Having a "career path" is obsolete (and other ideas I want to chat with you about!)
Some ideas are worth sharing in their incubation phase. Let's have a discussion about fresh ways to approach professional development.
Your time and attention are precious. So before I share my ideas with you, I make a point of floating them with a handful of people I trust and admire for perspective.
It’s occurred to me that you might enjoy being included in the idea riffing from time to time! So today, I’m inviting you into my thinking while the views are still incubating, to have a dialogue with me that shapes these ideas into their fully fleshed-out form. I’m curious what your thoughts, opinions, and personal experiences are around these professional development-related topics.
So let’s dig in, shall we?
Idea #1 - Performance reviews need a serious overhaul.
I don’t know any manager who enjoys writing or giving them.
They usually involve a very sterile and uninspired form that nobody wants to fill out, let alone use as a tool for reflection.
I can’t remember a performance review that accomplished anything besides give me an idea of what salary adjustment to expect.
I believe that if you’re managing someone the right way (aka setting clear expectations etc.), a performance review wouldn’t include any “news” or surprises.
If we’re going to do performance reviews at all, this shouldn’t be the way that they’re done.
So, how do we make them better, make them meaningful?
Idea #2 - Companies should give employees a ticket to a personal development conference of their choice.
I recently announced to my team that each of them could request time off and attend a conference, all expenses paid. The choice of the conference is theirs, though I suggested they pick one that’d get them thinking, help them in their career, or introduce them to other experts in their field.
I’m not talking about helping my team get job-related skills from a training program or certification. I’m talking about going to a full-on conference. I only started getting to go to conferences when I moved into more executive roles, and I wish I’d gone to some earlier. The relationships, ideas, and inspiration I’d have received would have paid the company back tenfold.
My team was pretty excited by the idea and also slightly overwhelmed by the options. I’m interested to see what they decide.
Who of you feels as I do about the value of conferences? Do any of you give or receive expense-paid attendance as a benefit?
Idea #3 - In the 21st-century, we should reframe "career path" as “Choose your adventure.”
I’ve been speaking with a group of brilliant young women lately. Each one of them has talked to me about their career path—how frustrated they are with the lack of guidance and how afraid they are to make the wrong decision. They feel let down by their managers.
As I respond, I've been reframing the notion of “career path” for them, replacing it with "choose your adventure." These women are no longer bound by academic advisors who guide them down the complex paths of class choice—or managers who act as an extension of that—and this is a good thing. They have agency over their futures!
Having agency doesn’t free us of our fear of making mistakes. It’s scary to have agency; I get it. I’ve been in the working world for decades, and I still have to talk myself off the ledge. But by defining my ledge and deciding where and when to jump, I’ve always produced the most exciting results.
So how do you feel about joining me in eliminating the concept of “career path” from your vernacular? What alternative concept feels right to you?
I am eagerly awaiting your input on these ideas. Drop me a line! We’re going to have a fun discussion.
P.S. I loved “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid, though I must confess that I was one of those terrible people who jumped to the endings so I could figure out the most efficient and prosperous path. I’m annoyed in life that I can’t do the same.