Career conversations – less ladder, more lattice

“If we are to embrace and thrive in this rapidly evolving landscape we need to be re-thinking how we approach careers in organisations.”

“Brilliant, timely, original, well written and utterly terrifying.” Niall Ferguson. Those were the words I was drawn to on the front cover of Gratton and Scott’s latest book “The 100 Year Life”.

If you haven’t read it, grab a copy. It provides an engaging and thought-provoking analysis of how our working lives are changing, not 10 years ahead, now, in 2017. Many of us have been brought up understanding the traditional three-stage approach of education, work, retire. But as the authors brilliantly highlight, this well-established model is being shattered. Life expectancy is rising, final- salary pensions are vanishing, and the jobs my children are likely to end up doing probably don’t yet exist.

“The key difference that has impacted on how my relationship has evolved with KPMG, has been a consequence of the conversations I have had during the different stages in my career.”

If we are to embrace and thrive in this rapidly evolving landscape we need to be re-thinking how we approach careers in organisations – not just in terms of career models, and continuous learning – but how we have career conversations. We are already living in an era of multiple careers where, more than ever before, people are likely to engage with the workplace in new and creatives ways.

In 2001, as a Manager joining KPMG, I didn’t ever imagine I would have a 17-year relationship with the firm. Due to evolving circumstances and changes in my own career drivers, the relationship ebbed and flowed to encompass diverse arrangements; full time employment, three rounds of maternity leave, a dual relationship of two days employment alongside setting up my own business, and eight years’ with the firm being a client of The Conversation Space.

When I talk about ‘the firm’, I am mindful that I don’t mean a mass ‘organisation’ or ‘system’. The key difference that has impacted on how my relationship has evolved with KPMG, has been a consequence of the conversations I have had during the different stages in my career.

By Sara Hope
03.07.2018

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Career conversations can often be complex and messy. The rational desire for structure and certainty often becomes intertwined with dialogue around passion, fulfillment, meaning, and purpose. The skill to navigate this complexity is becoming ever more important with the impact of longevity on our sense of self.

As a performance manager, having the confidence to let go of being ‘expert’ in understanding career paths, and maintain curiosity requires confidence and often feels risky. As an individual, exploring questions such as ‘do you want to be a high earner all your life, how much risk are you prepared to take, or what sort of work will be meaningful to you,’ requires deeper thinking, reflection and a degree of self-awareness.

Holding impactful and insightful career conversations requires skill, empathy, and an ability to connect at a human level. Being able to navigate and help others to fully engage in carving a successful career takes a willingness to be creative and work with the heart and the head.

“The skill to navigate this complexity is becoming ever more important with the impact of longevity on our sense of self.”

Reading “The 100 Year Life” has challenged my own relationship with what ‘career’ means to me. As I now embark on supporting my son find work experience, I appreciate the vulnerability that comes with ‘letting go of certainty’ and engaging in conversations in a different way – with a degree of openness, sensitivity and support.

I am also reminded that it takes practice and, when done well, can be one of the most rewarding and impactful conversations we can have.

Get in touch to find out how we supported EY and Swarovski to strengthen their internal conversational skills so as to increase employee retention and reduce employee attrition.