How You Can Get the Career Support You Want

Michael Glazer is a Tokyo-based Senior Consultant whose client work spans 15 countries across four continents. Learn more about Michael here.

One of the most common complaints I hear from Gen-Y and millennial clients about career development is that they’re not getting the support they want. Reasons range widely, from busy bosses to remote work constraints or lack of a visible career path.

In this article, I outline ideas to help you get more of the career development support you want.

Put yourself in charge

This starts with the belief that we need to play an active role in managing our own careers. From vision, through to strategy and execution, we are our own Chief Career Officers. That’s because no one cares more about your career than you do. So, put yourself in charge by adopting a mindset that you need to seek out the career support you want – don’t just wait for it.

Clarify your goals and values

Goals are only helpful for you personally to the degree to which they represent something that matters to you. So, clarifying your values and what motivates you is essential. One of my favorite conversations on values is this one with Dr. Senka Holzer, who is the author of the book Be You: The Science of Becoming the Self You Were Born to Be.

When it comes to setting goals, I find it useful to set three types of goals:

  • Performance goals focus on doing a great job today. They’re usually concrete goals that are easily trackable and have short-term (less than a year) timelines. In many organizations, this includes the both the actual results themselves and how you deliver them.
  •  Development goals focus on applying existing capabilities in new ways, often with greater individual responsibility, or on building new capabilities that serve you and your team.
  • Career goals focus on the future roles, experiences and successes you want to achieve. Especially here, it pays to check that your career goals align with your core values. For example, if you say your goal is a promotion into your current manager’s role, take time to explore why that really matters to you.

One of the many reasons it’s important to have all three types of goals is because sharing them with others can make it easier for people to support or coach you. For example, a peer who’s coaching me knows I have a performance goal related to presentation skills and a development goal related to influencing up in the organization. It makes it easier for her to say something like, “Nice job delivering clear messages during the project team presentation today. Next time you present to the project sponsors, it could be helpful to speak more concisely and directly.”

Clarify what support you want

If you already know what support you want, three key questions that help you take action:

  • Who do I talk with? (Think beyond your direct manager and skip-level manager.)
  • What do I talk with them about? (Be clear about what you want from the conversation. Consider how will you prepare for it.)
  • What feedback will be most helpful? (Be prepared to receive the feedback well and act on it. Often, this is an indispensable factor for enlisting others’ support in your development.)

On the other hand, if you’re not sure what support would be most helpful for you, visualizing how satisfied you are with the support you are receiving today can help. Here’s how it works:

First, create a 2x2 grid and label one axis frequency and the other axis quality. The centerlines on both axes separates being satisfied from being dissatisfied. Next, as you think about the three categories of goals, plot each one in the quadrant that reflects your satisfaction for career support. As an example, it looks something like this:

Create an action plan

Referring to your matrix, use these three questions to reflect on the career support for each category:

  • From whom do I receive support today?
  • Who usually initiates it?
  • Who else might be an ally for me?

Finally, ask yourself two questions:

  • Which one of the three areas do I want to focus on now?
  • What steps could I take to be satisfied with both the quality and the frequency of support?

I hope you will give this a try. And if you do, please leave a comment to share your results. As a special offer, I will offer a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to the first five people who send me their completed matrix and answers to the final two questions above.