A friend, who is an EVP in a nonprofit, recently reached out to me for a career conversation template for her organization. When I re-read my Email and attachment, I thought there’s a quick article here, so just do it and write the article too. My listicle for launching career conversations:
1) Discuss the purpose for why you want to launch career conversations formally in your organization. As you explore these reasons, this might influence the design and care for how you go about it.
2) Feel free to leverage some of my favorite career reflection questions in a guide I’ve honed over the years (Career Reflection Workbook).
If you are considering more thoughtful career moves (lateral and vertical) to build specific organization capabilities or future leaders, you may want to bring a more formal competency assessment into the process too. This might help specifically pinpoint a person’s strengths or any derailers getting in their way of success.
3) Remind managers of their role in the conversation and some wisdom about careers in general. Managers should focus on their role as coach, listener, guide in the conversation vs. projecting their story or solely the way they did it.
In addition, careers have always been about the whole person (life has never been separate from work). To that end, remember careers happen within and between organizations. Sometimes, the best next move might be to another organization vs. staying where one is at and that’s ok.
I also love the metaphor “Chutes and Ladders”, reflecting the reality that careers aren’t solely vertical but a mix of risks, project choices, chances, lateral moves and promotions, as well as commitments to passions outside of work or important life events, like having a child or losing a loved one.
4) Commit to a cadence for follow-up meetings. There are often insights gained, goals to be achieved, a networking introduction that should happen after the meeting. So bring discipline to these conversations and have them throughout the year at scheduled times.
5) Have a roll-up plan or strategy for documenting insights and data to feed in to any internal workforce development moves and succession planning.
If conversations are going on across the organization at one time, there’s an opportunity to do something with the insights gleaned that will positively impact your culture.
6) Finally, if you’ve read this far, and say your organization doesn’t have its act together around career conversations, consider the following whether you are a manager or employee. Don’t wait for the organization — just do it.
Managers who care and are genuinely curious about their employees will take the time to host these conversations. They also invest in daily coaching, as well as proactively promoting the image and exposure of talent who are ready for other opportunities elsewhere in the organization.
I also remind employees that one of the most important, but under-invested steps in the career process is a self-assessment. What do you want and why do you want it? How well do you know yourself? What makes you tick and any blind spots?
Again, my guide with some of my favorite career reflection questions is here, and of my favorite inspirational quotes on careers is here:
“When I’m asked for the ‘elevator speech’ that sums up my work, I always respond, ‘I always take the stairs, so I don’t have an elevator speech. If you’d like to walk with me awhile, I’d love to talk.’ I don’t know of a life worth living or work worth doing that can be reduced to a sound bite.” (Parker Palmer)