Taking the Dread, Fear, and Loathing Out of Career Conversations

Do you dread having “the career chat” with some (maybe all?) of your team members? You know, the one where Emily says, “I just finished my MBA and want bigger challenges.  I’m ready to move up” and there are zero promotional opportunities for her. Or, Stan – your 35+ year employee – rolls his eyes when the career planning session is mentioned at the team meeting. That’s always a fun chat. Because seriously, doesn’t it seem just a bit disingenuous to ask a 62-year-old person “where they see themselves in 10 years”? 

For leaders, there can be dread (and perhaps even fear and loathing) that surrounds career development conversations. Yet, it’s one of the most important roles a leader plays. It’s good for employee retention and it’s the right thing to do for employees – to allow them to stretch, grow and gain satisfaction at work. 

Why, then, are these conversations so fraught?

Career Development Framework is Outdated

For starters, we’re operating on a really old career development framework. For decades, writes career development expert Julie Winkle Giulioni, organizations (and the leaders who lead them) have held a one-dimensional view of career success. Promotions (or, some form of “mobility”) have been the primary marker of career development. This limited view of “The Climb” as the definition of career development, she asserts, is the reason for frustration (for both leaders and employees) because it constrains how employees view success (and companies compensate.) 

The Multidimensional Way to Look at Careers

But there is hope – and a new way to look at helping your employees grow at work. Winkle Giulioni has released a new book, based on a decade of field research and a global validation study that shows there are seven other dimensions that employees find even more interesting than the classic climb up the corporate ladder.

This new book, Promotions Are SO Yesterday, starts with what Winkle Giulioni has termed a “Multidimensional Career Framework.” Within that framework, there are eight dimensions (of which “climb” is one) for career development. The others are: contribution, competence, connection, confidence, challenge, contentment, and choice.

“When we measure a career solely by the artificial markers of a promotion, employees are disincentivized to grow,” Winkle Giulioni told me via an email interview. By broadening the dimensions by which employees can grow, “it allows us to trade the limited possibility of a promotion for unlimited possibilities to grow in your career,” she added.

Why Leaders Can Relax About Career Conversations

And, Winkle Giulioni is letting leaders off the hook (sort of) in her latest book, Promotions are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development. Help Employees Thrive. She writes, “The truth is that most of the dysfunction that exists around career development today isn’t the result of your dereliction of managerial duties; rather, it’s most often the result of deeply entrenched structural and mindset disconnects. Fortunately, you have the power to overcome these obstacles.”

Do you feel a sense of relief? What if conversations with employees about their careers provided energy and excitement? Yes, some employees still do want a promotion . . .and that’s to be expected. But Winkle Giulioni’s research suggests that when they understand that there are seven other ways to gain skills, self-assurance and satisfaction, many employees are suddenly more open to listening to alternative possibilities. 

Who Should Read Promotions are SO Yesterday?

This book has relevance for many audiences:

  • Executives
  • Human Resource departments
  • Mid- to frontline leadership

The book is filled with “pro tips”, charts and worksheets to help a leader create more possibilities within their own department. Or, an entire organization could adopt this mindset of promoting possibilities for their workforce.

If you’re curious to learn more about the eight dimensions of career development, there’s even a free assessment to gauge what’s important to you at this stage of your career. (Hey, leaders have career aspirations too!) You can access it here on Winkle Giulioni’s website. 

Talking with employees about their career aspirations doesn’t have to be a drag. When you expand the notion of “career success” to include multiple ways to enhance career growth beyond promotions, a world of possibility emerges. Check out this book to help you get started.

Disclaimer: I received a free PDF copy of the book for the purposes of review. I received no compensation to write this review. All opinions are my own and some of the links may be affiliate links. 

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