Career Conversation: why not talk before you jump?

I have recently run a workshop for a group of bank managers on how to conduct good career conversations. We started with the managers’ own careers and the way they are recognised for their contribution. One of the participants was very clear: “If they do not offer any promotion opportunities, it means they do not value me. So this means I need to find some other employer who will.” 

A few minutes later we were discussing the barriers that stop the participants from having regular constructive conversations with their own teams. The list compiled by the participants was long – lack of time, busyness of modern world, having nothing to offer in terms of promotion, assuming the person in question is happy with their career, avoidance of salary haggling and so on and so forth… “So, - I had to say, - if all these mean that you did not manage to have a discussion with your team, should the team members all think that YOU do not value them and they need to look for “some other employer?”“ The silence that followed was pregnant with the realization that the participating managers might have been too fast to judge their bosses and discard their future in the company.

If your manager does not talk to you about your future, you have a choice to make. You can wait for your boss to be educated by someone about the importance of career conversations, or, if it does not happen, you can just leave without a word and hope the situation will not repeat itself elsewhere. Or … you can take matters into your own hands. I am not talking about an ultimatum, a vocal demand of a pay increase or a wining session (all of these might have a place, but are unlikely to provide a good start for a constructive dialogue).

The conversation, which could open the doors to the future, needs to be first of all … a conversation. This should be a prepared and balanced adult discussion that could help you and your manager understand each other better, explore opportunities and lead to some realistic actions. If you know your career goals, you should be able to formulate them clearly, yet before sharing them, it is worth considering what the company (or your team’s) goals are, how you have contributed and will contribute in the way that would be beneficial for your employer AND yourself. Use the conversation to ask and find these ways, offer help, but remember to reveal your own needs and ambitions. Listen to what the restrictions (real or subjective) might be to getting what you want right now and discuss a possible plan to overcome them with time. Surely it will be easier when you and your manager start working together in partnership – after all, you have found the common goals!

You could say I make it sound easier as it is in the real life. I don’t. I understand that these conversations take thought and courage. But they are possible and much more welcome by your busy manager than you may think. 

I am happy to help with preparation of both parties to these crucially important conversations.