Imagine you have a ‘traditional’ notion of a career, you are ambitious and see yourself as someone with potential to be a future leader. You joined the business because you see it as fast paced, dynamic and successful. Two years in, you haven’t had the opportunity to progress, though you have completed a number of different projects for your manager.

Your manager hasn’t once asked about your future aspirations, or helped you plan for them, even though you have performed well and to the best of your ability. You’ve tried raising the subject but got nowhere and feel extremely frustrated and demoralised. How could a business not understand or attempt to meet your career aspirations?

Sadly this scenario is all too common in organisations because managers do not sit down and have constructive career conversations with their staff.

But, what is the notion of a career? What does it mean? There are a range of definitions. Arthur Et Al (2005) defines the notion of a career as either objective or subjective. Objective careers are experienced by symbol statuses  and situations that rank an individual’s progress through society. Whereas a subjective career is different. Subjective careers reflect an individual’s own sense of development. It describes a person’s internal apprehensions and evaluations of their own career in dimensions that are important to them.

Clearly, conflicts can arise when a manager and/or the organisation’s view of a career is traditional/objective and their team member’s view is subjective and vice versa. This can lead to frustrated and demotivated employees or in extreme cases, skilled and valuable staff leaving.

So ideally what needs to happen? What do managers need to do to avoid/resolve this potential conflict?

Managers need to regularly have career conversations with their staff to understand their views on their career, their skills, motivations and aspirations. Having regular open and honest ‘career conversations’ will enable both managers and staff to understand each other better and be clear about how both the organisation’s and individual’s career expectations can be managed and hopefully fulfilled.