Managing a Career Lifecycle

Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis of The Squiggly Career fame, have summarised and written about the concept of the Career Lifecycle, and I feel that this is completely useful for managers to use when supporting their teams.

Just as with a product lifecycle, your people go through phases in their career with you. People are moving through this lifecycle at a faster pace these days, moving on from job to job increasingly quickly. Being aware of this concept and actively bringing it into your management will ensure that you know where  your people are and can help them to move around it in a way that suits them, and maybe you too.

Here are the phases and what you can do at each stage as a manager:

Phase 1: Job introduction

Clearly this is a time for maximum learning and support for your new team member. A systematic approach to the first 30, 60 and 90 days will mean that you know what a person is learning and that they should theoretically be hitting the fundamental goals. Be specific about this – be clear about the goals for this period and review this. A good introduction to a role will stick in the memory. And be clear about who you’d like the person to meet and develop relationships with – relationships are key to effectiveness and settling in so point this out to your team member.

Phase 2: Personal growth

Months 3-12 will see the time when your new person is still learning but they will be expected to achieve. They will be seeking to make an impact yet will still be experiencing things for the first time and need support. Meet regularly, at months 3, 6 and 9, extraneously to formalised meetings initiated by HR processes. Recognise that this is still a time for learning and support this. Develop feedback loops for the person with other people so that they can build a picture of their performance from different perspectives – identify 2,3, 4 other people from senior leaders, admin support, peers, customers, suppliers that can offer feedback which will fast-track their development. Support that to happen by seeking it and facilitating it if needs be. And make it known about where you see their strengths and where they are adding value.

Phase 3: Job maturity

Years 1-2 will be a time of foundational knowledge – they should be able to do the job well and feel settled. Start job crafting with your team member so that the role stimulates them and their growth and maximises the value they can bring to the team. Build on their strengths by steering their work in specific directions – if you manage several people doing the same job, don’t give them all the same thing to do – identify strengths and manage work towards that. Find projects, one-off presentations or research, conversations or shadowing that will be of interest. Or offer job coaching or mentoring which will focus the mind on development. All of this can motivate and engage at a time when excitement about a role might start to wane.

Phase 4: Job decline

After 2 years, it can happen to any of us – the job, the team around us, the commute, anything might have started to take the joy out of our role. Decline is gradual though so there will be early warning signs. As a manager, look out for them and don’t ignore them or blame the person for feeling the way they do. Be overt about the fact that this can happen and ask about it. Talk about any potential for internal progression and opportunity. Encourage your person to meet with others around the business to chat, see what else is out there and stimulate their thoughts. Encourage their development – don’t be tempted to block it out of revenge! People inevitably move forward so consider if you can help them move forward within your business, and if not, inspire them and support them to move on as well as forward. They’ll thank you for it.

Careers can easily be seen to be the responsibility of the person concerned. But managers can have such a positive impact on a person’s career and therefore on their life and happiness. Who doesn’t want to be known as that manager? And without doubt, a team managed in this way will be engaged and motivated and will work hard, and that has got to be a win-win.

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