Better one on one meetings: Employee’s guide for career growth

Written by
Emerald Nwanne
May 20, 2021

In this guide you’ll learn:

The connection between the employee-manager relationship and your career growth

How to maximize your one on ones with your manager before, during, and after the meeting

How to build rapport and leverage your one on ones for personal career growth

How being open to feedback and proactive career pathing can accelerate advancement

One on one meetings with your manager aren’t something to dread. They are opportunities to enhance your professional skills and advance your career. They’re the best space to build rapport with your manager, learn from them, and share your personal and professional goals. 


Learn about the importance of one on one meetings for employees, including how you can maximize your one on ones to advance your career. 

💡   We covered One on One Meetings for Managers in a separate article, including how to set up one on one meetings and best practices for before, during, and after.


What are one on one meetings?

A one on one meeting is a recurring time set aside for managers and direct reports/employees to connect. The meetings could be simple check-ins, product strategy sessions, career coaching sessions, opportunities for an employee to vent, or just a chance for you to get to know one another. 


A relationship built on trust and open communication benefits you both. One on one meetings are where that professional relationship is built. Having a manager you can trust is key to your future success at that company. The more faith, trust, and rapport you can build together, the more likely you are to receive support, develop professionally, and feel fulfilled within your role.


Using the employee-manager relationship for career growth

As an employee, you’re the focus of a one on one meeting. It’s a chance to receive constructive feedback, provide important insights to team dynamics, and discuss your professional goals. If your manager understands your professional goals and dreams, they can better help you achieve them. 


Discuss with your manager how you prefer to learn and the skills you most want to develop. They can offer you guidance and help keep you accountable through regular check-ins. Personal relationships are important to a successful career, and showcasing your own interpersonal skills and dedication to your job will give your manager confidence in you. As they get to know your strengths and long-term goals, they’ll be more likely to recommend you for an important assignment or promotion. 


How to maximize one on one meetings with your manager

Before your one on one meeting

Take some time before your meeting to be mindful and organize your thoughts. This extra time will also help ensure you arrive (or tune in 💻 ) to your meeting on time. Check your notes from previous one on one meetings. What did you discuss last time? Have you made progress on any of your goals or have you hit a roadblock? If an issue was discussed last time, has it been resolved? What steps could be taken if not? 


This is your time to address any issues and receive guidance or coaching. What do you hope to get out of this meeting? Taking time to reflect before a one on one and get in the right mindset will help you get the most out of it. 


During your one on one meeting

After arriving on time (or even a little early 😅), be open to a friendly conversation if it’s offered. Keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to discuss any personal issues if you feel they are affecting your work. 


During the meeting, be present and actively listen. Be open to receiving and giving feedback. Keep your phone out of sight and out of mind, and ensure you leave it on silent. A noisy or vibrating notification is distracting, and it will throw off your groove. Take notes, but do so with a pen and paper. 


Remember, this meeting is primarily about you—your unique goals, work habits, and perspective. Being candid will help your manager better understand where you’re coming from and where you hope to go. Keeping these things to yourself will hinder your career growth and lead to assignments that don’t cater to your strengths. 

After your one on one meeting

Add more detail to any notes you took. What do you want to remember from your meeting? Don’t count on your own memory. It may seem fresh now, but without recording notes, you could completely forget important details discussed in the one on one. Taking the time to add another layer of detail gives you a chance to reflect on the meeting and consider any feedback you received. 


In the days or weeks following the meeting, put that feedback into action; that’s what it’s for, after all. Be mindful of the feedback as you perform your duties. Did it help? This will prepare you for the next one on one. 


💡 WorkPatterns helps teams run effective meetings. Create collaborative agendas and convert discussion topics into action items that have clear ownership and due dates.


One on one meeting template in WorkPatterns the people management app


How to leverage one on ones for career progression

Be proactive with your career pathing

Express your goals and discuss any personal or professional development you want to pursue. How do you hope to advance in your career? What do you feel it will take to get there? What skills do you want to hone, and how can your manager help? Your manager is there to support you. An honest, friendly relationship built on trust will help you craft your own career path. 


Take the time to consider your career goals and be proactive about expressing them. A one on one meeting is the space to address your goals, so you can intentionally work toward achieving them. Actively listen to the advice, feedback, and coaching your manager offers, and update them on your progress so that they can help you advance your career. 

Build mentor-mentee rapport

One on one meetings are also the best place to build rapport with a manager. Building rapport means developing a friendly connection with another person. If you and your manager both like to cook, are there recipes you could share? Do you watch the same kind of television shows? Do you both play sports? 


Discussing these topics are all simple and effective ways to build rapport, so if your manager asks about the television shows or sports teams you follow, be candid. These conversations help break the ice and build a friendly connection between you. You’re both human beings, and it’s important for both of you to remember that. If your manager likes you on a personal and professional level, they’re more likely to consider you for career advancement. 


💡 Learn more in our article How to Build Rapport in One on One Meetings


Aside from personal rapport, developing a mentor-mentee relationship can also benefit your career. What steps did your manager take to reach their position? Do you want to follow in their footsteps to eventually reach a position like theirs? Are there similar steps you can take right now? 


Take every opportunity to learn from your manager’s experience, so you can hone your professional skills and pave a clear career path. 

Be open to feedback and put it into action

Feedback isn’t something to be afraid of. Think about it. If you wear a killer outfit to work but your coworker notes that your fly is undone, that’s feedback you probably want to hear, right? 


Feedback is essential to your professional development. Be receptive to any and all feedback you receive, and do your best to keep your emotions out of it. We’re all sensitive in our own way, but no matter how skilled we are at our jobs, there’s always room for improvement. 


And feedback is a two-way street. Don’t shy away from offering constructive feedback to your manager if they ask for it. They’re trying to improve too. 


A one on one is a private space to give and receive continuous feedback that you can use to advance your career. Put feedback into action. If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough feedback from your manager, let them know. Every one on one meeting is an opportunity to learn, improve, and enhance your skills, so you can better pursue your personal and professional goals. 


One on one meetings with WorkPatterns

WorkPatterns provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals — all in one place. Our platform helps managers and employees execute one on one meetings for transparent scheduling, collaboration, and intentional goal-setting.



Meeting management is better with WorkPatterns

WorkPatterns provides one on ones, team collaboration, feedback, recognition & goals — all in one place. With WorkPatterns, you can guide your team with continuous feedback and rich goal management that goes beyond simple to-do lists.