If you're a boss, you should also be a careers coach

Posted by Laura Brammar on 15-Mar-2016 11:00:00
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What do you expect from your own boss?  To let you know how you’re getting on in your job? To answer any questions you have about your work load?  How about to develop your long term career beyond your current managerial role?

The Careers Group, University of London recently conducted some research into the career development expectation of recent graduate recruits, in this case trainee lawyers, which shed light onto the expectations that staff have of their managers and bosses, in relation to future career development.

What’s expected of you as a boss?

It is clear from this research that many graduate recruits within organisations have specific expectations of their line manager in terms of their on-going career development.

One interesting statistic is that 93% expect their line manager to make sure that they have the training they need for their career. Indeed line managers were identified by 97% of respondents as being the most important source of informal career development support.

It’s clear that for many staff their line manager has a responsibility to support their longer term career development

What does this mean? It’s clear that for many staff their line manager has a responsibility to support their longer term career development, far beyond the boundaries of the day job performance, although provision of clear feedback on job performance was identified as the most common expectation of line managers. It’s also about helping that individual to successfully navigate their career going forward.

It seems that many recruits now look to their line managers as a key player in helping them to grow and shape their long term career.  One of the ways they would expect their boss to do that is being introduced to people who could help them with their career.

  Download Career Development Expectations  of Early Career Lawyers survey

Feeling confident? Or not?

So the question is as managers feel prepared for this responsibility?  Are we sufficiently skilled in addressing these longer term career considerations?

Here are a few questions to help you reflect on your own skills in this area:

  • How might you structure a ‘careers chat’ with your employee?
  • What would your anxieties be about providing careers support to your employees?
  • What skills or experience do you have which you feel might be useful to you in a career discussion with an employee?
  • Who else within your organisation could help you with this?
  • How might such career discussions with your direct reports help your own career development?


At The Careers Group Consultancy, we work with organisations to help build the career development skills within their teams. This can be a case of reframing the existing appraisal system to be more reflective. Alternatively it can be about offering bespoke training to line managers on how to ask the right sort of questions and crucially, listen in the right way to help develop their staff’s career confidence. 


Is this really my problem?

But hang on a minute. Sure it would be nice to help someone to improve their career management skills in the long term, but is that really the responsibility of you as a line manager? Surely, at the end of the day, you responsibility is to manage the workload and deliver on tasks. Anything beyond that is an unlikely bonus?

It’s easy to have some sympathy with this perspective. Besides, many managers are already rushed off their feet by their job’s immediate demands, with little time or energy left for longitudinal development work such as this.

Nevertheless, consider the risks of not addressing this expectation. It may well be that the employees who are most actively seeking such career development support are also your best performers. Do you really want your top talent to feel disappointed in their career development expectations and look elsewhere, such as within your competitors, for that level of line manager interaction?

Indeed, it’s not only the employees who can benefit from this level of exchange. Learning the essential skills of career management coaching can also be an enriching experience for the line manager themselves, as they develop their interpersonal and people management skills.

So by helping your staff to develop their long term careers, you as the manager, not to mention the organisation as a whole, can also feel the sustainable benefit. If that’s not a smart investment, what is?

Find out more about The Careers Group Consultancy, and how we can help your organisation by visiting our website.

Topics: career choice, Consultancy, leadership, Research

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