“Charting a Course to Career Greatness”

“Charting a Course to Career Greatness”

As the performance appraisal season draws to a close in many organizations, it’s time to plan what’s next! With insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each employee gained from the review process, it’s crucial for organizations to chart the next steps. But that’s not all – this is also a prime opportunity for managers to engage in meaningful career conversations with their employees! These conversations can be a powerful tool for building employee engagement, improving job satisfaction, and fostering a culture of continuous learning and high performance. They help team members understand ‘where am I now?’, ‘where am I going?’ and ‘how will I get there?’ By taking advantage of their fresh understanding of each employee’s skills and areas for improvement, managers can help their employees reach their full potential and achieve their career aspirations.

According to a study by Evans (2017), these conversations are more complex than we might think, occurring on three different levels that shape the career trajectories of individuals.

  • Local dynamics (between line manager or other career shaper and the individual)
  • Organizational dynamics (strategic imperative, cultural alignment, transparency and formal talent processes)
  • Wider influences (cultural heritage, professional identity, generational differences and technological changes)

From the literature available in career coaching and counselling, here are a few practices that are helpful in having career conversations.

  • Nathan and Hirsh (2013) provided a framework for career coaching that includes five stages as follows:
  1. Contracting – This is where you clarify the purpose of the career conversation meetings and establish boundaries. This includes assessing the time and support required for implementing a career developmental plan.
  2. Exploring – This is where you take the time to understand your employee and their aspirations for their career. This involves building rapport, listening reflectively, and asking open-ended questions to address any confusion or hesitation.
  3. Clarifying – This stage usually works like an ‘aha moment’ for your team member. Your role is to enable the team member to look at career development from a more rational standpoint and developing self-awareness for career growth and interests. As a manager, use this time to provide feedback about their strengths and weaknesses and assist in chalking out a tentative plan for upleveling.
  4. Visioning – Having addressed most issues, it’s time to motivate your employees to take action, encourage their dreams, and address any uncertainty about the future by taking steps to take their plan to fruition.
  5. Resourcing Action – This stage is where you, as a manager, help your team member maintain the momentum and work on realistic goal-setting. You can also assist by assessing your team member’s resilience and addressing any gaps between the career plan and reality.
  • Farren (2017) also gave some really useful tips for elevating the quality of career conversations.
  1. Anticipate tough questions – If you don’t have immediate answers, suggest revisiting those issues later or try brainstorming answers with the employee.
  2. Follow a process to determine objectives – This includes helping employees recognize their unique talents; building their reputation and assessing their individual and team performance; considering and anticipating trends in their industry, organization, and profession; and connecting them to mentors, projects, and learning opportunities to help achieve their goals.
  3. Ask powerful questions to get more real information – Appropriate questions will prompt thinking and self-reflection, leading to a more productive conversation.
  4. Plan career conversations in advance – Thoughtfully starting the conversation with an objective in mind can make all the difference, and examples of questions to ask include asking about their unique traits, their highlights at work, how they plan their day, how they learn best, what they would like to do to increase their skillset, and who they would like to be mentored by.
  5. Be honest – Rather than being directive, provide guidance and help your team members realize their potential to grow in their careers.

In the fast-paced world of modern business, career conversations are a vital tool for ensuring that our employees are engaged, motivated, and equipped to succeed. So, let’s continue to prioritize career conversations and create a culture of continuous learning and improvement that benefits both our employees and our organization.


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