How career conversations can catapult your business!

By Ricky Nowak

05 Mar 2021

Career Conversations is the sweet spot where current roles and future careers intersect.  They are a forum where ambitious goals as well as technical expertise can be discussed in honest and constructive ways and allow people to align their aspirations with their organisations strategy and plans for growth.

The best conversations happen when both manager and reviewee have shared responsibility and ownership in the conversation and outcomes yet the reviewee is the major shareholder and contributor. After all, who is more responsible for their career than one self, right? Effective outcomes are usually reached when these conversations become part of everyday communications and conversations. Sometimes they can be short and succinct and sometimes longer but the key is that they need to be relevant and timely.

However don’t let internal or external challenges in the workplace derail career conversations or they will end up playing second fiddle to performance conversations.

Career Tip 1

Ensure that career conversations are not performance appraisals. They are distinct in tone, content and approach and should not overlap unless prior agreement has been made by both parties when it is both appropriate and relevant to bring up career changes as part of current results.

Typically a career conversation will look at future skills development, career opportunities, work to be done that will take the person into further advancement of their current role or areas and forecast skills, knowledge and habits that will improve career advancement. Performance Appraisals look at work that has and is being done, reviewing outcomes, progress, results to date as well as what changes can be made to improve results.

A good rule of thumb for career conversations is to spend 10% of time reviewing past career or learning, 40% of time in current career goals and outcomes and 50% of time preparing for the future ie: what skills they need for their future role, what habits they need to develop, where the opportunities will be, how they will get there.

In the wise words of Marshall Goldsmith “Whatever got you here, won’t get you there” must be observed!

Career Tip 2

Career conversations increase employee engagement and future performance through stimulating ideas and create opportunities for new experiences.  The conversations should be well planned in advance by both the reviewee as well as the manager and ensure there are no surprises to career changes that are ‘out of the blue’. Both parties should be clear on their expectations for the meetings, what the purpose is for each conversation and why it is important for that time. By using practical templates from documenting what is to be discussed, what is the biggest challenge or roadblock to what are the options being considered. Each party can keep a ready record of where they are up to and what is expected.

Not only will a customised template help people keep the conversation from straying into no-man’s land where decisions and responsibilities are unmet, each party will learn to manage their expectations and have ground rules to follow.

The added bonus is they act as great follow up references enabling people to see if what they wanted got the results they wanted.

Career Tip 3

Managers who take an active role in helping their reviewee maximise their goals will also help retain their staff so they don’t become someone else’s.  This is in part because not only does the reviewee feel more connected to their manager in terms of their career but because they often feel that their manager is attuned to helping them navigate through other areas of their work and life as their needs and priorities change.

The best way to keep your people is to ensure that conversations are followed up, people don’t lose motivation or opportunity and any issues addressed as quickly as possible. This is so people can recalculate where they want to go, make alternative or additional plans or review their direction.

Bonus Tip!

Don’t encourage postponing sessions without another one set up. This is because the more it gets shifted the less likelihood there is of the session taking place.



Ricky Nowak CSP MAICD CAHRI creates transformational and rewarding experiences for successful people to further optimize their own performance, the performance of their teams and the bottom line results of their organisations. As a Stakeholder Engagement Marshall Goldsmith Coach, Certified Speaker, Professional Facilitator and Author for over 25 years she helps strengthen individual and team capability underpinned by strong and robust business relationships.

Ricky is one of our Peak Performance Executive Coaches and has been working with our members since 2020.