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How to guide an employee who is figuring out their career goals

Having an employee unsure of their career goals can be difficult to know how to approach. Here’s our best tips to help them out!

Man teaching younger assistant representing reverse mentorship

You are a successful business owner or you hold a prominent high position in your company. All your workers are doing what they need to, save a few who might not be as enthusiastic about the job as others. Everything is going great, what does it matter if your employees might not be hitting their own career goals?

Well, it matters a whole heck of a lot. People stuck in a job they don’t love face burnout very quickly, which can affect your company. So why not help them out a bit – after all, the best leaders want to see their employees grow professionally.

What happens when your employee doesn’t even know what their career goals are though? According to the Harvard Business Review, there is actually quite a bit you can do to assist them rather than watching them wilt. No one wants that.

One, help them to analyze patterns. It doesn’t necessarily need to be about their passions outside of the workplace, so you don’t have to get too personal if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Instead, ask them about their preferences and what they like most about their current position, or maybe even “If you could change one thing about what you do now what would it be?” You may find your employee feels more comfortable working around computers or tinkering with the systems to make them more effective. That would lend greatly to a career in IT.

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HBR also suggests helping your employee expand their worldview. We have established our employee has an interest in IT. Now we can see it can flourish and help them to see the vast amount of possibilities with their interest. For instance, your IT team is setting up a new computer for a new employee starting next week. You can request the IT team let your employee watch them set it up. Or maybe someone’s computer on your team isn’t functioning – you can allow your employee to help with basic troubleshooting before getting IT involved. It won’t be taking them out of their job role and setting them up with training per se, but it can help them see the opportunity. They would most likely be thankful for the chance provided.

Lastly, they suggest not to steer too hard. I used to be a mentor for new hires in a call center and I would get so wrapped up in their success. If they failed it would feel like my fault. But in reality, you can only do so much as a mentor – your employee has to want to grow as well.

So provide them with the help where you can but allow them to take the bigger leaps. Also just because it started with an interest in IT doesn’t mean it will end there. They could find they have more interest in computer designing than IT support specifically, but at least you’ve helped them on the path to their own success. One day they may head your IT team because of the assistance you gave them. They may not even leave the company and instead opt to grow within it because they know the company and you care about their future.

People want to stay when they feel like a company had invested its time into helping them to better themselves.

When we are young we are often asked what we want to be when we grow up. Some say a doctor or a superstar. I remember when I was little everyone wanted to be an astronaut. Some people reach those goals they had when they were little but most of us realized that wasn’t what we wanted to do after all, or maybe they found out it wasn’t something we were able to do. Oftentimes, we aren’t in the job roles we so enthusiastically wanted as children.

And that can even go for a high-powered business owner. If you can help your employees, PLEASE DO! If they move on to bigger and better things, know that you had a helping hand in potentially changing someone’s life. I always remember the mentors, though not long-lived, I had. Their words really do stick with me and I am a better professional for it. At the end of the day, we are all just people and it doesn’t hurt to lend a helping hand when you see someone struggling or confused about their career goals. It is good karma after all.

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A native New Englander who migrated to Austin on a whim, Stephanie Dominique is a freelance copywriter, novelist, and certificate enthusiast. When she's not getting howled at by two dachshunds or inhaling enough sugar to put a giant into shock, she is reading, cooking or writing about her passions.

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