The topic of employee retention is very relevant in a time when organizations are struggling with skills gap shortages. Over the last year, the rate of job quitting in the United States has reached highs not seen since before. This phenomenon called The Great Resignation, or The Great Attrition, signifies that employees are willing to walk away from jobs seeking better conditions and opportunities. But have they explored all the angles to evaluate the long-term best for their careers? Making decisions in moments of high stress leads to regrets. This article addresses how employees can better manage their careers by proactively exploring what their organizations have to offer before walking away. 

Career Management is a life-long process of investing resources to accomplish future career goals. The expectation was that someone would join an organization for a lifetime. Corporate employees used to believe that their employers would reward loyalty and good work with job security, generous benefits, and steady pay increases. My father worked for the same organization for 45 years!. We live in a different world now. Employees are no longer loyal to their organizations but their careers. Very few employers have a clear path to promotion, and very few employees stay with one employer long enough to follow the course — if one exists. Organizations are volatile, uncertain, complex, and fast change is the norm. Employees can’t manage their careers using the same old paradigms in the current environment. Careers rarely follow linear trajectories, and promotions are not the only way to grow.

As a career management consultant and coach, I notice many professionals are unsure of what they want to do out of a career. They might be bored or in the wrong job or the wrong organization. They probably stay because they are unwilling to make sacrifices to get ahead, lacking the necessary career ambition to succeed. Some others do not understand how careers work and what new frontiers available as technological and market forces are reshaping their fields. Many are poor marketers when it comes to presenting their value proposition to compete for better job moves. They lack the self-confidence to position themselves competitively. Others freeze with fear and feel stuck in a boring comfort zone, unwilling to take risks and dare to do what they would love. Whatever the case is, managing one’s career requires the courage to stop, ponder, and decide boldly.  

Managing your career requires active involvement. First, having a vision, and then, providing structure and direction to meander to the desired destination. You also need to overcome your own fears believing that you have what it takes to move forward in unknown territory.

One important element of designing your career is exploration. Researching options can take you to different sources: Career sites, experts in your professional community and mentors. If you are currently employed in an organization that is a good fit for you and you are hungry for growth, consider options for internal mobility before jumping ship. One idea is to have career conversations with key stakeholders, including your Manager. This approach is relevant because, in the current climate of skills shortages, companies are desperate for talent that might be right there in front of them!

A career conversation is a meaningful discussion between an employee and another party – often a manager -about aspects of their career that the individual feels are of significant positive value.

There are many advantages of Career Conversations for both you and your organization.

For Yourself

  • It allows you to take charge of your career proactively
  • You can find better person-job-fit to experience more career satisfaction
  • You can become aware of unexplored opportunities  
  • Exploring options elevate your organizational acumen
  • Increase awareness about your career field and market trends
  • Expands your networking as you engage with stakeholders 
  • Find out how others see you (Your reputation)
  • Learn about gaps and how to close them 

For Your Organization

  • Your Manager can better understand your career interests
  • Create qualified talent pools for internal mobility
  • Reduces hiring costs and increase employee morale
  • Retaining key talent while cross-training and up-skilling 
  • Better retention increases business continuity

Before venturing into these conversations, prepare and have the end in mind. 1) Explore where you are and where are you going. The question below can help you; 2) Decide what are some target areas you want to explore based on your interests and aspirations. For example, is it a vertical move? Are you considering changing career ladders?; 3) Create a networking plan by listing stakeholders that you are approaching; 4) Schedule these sessions; 5) Create a script to effectively manage the conversations.

To better prepare and conduct your career exploration, here are some crucial questions extracted from a great SHRM article to prepare for such discussions.

How am I unique? 

· When I feel at my best, what are the talents and personal traits I exhibit?

· What are my most important values, and how does work fit in with those values? 

· If I must choose between working with people, data, things, or ideas, which mixture would I choose? 

· What would be my ideal job? 

What are my capabilities? 

· What are my job’s critical skills, and how would I rate myself? 

· Who are the key stakeholders I serve? 

· If I ask them to rate my work, what feedback would they expect from them? 

· What other ways to get feedback about my reputation at work? 

· Which skills are most and least valued by the team or organization? · · Which ones do I have? 

How is the world of work changing? 

· How have the changes in my organization affected me? 

· Where are the best opportunities? 

· What are the key issues driving the company? 

· How can I contribute to solving them? 

· What are the major industry trends in my field, and how could they potentially impact my job? 

· What new skills might I need to remain relevant? 

What are my aspirations? 

· What career goals do I have? 

· Which fit into the organization and why? 

· What goal do I want the most? 

· Which goal will position them best for the future? 

· Where do they see themselves in 10 years?

How can I accelerate my learning? 

· How do I learn the best? 

· What would I like to do to increase my skills? 

· What is the perfect learning job? 

· What training or learning program interests me? 

· Who would I like as a mentor, and can I better ask for that support?

How can I engage my Manager in a Career Conversation?

· What is the best way to ask for time to discuss my career?

· What about if my Manager doesn’t know the answer to a question?

· How can we partner together in joint exploration and shared experience?

· How can we create an action plan?

The best decision you can make about your career is to take ownership by understanding your abilities, gaps, and future aspirations. That type of soul-searching will lead to a career clarity of knowing what you want from your career and actively working on it. You don’t have to do it alone. An experienced career coach can partner with you to help you create a road map for your success and how to implement it. 

Once you know where you are heading, you can make things happen, marketing your value and critical contributions. You don’t have to wait for others to open doors. You can find the doors and open them yourself, feeling great for taking charge of your professional career to unleash your potential. 

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