What makes meaningful career conversations?
Let’s start by redefining the concept of meaningful career conversations.
“A career conversation is a structured series of questions, from a coach to a coachee, that is designed to give the coachee clarity on their next steps.” Erica Sosna, 2018.
Meaningful career conversations have three essential elements to them.
> Curiosity, getting to know what the person values and how they define success.
> Exploring what is out there – seeing how the current role or the current business can support their career goals.
> Making a plan – so that their aspirations are turned into real-world activity.
Why are career conversations important?
Careers conversations are first of all an engagement tool – this means they help to form a positive relationship between an employer and an employee.
They offer a chance to step away from the day to day work and focus on the professional aspirations of an employee or a coachee in the widest sense.
These can feel strange because career advice was so bad at school and University that most people have never been asked about what motivates them and what kinds of experiences they want to have in their work.
Benefits include #employee engagement, #talent retention, #succession planning, #internal mobility and #a better chance of helping minority talent to advance and thrive in your organisation, spending your money and time on the right kind of career development.
Today I want to share with you the key components of a career development discussion…
1. A meaningful career conversation begins with your own preparation. It is not something that you want to come to unprepared.
There are two reasons for this – firstly because you as a manager or a coach might be feeling a bit nervous about the conversations and where it might take you – and this prep allows you to be ready for that.
Secondly, because the value of the career conversation is that you are investing time in getting to know your people – and it helps to demonstrate respect and care if you are organised and thoughtful.
Think about it 🙂
Do you want to sell your home with the guy who says he can promise you the moon and doesn’t know what you want?
Or do you want to sell your home with the lady who comes well researched about sales in the local area and has a good understanding of where your property sits in the market?
The same is true for meaningful career conversation – showing you have prepared builds up trust and credibility.
So some things to think about in advance are – who is this person? What do I know about him or her? What kind of work do they seem to enjoy? How much do I know about what fulfilment looks like for them?
Identify some of the gaps you want to fill.
You will also want to make sure that you have shared the purpose and the structure of the career conversation with your coachee and have their buy-in – otherwise, they might fret about what the meeting is for, rather than look forward to it.
2. My second career conversation guideline is to offer recognition.
We all want to be recognised for what we bring and the ways we uniquely add value.
Demonstrate an authentic appreciation of who this person is and what they have brought to the working environment.
Explain that this career conversation is to set aside time to really understand what makes them tick at work and to better see how what they want out of work could marry up with the exciting opportunities in your organisation.
Manage expectations by explaining that not everything is in your power to grant but you want to be a support and sounding board for their career aspirations.
3. Third – the discussion itself – be open and listen.
Some of the best questions to ask are open, exploratory questions that allow the other person to hear themselves think. Good openers include:
> Tell me about your ideal working day?
> What does success look like for you in your work?
> What kinds of aspects of your work do you most enjoy?
These kinds of career development questions help the listener to understand what success means to the person opposite you. The interesting thing is, that we all define success differently – to get the most out of your coachee, you need to understand what matters to them and see if you can find strategically valuable work that gives them more opportunity to hone their skills.
> What would the future ideally hold for you?
> Is there a career goal that you have in mind?
> Is there I direction that you hope your career will take?
These questions help you both to define and map success – this then makes it simpler to be able to create a development career path that both supports the persons’ goals and also enables them to be more productive in the role they are in. Once we understand how our ultimate career goal lines up with the current work, we can become much more motivated, focused and productive.
Last question tip – How can we help you?
You are not responsible for your coachee’s career moves. Yet there may be things you can do to support them to shrivel their goals. The question ‘how can I help?’ invites them to consider what support, advice, opportunities or development you or the company could provide. When you can- say yes! And when it isn’t appropriate or not within your power to grant, suggest an alternative.
I hope this has been a helpful introduction to the structure that career conversations can take.
The conclusion for today is that what makes meaningful career conversations are preparation, recognition and openness.
You can also watch my short youtube video about Career conversation guidelines and tips.