Your Company Should Do Annual Career Counseling

I believe that creating an “entrepreneur track” for employees will actually help a company retain employees longer because they are helping employees build skills necessary to go out on their own. Why leave a company that’s helping you develop your career happiness?

You can’t. Or at least not right away. That’s why companies should do annual career counseling. By giving an employee what they need, they will stick around longer.

It’s why so few people leave Google; the experience is just too good to give up. Many entrepreneurial personalities work at Google. They are smart, motivated, and talented enough to make it on their own, but they stay at Google for awhile because they are paid well and work with great people.

Your company should create an environment that will nourish a person’s needs, not deny them until they just get fed up with all the bureaucratic crap.

Starting a Career Counseling Program

Starting the career counseling program is the easy part. Just sit down with an employee and ask them questions about their future. Some of them will lie, but most of them will tell it like they feel it, so don’t be afraid to be specific.

Questions to ask them:

Company (manager): So, I thought it would be nice to have a chat about where you see yourself in a few years. What are your passions?

You (Me answering for you): Ah, I love to write, I love walking my dog, and computer graphic designing is a fun little hobby.

Company: Interesting…so if we gave you a project to design a marketing piece for us, would you be interested in giving it a try? We can’t pay you much. We can maybe pay you for 3 hours of work at your pay now, but if you could complete something in that time we’ll let you take off 3 hours early on a Friday.

You: Really?

Company: Yes.

Yes, I know this was a little too perfect of a scenario, but you get my point. It’s about learning what makes your employees tick.

Taking notes during this process is crucial. You don’t need to jot every little thing down, but the main points are a must. If you are serious about helping your employees reach their career goals then you have to be willing to give them opportunities that they are looking to tackle.

I guarantee you’ll improve retention rates. You’ll also see happier employees when you allow them to develop their skills and advance their career.

I don’t care how old you are; every employee loves someone who takes an interest in their passions. If you can give someone the opportunity to succeed, they’ll love you for it and repay the favor with hard work.

Why It Works

If a company actually listens to their employees’ ideas and implements them, then it’s a winning combination.

Imagine your first job as a teller, pizza boy, ice cream girl, paper route kid, or whatever it was…and imagine if your boss had brought you in to his office and asked you to talk about your future. Your mouth would probably drop open in surprise. You would have been so happy someone was listening.

People want others to listen to and use their ideas, so why not give them what they so desperately want?

By giving employees what they want you are fulfilling their emotional needs. An employee who feels emotionally fulfilled is less likely to leave a company. If they know their job is helping them build a career then they will feel like they’ve won the job lottery.

They’ll tell their friends and family about the good thing you are doing, which is free marketing. Hey, everyone loves free PR.

The funny thing is that this concept builds people’s strengths on both sides. The manager becomes a better leader because they understand their employees’ strengths and weaknesses. If the manager finds out one employee who wants to design while another wants to do copywriting, you can distribute the work in a way that makes both people happy. The employee also understands him/herself better because they are figuring out what work they are truly passionate about.


Objection 1: But if I help them discover skills that they love then they’re going to leave me faster.

Answer: They are going to build their career foundation while they are working for you. Why would they want to go anywhere else when your company offers them such great opportunities?

Objection 2: It seems like a lot more work.

Answer: A little more work, yes, but worth its weight in gold. You’ll have more productive employees who are willing to go the extra mile to make the business successful. In the long run, that means more money for your company’s bottom line.

Objection 3: My company would never go for it.

Unofficial answer: Do it anyway, but just informally. If you can just sit down and get to know your staff a little better you’ll be able to optimize everyone’s talents. You’ll look like a managing superstar once they see the results.

Bottom Line

Breaking it all down, it’s a situation that sparkles on both ends. I challenged myself to use the word sparkles and damn I made it look good!

You have a chance to make yourself and your staff more productive by bringing a personal touch that most businesses overlook.

When you become a friend to your employees and become someone who is looking to help build their career, you will notice the good Karma that you create. When and if the employee does leave, they will be more willing to help you find someone qualified to fill their spot and train them (letting you know the new person’s strengths and weaknesses). Who knows, the new person may even be a better fit.

Would you stay with a job longer if they helped build your career? How much longer would you stay? If they asked you to help outside of your typical work hours, would you feel more obligated to say yes because they helped get you on your feet?

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Image courtesy of lanuiop

13 thoughts on “Your Company Should Do Annual Career Counseling”

  1. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

    Good advice Karl. If more truth were told regarding career issues thousands of dollars could be saved in hiring and transition costs. Some companies fear this level of openness because they are being lead by small fearful minds. You’re workplace consulting can tell them the truth and for this they ought to pay you well.

  2. Hi Karl,

    This is excellent advice – and I’m taking it back to work with me to use this week!

    And Karl – you sparkled in your writing of this piece (hey, I worked that word into the comments too!!).

    Have a fantastic Sunday!!

  3. Karl, like Lance said, this is a great advice. I’ll try it soon.
    Maybe the challenge is to synchronize between what the employees want and what the company expects.
    Thanks for sharing, Karl.

  4. Karl, excellent advice! Companies are so locked into a paradigm of fear that they fail to realize that by allowing your employees to stretch and grow with your company you are in fact strengthening the bond. By offering stimulation and opportunities for employees to work outside of their normal area you are also contributing to keeping their brains young, which in turn has a direct positive impact on their job.

  5. Hi Lance, great. If they love the idea let me know. If not then tell them that it was someone else’s idea. 😉

    Hi Arswino, finding that middle ground to help the company and employees is a great way to make both sides happy.

    Hi Tom, excellent point. Fear runs rampant throughout a lot of companies. When they can let go of this negative mindset everyone can thrive.

    Hi Karen, stimulation and opportunities are also helpful for the mind and body – never really looked at career counseling at work that way. I could see where it would keep their minds young. It’s a win-win on many levels.

  6. Hi Karl: I’ve read that there’s a similar culture at Microsoft: people there feel like they´re changing the world so they don’t want to leave. I think you´re absolutely right that if you show employees that you care about them and are interested in their future they´re more likely to develop loyalty toward your company, do a better job, say good things about the company to their friends and family, and even be less likely to leave.

  7. Hi Karl – Yes, that’s the key – having the company listen to their employees. Too often the executives get caught up in their egos and forget it’s those who are below them that will make they shine, or can ruin their career.

    If everyone who had employees REALLY listened, turnover would go down and productivity would definitely go up. How sweet would that be?

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  9. Around my way this is called “Talent Development” and it’s exactly what my husband does. Helps with succession planning, promoting from within, etc. Sometimes it exposes people in a not so happy way, but for the most part people do appreciate the coaching – it helps them improve skills and attitude. I absolutely agree with you!

  10. Great post, Karl!

    More employers could opportunities for internal job shadowing or “cross-training” in different departments. This would give people a better idea of how the organization works, and the skills they need to move around.

    My previous company offered me the opportunity to work in a different department for three weeks, replacing someone who was on leave. It was a role I had always been curious about, so I got a chance to learn a lot and see the organization from a different angle. Very motivating, overall.

  11. I agree. I had a boss who helped me incredibly with this. Even though he wasn’t officially a career counselor, he was very helpful in helping me find the right direction. Where I think some managers go wrong, is that they try to direct the conversation too much… trying to focus the employees effort in the direction that helps the company, and not the employee.

  12. Yes! Another way to achieve this – taking an interest in their passions and emotional needs – is to offer sabbaticals, which provide a long enough chunk of time to pursue something of significance, whehther tied to their career or a personal goal. Employees who experience sabbaticals return more productive and committed. And, interestingly, sabbaticals provide career development opportunities for those “left behind” who are doing the work coverage – they get a chance to develop new skills and try out new roles. Thanks for all your great content, Karl.

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