Career Conversations

Hi friends,

This week I had my first career conversation with a senior leader from the business. I wanted to share with you…

  • What a career conversation is and why it benefits yourself and the leadership team.
  • What I did to prepare for the conversation to help me feel more confident and less nervous. 30 minutes is a really short time and I wanted to make an impact.

I created my talent profile, that I shared with the leader I was speaking with. This reminded me of all the good work I have done and that my hard work is the foundation to my success. Reviewing your experience, knowledge is a great wat to give you self-assurance, belief and credibility that you are great at what you do.

The call had no agenda, no one told me what to expect. I went away and did some homework. I read about career conversations & prepped myself further by using the VITAL method to have a better understanding of what I want.

What is a career conversation?

A career conversation is a discussion between a leader and his/her employee around the employee’s strengths, development areas and interests in the context of their current and future career performance and future career aspirations.

A leader’s role is to inspire employees to take charge of their careers and explore the many opportunities available to them. Leaders can empower employees to see themselves as their own ‘career owners’ and should encourage them to maximise their potential. 

Career conversations should be conducted as a separate meeting from a performance appraisal. While it is noted that these conversations complement each other, they are separate discussions to ensure clear purpose and to maintain specific goals. 

The goal of the performance review is to evaluate past performance. It is an opportunity to acknowledge an employee’s strengths and to identify opportunities for future performance improvement. On the other hand, the goal of a career conversation is to establish future growth and this conversation may be influenced by the identified opportunities for performance improvement.

A leader’s role is to guide and support the development of an employee by facilitating the career conversation. A leader needs to ensure that before the career conversation, the relevant career map of the employee is reviewed, a development assessment has been conducted and that he/she has set aside time for the career conversation. The leader should also review the individual development plan of the particular employee and use it as a proposed agenda for the career conversation.

During the conversation, a leader should ask his/her direct reports for their view of their strengths, development areas, interests and aspirations. A leader should also share their own view of an employee’s strengths and development areas along with the evidence to support these views. It is important that a leader asks questions to clarify development actions. Both the leader and employee should reach an agreement on an employee’s development actions for the year ahead and the role the leader can take in assisting the employee to reach certain objectives. Lastly, it is vital that the leader confirms his/her commitment to support the employee in the development process.

Following the career conversation, it is important that the leader hold his/her employee accountable for their own development plan by following up on planned actions in one on one conversations. A leader should provide feedback on an employee’s development and how it has impacted work performance. It is vital, that a leader is available for one on one conversations for any further development conversations that may be required and it is important that a record of the employee’s development plan is kept.

Career conversations can definitely play a significant role in an employee’s development. These conversations help employees identify a career path and assist with self-development. Whilst it is noted that a leader cannot be wholly responsible for an employee’s development, they play an important role in guiding an employee’s development and facilitating what is needed for an employee to achieve certain objectives. It is important to note, that the employee is their own ‘career owner’ and it is up to him/her to maximise their potential. However, a leader that has career conversations with their staff plays a significant role in ensuring that staff are able to realise their potential and better support the leader in achieving company objectives.

Written by Justin Fitzgerald, Registered Independent Psychometrist and Assessment Specialist

How I prepared?

In preparation for the conversation, I finished the Breath, Voice, Posture, Pace, Hands & Arms and Status modules on Lauren Currie’s WE ARE UPFRONT Course that would help me in the meeting. UPFRONT (

I controlled my breath and my nerves by doing a Focus Meditation on Headspace before the call. This kept me calm and grounded throughout, knowing that if I got nervous, I just needed to breath to centre myself.

Before the call, I set my laptop up to present a flattering angle of myself. This made me less self-conscious of myself, no double chins & no hands on face to hide it!

I positioned my chair, so I took up space on the screen and set my chair up so I had good posture. I was able to sit straight and hold my head high throughout.

I have been focussing on driving my sentences to the end and not saying filler words. Ummm. So yeah?! *sigh* What does that even mean? I have been practicing my pace with language exercises recommended by Lauren and this has helped me use breath between sentences to slow down.

Being sat down, meant my arms were naturally in my lap. But when I am up in front of people speaking, I do get self conscious about these two limbs I’ve always had and what they are doing. I naturally gesture using my hands and the balance felt right for a call and my gesturing supported when I made key points. Lauren told us that the most successful ted talks use more gestures. The least average Ted Talkers used an average 272 hand gestures compared to the most popular Ted Talkers used an average of 465. I avoided Jazz hands and went with open palms. I look forward to recording myself and counting.

I engaged with my inner Michelle Obama and gave my best happy higher status. I now know that I have the power and influence to give myself a high status with whoever I am in a room with.

I am really looking forward to reading ‘How to own a room: Women and the art of brilliant speaking’ by Viv Groskop

What is VITAL? Values, Impact, Track Record, Ambition, Learning.


What matters to you? What must you have to be fulfilled? Where do your values show? How do you live your company Values?


What difference have you made? What do your colleagues say about me? What are your limits? If no limits what could you do?

Track Record

What have you delivered? What have your successes been? Any Gaps? (Gaps are good, it shows what you learnt from mistakes). What has been stand out?


Where do you want to get to? Where are you to comfortable? What are you willing to risk? Is the time right for a change?

Learning ability

Can you demonstrate where you learn from experience? How quickly do you adapt and learn?

Have you created your talent profile and sent it yet? Are you taking the power and asking for a career conversation? Are you having these conversations with your employees?

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