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Why have career discussions?

Recent research from Ci and elsewhere indicates that employees within organisations seek out career support from a wide range of people - managers, mentors and coaches, HR, external specialists, colleagues and friends both from within and outside of their organisation, often on an informal basis 1.

Immediate managers find career issues more difficult to address. Yet there are many benefits to be gained from having an effective career dialogue for both individuals and their managers.

Key Benefits

Individuals Managers

Greater clarity about career aspirations

Better understanding of individual's interests and motivations

Increased awareness of organisational opportunities and requirements

Greater matching of individual aspirations with organisational opportunities

Increased self-awareness

Opportunity to provide feedback

Scope to increase satisfaction and learning within current role

Increased performance in current role via on the job development

Greater access to other career support via wider resources

Use of organisation wide resources

Greater personal responsibility for career development

Less reliance on manager to come up with all the answers

Enhanced relationship with manager

Enhanced relationship with individual

Structured approach to career and development planning

Assists succession planning and aids employee retention

Where career discussions take place between and individual and their manager there is the potential to achieve a win-win partnership, where individual needs and corporate objectives can be aligned.

So what are the conditions that will increase the likelihood of effective career discussions taking place?

Setting Up the Discussion

The reasons for setting up a career discussion will vary, and in some cases will be prompted by the manager, in others the individual.

Career discussions prompted by the individual:

  • Be clear about your reasons for wanting the discussion and what outcomes you would like to achieve
  • Don't be frightened to ask for a career discussion, chances are your manager will be pleased you have taken the initiative
  • Approach your manager sensitively about how you make a request for a discussion to avoid putting them on the defensive. Consider how you can help them/the organisation as a result of the career discussion
  • Provide your manager with some thoughts on what you want to cover during the discussion to enable them to plan and prepare
  • Try and choose a time that accommodates your manager, but also one that avoids interruptions. Ensure that the location is appropriate.- the pub may not be the best place!
  • Do your homework on yourself, where appropriate do a career stockcheck to identify your career aspirations and development needs

Career discussions prompted by the manager:

  • Be clear about the purpose of the discussion, and the outcomes you would like to achieve
  • Separate career discussions where possible from the performance review meetings
  • Communicate clearly with the individual about the purpose of the discussion, try and allay any anxieties that may be generated. Suggest ways in which the individual can prepare for the meeting e.g. conducting career review, use of available resources
  • Choose an appropriate time and venue to create a relaxed environment

During the discussion

Useful tips

For individuals For managers

Go to the meeting with an open mind and be prepared to talk about yourself

Try to minimise any preconceived ideas you may already have about the individual

Open with your agenda-where appropriate/ clarify time available

Open with agenda-where appropriate. Set time frame. Reassure re confidentiality

Try to be relaxed and forthcoming

Put the person at ease, build trust by listening and responding

Provide information about yourself, and be prompted by questions from your manager 2

Encourage them to talk but also use exploratory questions 2

Try and talk about what you really want out of your work. Be prepared to discuss your life as a whole if you feel comfortable

Help them to think broadly about their work, don't ask intrusive questions if they seem uncomfortable

Discuss your career ideas

Help review their career options and brainstorm other potential opportunities if relevant

Welcome feedback and views on your ideas. Try not to be defensive

Provide constructive feedback and useful pointers on their ideas. Try not to be dismissive.

Keep a focus on organisational objectives as well as your personal agenda

Don't let short term business priorities constrain your advice. Think about the organisation as a whole

Discuss ways your current job could be enriched ways in which you would like to develop

Explore development options

Summarise key points arising, clarify where there is agreement, and what needs to be resolved or reviewed

Summarise key points arising, clarify where there is agreement, and what needs to be resolved or reviewed

Discuss and agree action steps that you are taking. Take responsibility for your career, but ask for support where you need it

Agree any actions you are taking on their behalf, but don't over promise, or take on responsibility for their career

Identify others sources of support

Suggest other sources of support or appropriate resources

Agree time scales and any follow up

Suggest a further review meeting as appropriate

Thank your manager

Thank the individual, reassure re confidentiality

1 Acknowledgements to NICEC. Practical Tips for Effective Career Discussions at Work (PDF Guide). Wendy Hirsh, Charles Jackson and Jenny Kidd.

2 A list of useful questions for career discussions can be found in the Question Bank

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