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 (weareupfront.com)

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.

Values

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

Impact

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?

Ambition

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?

Returning to work, from Parental Leave

Hi Friends,

I returned from Parent Leave almost a year ago. I went back full time at the beginning of the pandemic, completely unprepared and I struggled to be a good parent, partner and employee.

After a terrible 3 months, working full time with a baby on my lap, delivering critical technology infrastructure to the NHS to enable them to provide new services required from Covid 19. I took a week’s holiday and reflected what I needed moving forward.

I planned with my manager to reduce my hours (less than part time), using all my annual leave and brought more. The financial impact of going part time was huge and I used every saving, stock and share I had to be able to do this. A luxury most people don’t have but something I have worked hard to put in place if I ever needed it. Plus I have benefited from the bonus of outgoings being low from the pandemic and staying at home.

This then gave me the ability to tread water and ease myself back in slowly. Taking time to reflect and use my new identity as a Parent to be better. The return to work was bumpy and the identity change of being a working parent was harder than I imagined, or anyone had warned me. Throwing myself back in at my past pace on day 1, in a Pandemic with no childcare was STUPID and I only have my ego to blame.

I really struggled with my new identity. My bold ambition that has been a key driver in my being is still there. But now I have a counterbalance of the want to stay at home with this amazing human and giving her and our family the best.

When I brought up my return to work, people said… ‘You will not get this time back. Enjoy it’! Which I get and I feel it and I want it. I am not in a position to be able to not work. My income supports my family. Also, if I take a back seat, what will happen to my career that I have built and my ambition to be where I want to be, to deliver substantial change for a better future for the world. In the news everywhere is Women being forced out of work due to Pandemic. Women’s pension and saving affected by career breaks.

There is no such thing as balance. Only trying to do the best, in your situation. In April, I go back 4 days a week and try like so many women have and will do, to get the balance right.

What I learnt from my return to work…

  • Don’t do settling in at childcare the same week you return to work. Your child needs to adjust and so do you. Some children love it and will not look back. Some, will take weeks to adjust. 8 in our case, when the lockdown ended and she got a place. It can come out in their behaviour and sleep. Long hard night’s are hard enough without trying to manage your return to work.
  • Go to bed early, don’t make any plans. Give yourself the time to focus on the return to work and the adjustment it has to your life and your family.
  • Organise your home life to make it easier, food shop delivered, easy meal plans, frozen meals.
  • Communicate with your partner, friends and family. Let them know you will need support. Whether that’s your friends texting ‘YOU GOT THIS’ and not asking for lengthy debriefs, your partner or support network cooking meals and doing childcare pick ups.
  • Enable others to give you support, by telling them what you need.
  • Agree to come back gradually, build up to your working week.

Things to do, to make it easier…

  • Tackle your inbox first. Write down everything you do not understand, new processes and anything you have a question on.
  • Attend team meetings, in listening mode and ask your manager to not put you on the spot. If they do and you don’t know what to say, ask to be last in a group setting or say you will get back to them.
  • Ask for a return to work buddy, another parent that has been on parental leave and can support you in your transition.
  • Ask your managers if any training courses have happened whilst you have been off. Can you attend these? Are there any recordings of training sessions carried out that you can re-watch?
  • Ask your manager to nominate someone or go through every process that you need to do in your job to make sure it is fresh in your mind and nothing has changed.
  • Take notes! Record sessions! You will be adjusting, learning and in a flux of change. You will not remember everything. You will not need to use everything in the next 3 months either.
  • Schedule in 1:1 with your manager every week for the first three months. This will give you the opportunity to be open and for them to learn from your experience to improve the return to work for others.
  • Review your list made from your inbox review and what gaps you have in knowledge with your manager.
  • Reflect what it is that didn’t work previously and isn’t going to work in your return to work with parental responsibilities. What change are solutions need to be put in place? Discuss this with your manager.
  • Schedule time in your diary to reflect on your week and discuss these reflections with your manager in 1:1. What has been going on this week home and work? What did you prioritise? What did you learn? How will you move forward with what you learnt?
  • If you do not have a manager that you feel you can do this with? Use your buddy or find someone that can support your return to work.
  • If peer’s have been promoted whilst you have been off. Don’t push yourself hard to be where they are, as quick as possible. View your first 6months to year as a treading water role. Learn about yourself as a working parent and what you want for your future.
  • You have not lost anything by going on parent leave, you have nothing to prove to anyone. You are on your own path.
  • You have been doing the most important job in the world. You have learnt things about yourself, gained new skills and once you are up to speed and managing the balance… you will be better than you were ever before.

Is there anything else, that you learnt or did that could help someone? Do you have a return to work buddy system? If not, why don’t you volunteer to set one up?

Professional Boundaries

Hi friends👋

I have reached out to my team today to discuss boundaries at work and wanted to share what you should consider setting and putting in place.

You do not have to be the team lead, anyone in the team can make these suggestions.

  • Block out at least 30 minutes each day for lunch away from your laptop and phone – Discuss with your project team, where you do not contact each other. I have 12:00 to 13:00. If you do not have a clear period, please change your meetings to fit this in. I recommend getting out for a walk, a change of scene. Please let your managers know, so that we do not contact you.
  • Block out a set time during the week to complete regular / admin tasks and Training and Development – block out some time per week rather than it falling outside core hours due to meetings.  The work ratio set is 80% of your timesheet on project work. For full time workers, I suggest 2 hours in your diary a week for admin and 2 hours for Personal Development. I do this on a Friday due to being part time but I think it is more effective on a Monday morning and it will set you up for the week.
  • Don’t book meetings after 4pm on a Friday – block out the time for yourself
  • Try to schedule in breaks between calls (e.g. reduce calls to 45-50 mins if necessary) in order to be able to walk about and stretch every so often. 
  • Early and late meetings creeping in, so push back on these where you can and don’t book calls that are scheduled after 5pm.
  • Internal meeting minutes. Press the record button and document the agenda, making it clear what was discussed when looking back for what you need to listen to.
  • If you have a meeting that does not need you to be in front of a screen. Put your headphones in and get out from in front of your desk.
  • Practice 5 minutes of mindfulness at the start of each day. I use Headspace, in addition to headspace a number of other mindfulness/mediation apps are available to help people 10% happier, Calm, insight timer and deep meditate (I understand that deep meditate is currently free for the duration of the pandemic via google play).Also Netflix now have headspace on its programmes – worth a look.
  • Work, your working hours. If you or anyone in your project team are week on week, going over. Talk to your manager so that you can discuss how to get you back to your contracted hours.
  • Say No. If you are asked to carry out something and you know you can’t complete it. If you do not feel comfortable saying No. Review your workload with the person and ask them to suggest what it is that can be dropped to fit this in and if they can approve this.
  • Review your workload and see if you can delegate any responsibility.
  • Book Annual Leave. With no-where to go, try and take at least 1 day off a month to not work. When you are on leave, make sure to take a break from work: let your wider team know you are on leave and nominate a DoA. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. Try a new online class? 
  • If you are done with the day. Take the day off! Communicate it, cancel calls and prioritise yourself.

The commitment I made to my team…

  • I will try not to set unreasonable deadlines 
  • I will try to be aware of overall workloads
  • I will be here to support you – just reach out

I asked my team to share with there delivery teams. It is so important that we look out for each other. We will only deliver successfully if we are focussed and working at full capacity. This can not happen if we are overworked.

You can have wellbeing policies and initiatives. But how do you change the mindset when we are socially conditioned that we must work hard and long hours to be successful and achieve.

I believe setting personal boundaries for yourself and your team is the place to start.

What are you doing to protect yourself and your team members? Anything that can be added?

Development Goals

Hi friends👋

I have been looking into what makes a good leader and thinking of leaders that are my role models and what I like about their leadership.

I reflected on what it is that I need to be a leader and what development I need to get there.

My development goals are…

Develop communication & leadership style further

Big picture & strategic thinking

Strategic decision making

Transformational leadership

Delivering vision and strategy

Organizational design

Management processes

Strategic issue management

Strategy and business development

Turning around failing areas of business

Understanding of growth metrics

Financial proficiency

Initiative and idea development

Media and public relations experience

I am meeting with a senior leader next week to discuss my career and really looking forward to it.

I look forward to sharing how I will be ticking some of the list off with the company I work for. But also how I am going to do this myself and take my future in my hands.

Let me know what you think 🤔 Anything I should add?

Talent Profile

Hi friends 👋 ⁣

I am creating my #talentprofile today (whilst the baby naps) to share with senior leaders in my business.⁣

Why am I doing this? ⁣
I’ve worked hard for 8 years, working above my role description and with only one promotion and no pay rise.⁣

How to write a talent profile…⁣

👩🏼‍🎤 Include a picture of yourself⁣
⚡️List your current and previous roles in and outside of your current company⁣
⚡️List any groups you are a member of at work and outside, volunteering, social justice and Activism⁣
⚡️ Describe the impact and improvements you have made⁣
💥Tell them your Career Goals (GO BIG)⁣
💥Tell them your Development Goals and why they are worth investing in 💰 ⁣

Who to send it to… your boss’s, boss’s, boss. You can cc the other boss’s 😉⁣

Let me know how you get on?

Why ‘In the Open’?

My name is Evelina. I am 35, living in London with my partner and daughter.⁣

I am a Project and Programme Manager by trade and lead teams to improve lives in health, social care, education, public sector through tech and innovation.⁣

Our journey to be a family was an exhausting 7 years, 5 rounds of IVF and one very long 9 months consumed with peri-natal anxiety. Outwardly displaying resilience. Internally… distrustful, doubting and withdrawn.⁣

I volunteered to return from maternity leave early to deliver urgent projects in response to the Covid 19 Pandemic to NHS Trusts. Working from home full time, with an 8 month old on my boob.⁣

I experienced some of the worse misogyny of my whole career in the most vulnerable time of my life.⁣

As a result, I took an extended leave and went part time. My confidence shattered and struggling with the identity shift as a working parent and a lot poorer.⁣

A friend shared @laurencurrie on Instagram and the worlds alligned. I signed up to her life transforming course #weareupfront and am in Bond 3 with so many inspiring women. Unlearning behaviours I need to leave behind and pushing me to be the best version of myself and identifying who I want to be in this world.⁣

This is my journey of working in the open. Sharing my story and inspiring you to share your story celebrating your achievements

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