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Career conversation

A career conversation with your Manager

Why wait until your annual review to review your career goals with your manager. When done right, career conversations are a series of conversations designed to help you address your career development needs. A Career Conversation is a valuable platform to raise such issues within the context of your immediate and long-term prospects.

Career conversations

1 Be clear about what you want to get out of your career conversation

Everybody is busy and time is precious. It is important that you know the reason why. As Simon Sinek says: ‘It all starts with why. You have to know why you do what you do, why you take specific actions’.

Some examples of why:

  • Explore your career options
  • Explore a career transition
  • Put in place a career progression plan

Action Call: Make a list of your ‘why’

2 Who am I and how do I fit?

This is about matching your career goals to your values, motivation and abilities. We all come with a specific set of strengths that make us unique. And at one point or another, you’ve probably been told what your unique strengths are by your line manager, your colleagues, your friends, your family. Now imagine being able to use these attributes and Shine bright like a diamond. Doing a SWOT analysis might also help you being clearer about who you are. You must remember that a weakness is not life threatening. It is an opportunity. Brene Brown said  What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful . We are all vulnerable in our own ways.

Action Call: To determine your core values, choose every core value from the list below that resonates with you.


Now gain clarity with your motivation.

Action Call: Think about how you would respond to each of the following questions:

  • What are the reasons for wanting to achieve my goal?
  • What small steps do I need to take to move closer to my goal?
  • What reduces my motivation?
  • What obstacles or barriers may I face that will affect my motivation?
  • How can I overcome those obstacles?
  • What would be the consequences of not being motivated to achieve my goal?
  • What habits can I create to increase my motivation?
  • What reminders do I need to see to stay motivated?
    Who can support me?
  • How will I reward myself?

And finally reflect on your abilities, your personal strengths. When you try to find your own strength, think about what comes naturally for you. It can also be interesting to think about a major strength you have that is relatively rare in most other human beings. For instance strategic thinking  is a relatively rare quality, while confidence or creativity is less so. So when you are thinking about your career, think about building your work around the personal strengths that you possess but that many other people don?t. Then you can create the most value for others.

Action Call: List your personal strengths

3 Listen Listen Listen

The legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once said that ‘the most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said’. This has always resonated with me as a Leader and as an Executive and Organizational Coach. Today it is a challenge to manage the fast pace of the workplace. We are all busy with full agendas and back-to-back meetings. I have often wondered how this agile working in the VUCA world impacted on our listening skills and on our skills to assess what was not being said in a conversation. Sometimes in a conversation we can be so busy thinking about what we want to say next that we are not fully listening to what the other person is saying, and we are missing out even more on what is not being said. That can lead to a conversation with no impact.

One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7% by the words we use, 38% by voice quality, and 55% by nonverbal communication. So nonverbal communication serves as the single most powerful form of communication. As a result, we need to be sensitive to the power of emotions and thoughts that are communicated nonverbally. We can learn to listen with our eyes.

Action Call: Focus on nonverbal cues when you are talking to your manager. What are those telling you?

4 what is expected of you?

You want clear goals that are achievable and developmental. Your organization where are you currently working, in turn, wants to ensure that your goals are aligned with the current and future needs of the business. Using SMART goals, a manager can clarify the work that needs to get done within a specified period of time. This conversation is also an opportunity to confirm hidden capabilities that could be leveraged in new and different ways.

S Specific: What are you responsible for?

M Measurable: How will you be assessed?

A Achievable: Challenging and attainable

R Relevant: Does it meet business needs and fit your role?

T Time-bound: How long? There must be a beginning and an end date

Action Call: What are your SMART goals?

5 How are you doing in your current job?

You may want to explore the following with your manager:

  • An assessment of your skills (strengths and gaps)
  • Observations of your behaviour
  • Feedback about your performance (around specific projects/skills)
  • How your skill and contributions are recognised

Action Call: Do you have all the answers you need to be clear about your current performance?

6 What and how could you develop further?

When talking about development, there are three perspectives that help to shape the conversation for employees.

  • Skills and knowledge required for effective performance in the current role.

Action Call: Make a list of the skills and knowledge that you require to perform effectively in your current job

  • Skills and knowledge required for a future role. This is an important perspective for your development. You can begin to explore the types of future roles that might be right for you. It’s the first step in imagining ‘what’s next?’

Action Call: Make a list of the skills and knowledge that you require to perform effectively for a future role. List the gaps and what you could do to close those gaps

  • Skills and knowledge required to remain employable. career development, whether it is within your current organization or in another one, may require a retooling of your skills. The Career Conversation can be the first step in laying out a developmental pathway that will help you adjust to new market conditions and acquire the skills to transition to a new role.

And while you are focusing on those three perspectives, keep the balance.

Action Call: Make a list of the skills and knowledge that need re-tooling

7 What’s next for me?

This is about exploring the full scope of your knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, training and interests and defining a career that benefits your organisation and yourself.

Think about your:

  • Development plans and programs
  • Skill-building experiences
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Networking opportunities

8 Say thank you

As your manager has taken time to have a career conversation with you, say Thank you.

9 Your roadmap to a career conversation with your manager

  • Schedule the meeting. You need to think about the date and the timing for it. Is morning better than the end of a long day? You also need to give your manager time to prepare for that meeting.
  • Set the agenda. In the meeting request, include an agenda and your goals for the discussion (e.g. you are looking for feedback on how to develop your career?).
  • Prepare the conversation. If you have worked from #1 to #7, then you will be well prepared.
  • Keep focus in the conversation. Remember your why
  • Send a recap. Make sure that you take notes on the suggestions and recommendations. Follow up on each action items. Schedule the next career conversation with your manager.

This blog on How to have a career conversation with your manager gives you an opportunity to think about how you can prepare for that conversation. Thank you as ever for stopping by. What do you think of what you’ve read? I hope it’s helpful if you are thinking of looking for an Executive Coach who does virtual coaching. Feel free to comment below or Tweet me @NadinePowrie with any comments or email me at

It’s good to talk. I’ve just opened up new offers for virtual coaching in my diary. This is in response to my current clients’ feedback. You may be interested in my Masterclasses.



  1. Thank you for this great information. My clients often share their concerns with me when it comes to discussing issues with their managers. I think they should all read this article. I will be sure to refer them to it. Thanks again.

    • That’s great. Let me know what they think of it, what they find most helpful and if there is anything I can help with in my next blog.

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