed.

Thank you for this