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Career Coaching 101: Tips for Managing Clueless Employees

Navigating conversations with employees to grow them before they go

“I don’t know where and how I want to develop” “I am too busy with work to think about this” “I want to develop, but I don’t know how to get there.”

These are comments from your “clueless” employees. They are probably your solid workers. They are reliable, do their work and add value to the company. But they are not ambitious and have not invested spend time thinking about their career. Or even if they do, they do not know how to put a plan together. They probably have a vague idea that career development leads to higher positions, but lack clarity and specific strategies to get there.

Such employees will certainly benefit from learning how to plan and develop their career. A workshop participant exclaimed, “Since I was young, we have been told to study hard, do well, and go from primary and secondary school to tertiary education. We are encouraged to study subjects that will add value to the economy, such as computer science, life sciences, and engineering. But after we graduate, suddenly there are no more instructions!”

How true. We spend so much of our lives studying content that we will never use. Think of calculus, physics laws, or biological terms. But we do not spend time learning how to navigate forty years of our career! It is assumed that we will develop internal direction. But that is also a process.

"After we graduate, suddenly there are no more instructions!"

So in having career conversations with these employees, our objective is to find a sweet spot between their skills and the organization needs. This is even more important when the rapidly changing environment demands new skills.

Here are some quick tips:

1. Encourage these employees to take ownership of their career.

  • Rather than wait for the manager to take initiative or for their career to happen.

  • They need to get to know their strengths and skills, manage their reputation, understand what skills will be required in future, and decide what and how they need to develop.

  • Share your own career journey. What helped you?

2. Give them permission to dream.

  • For some, they do not expect much from their career and limit their own sense of possibilities.

  • Expand their mind by asking these questions, “Tell me a time when you really enjoyed your work and felt a sense of aliveness?”, “Other than a salary, what else does your job give you?”, “What roles could give you more of this?”, “What challenges do you enjoy at work?”

  • Encourage them that they can move towards the direction they want.

3. Educate them about career planning.

  • Expose them to books: What Colour is Your Parachute? is a career planning classic.

  • Point them to articles or websites. Just Google and many good resources will show up or refer to the resources on our website.

  • Encourage them to take a course in career planning

4. Break the big concept Career Planning into small bite size

  • Some people seem to know what they want to become at Day 1, but the reality is we change our aspirations along the way or our career emerge from the experiences we have. So assure them it’s ok if they don’t have all the answers. The questions are more important.

  • So don’t worry about the BIG question – what do you want to be in your life? Instead focus on:

    1. What excites you?

    2. What are your strengths?

    3. What you are curious about?

    4. What do you want to learn?

    5. What projects are interesting to you?

    6. What could be the few natural next steps?

    7. How can you leverage your strengths and experience?

This article was contributed by Wendy Tan, Keynote Speaker and Founder of Flame Centre.

Let us know your thoughts and experience | Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn.


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