Career conversations are exactly what they sound like—a conversation with someone about their career and their future. It is common for businesses and organizations to avoid or ignore career conversations due to a number of reasons. But career conversations are important to have with your employees since they’ll feel more secure with their job and they’ll have more certainty about their future goals.
How to prepare for a career conversation
Here are some tips from SHRM on how leaders can prepare for a career conversation :
Prepare and anticipate the tough questions. There will always be some tough questions employees throw out. If managers don’t have immediate answers, postpone answering and suggest revisiting those issues later or try brainstorming answers with the employee. Commonly asked questions are :
- Will my job be here tomorrow or in six months?”
- What options do I have to be secure at work?”
- How can I possibly achieve my career goals in this economy?”
- What can I do to recover from mistakes I’ve made and repair my reputation?”
- How can I talk about my accomplishments without sounding arrogant?”
- How do I learn about other options in the organization without turning off my manager?”
- How do I stay current with all the changes in this business? Who do I need to know? What do I need to do?”
Managers should place themselves in the shoes of their employees and anticipate their concerns. It’s more important to anticipate the questions than have all the answers.
Follow a process to determine objectives. Here are five critical keys to opening an effective career conversation with an employee: Appreciate, Assess, Anticipate, Align and Accelerate.
- Appreciate Uniqueness. Help employees recognize their unique talents, skills, abilities, personality traits, passion and accomplishments to make career choices that fit.
- Assess Capabilities. Help employees discover their capabilities, build reputation and assess individual and team performance in order to build strong networks in their industry, organization, profession, job and personal life.
- Anticipate. Help employees consider and anticipate trends in their industry, organization and profession, and how the trends will affect choices.
- Align Aspirations. Help ensure that individuals see how their aspirations, talent, goals and passion are in “sync” with the mission, goals and strategies of the organization.
- Accelerate Learning. Connect individuals to mentors, projects, and learning opportunities to help achieve their goals and support long-term organization strategies.
Ask Questions—Get Personal and Real. The best way to get to know an employee (and to help one understand himself or herself better) is to ask powerful questions.
Appropriate questions will prompt thinking and self-reflection. When a manager asks the right questions, employees realize that their manager is prepared. They know that their manager cares, which establishes confidence and trust.
Managers can’t give advice to employees on options if they don’t know the individual’s interests, skills, passion and aspirations. Together, they should thoroughly explore the questions “How am I unique?” and “How is the world of work changing?” Employees’ career choices must be related to the changes that can be predicted in their industry, profession and organization.
Plan How to Start a Conversation. If a conversation is started thoughtfully and with an objective in mind, managers will be amazed at the conversational journey they’ll have. Examples of starting questions:
- What are my capabilities? What are the critical skills in the employees’ job, and how would they rate themselves? Choose three people who can rate their work; what feedback would they expect from them? What are some ways to get feedback about their reputation at work?
- How can I accelerate my learning? How do they learn the best? What would they like to do to increase their skills? What is the perfect learning job? What training or learning program interests them? Who would they like as a mentor, and how can you, as their manager, help them get that support?
Tell the Truth—Engage Employees as Partners. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the employee the truth. Don’t pretend to know. Don’t make up stuff. Don’t make promises that can’t be kept. Turn a lack of knowledge into a joint exploration and shared experience. Talk about working together to get an answer. Have a discussion in which the two of you can figure out how best to answer difficult questions. Use these discussions to appreciate and honor your career.
Genuine and meaningful career development is made possible through effective, ongoing career conversations. When designed correctly, career conversations should promote insight and awareness into oneself and allow the exploration of future possibilities and opportunities.
P2L’s Career Conversations course can help guide you in having a conversation with your employees. Contact P2L today.