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  • Writer's pictureJill Hauwiller

Talent Development: Career Conversations

Have you ever purchased a new (or new-to-you) car and suddenly you start seeing the similar models everywhere? A new level of awareness has opened up for you and it can feel like serendipity. That’s how I felt when I saw a recent post and the graphic below on Career Conversations as I was working on Part 3 in this series on Talent Development conversations. It is a fitting bridge between the short and long-term focus for talent development conversations covered in Part 2 of this series and career conversations.

As a leader, coming into career conversations with an open and curious mindset can make all the difference. And, because you have already considered the difference between performance management and talent development and you have started having regular conversations with your team about short and long-term development goals, you have a strong foundation to take this conversation to the next level. Even with that informed starting point, try to leave your assumptions at the door when having career conversations. These conversations are not about you bringing all of the answers forward as a leader, their intent is to provide an informed and well-resourced opportunity for your team members to have thoughtful and exploratory conversations about potential career paths.

That said, you don’t need to forget everything you’ve learned about what your team members have shared in previous conversations about desires, aspirations and challenges. The insights they have gained and potentially the projects they have taken on to expand their experiences as a result of the previous conversations might be leading them in new directions and opening their minds to new possibilities and interests.

Just like in conversations on talent development with a shorter time period in mind than a whole career, there are questions you can ask to support your employee in developing greater self-awareness and more clarity around their goals:

  • What do you explore in your spare time?

  • What activities are you good at?

  • What do you LOVE doing?

  • What are your opportunities?

  • What other roles are you interested in?

  • What do others with your passion and skills do?

  • What is the legacy you want to leave?

Again, the point of the career conversation is to plant seeds — not problem solve in the moment. This is an important expectation for you, as the leader to hold yourself to, but also to communicate to the person who you are having the conversation with. If you both agree to map potential paths and desired experiences, that can be a helpful and tangible next step from a career conversation.

These conversations take intention, energy and skill. As a busy leader, why should you take the time if people are changing roles every couple of years anyway?

  1. You will be able to connect your team with projects that are meaningful to them and advance their progress toward their career goals.

  2. You will have a better sense of who is dissatisfied in their current role and be able to address it sooner, potentially preventing unwanted turnover.

  3. You will build a reputation as a leader who develops people and takes care of their team. You will attract motivated and curious employees, as a result.

  4. You will have a legacy of leaders and contributors with deep connections and loyalty who are clear on their purpose and contributions.

As a leader, your role is to be a steward of the organization and the people who work there. You can be an advocate and champion for your team — particularly people who are often overlooked. You have the opportunity to speak for them when they aren’t present, but it is hard to do this effectively if you don’t understand the person and their goals. Be a leader who takes the time to have career conversations. Explore the possibilities with your team and help them chart a path to a career future of their own design. Watch your team grow, thrive and deliver exceptional results. That would be an amazing leadership legacy — all from an investment in talent development conversations focused on career.

Originally published on


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