Do you have this thought sometimes as well?

You think, “How did I get this position? How did I end up here?”

You started with a certain study and now you’re in management.

I studied law; and now I’m supporting managers who want to accelerate their own or their employees’ leadership.

Who would have thought?

Careers are to a certain extent unpredictable. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t support your employees in their career planning.

But there is a huge difference between having a career conversation with an employee coming from service or having one as an item on your To Do list.

The difference is that the first conversation is about them – you’re interested in their future and committed to get the best one suitable for their strengths.

The second conversation is all about … you. Your own concerns about all the things that you need to do and then yes, it’s that time of the year again: career conversations. It’s an obligation.

So, how do you have a career conversation that is valuable for them? Avoid these three pitfalls:

1 — Too short focus

Just stop for a moment and think about where do you want to be one year from now in your career. I bet that most of the LeadershipBeyond readers answer something like, “Well, same position but I hope that I’ll be better at ….”

Now ask yourself the same career oriented question but use a different time frame, let’s say five years:

“Where do you want to be five years from now?”

Yeah, now your answer is different. Maybe you plan to retire. Maybe you have another job in mind.

So, think and discuss using long time frames when you’re having that career conversation.

2 — Using the word “Career”

Career conversations imply a change of position. And sometimes employees don’t want that. It might be hard to understand but not everybody wants to have the next position in the hierarchy. Some employees are happy where they are. They still want to improve their skills or get a more interesting project but the next step in their career is not up.

Ditch the word “career” and start having “growth conversations.”

3 — Not creating awareness

People are not always aware what they really like. That’s when you like to step up your act. Listen and watch. Then point out when your employee is talking about a task or projects that energize them. Their body posture, expression in their eyes, and their tone of voice change. Through questions you can help them to become more articulate about their passions. What exactly do they like about that task or project and how can they get more of that?

Listen and watch always for fears. Sometimes employees hold back out of fear.

Listen and watch for that.

Be their mirror. Because sometimes they just don’t see.

Just like you.

In sum, help your employees paint that picture of what their desired future looks like. Spend time on it. Out of interest and not as an obligation. Then you’re leading.