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Remarkable Managers Leverage Touch Points for Quick Career Conversations
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

“Time is the scarcest resource of the manager; If it is not managed, nothing else can be managed.”
—Peter F. Drucker

Good managers and remarkable employees seize the moment and take advantage of frequent touch points to have career conversations.Introduction
Two employees are in the lunchroom comparing one another’s manager. “My manager is great,” the first employee boasts. “He comes over to my desk to talk with me once a week and spends a lot of time with me. Does yours?” The second employee responds, “My manager doesn’t have much time, but she talks to me whenever she sees me in the hall, after a meeting, or on the floor.” The first one asks, “Yes, but does your manager give you feedback on your performance? Does she help you with your job like mine?” The second employee considers the question for a moment and then responds. “Yes, she talks to me about my performance and how day-to-day work relates to my aspirations and career goals.”

These days, managers are under pressure and on the run. They often seem to be like firemen responding to emergencies, cooling down hot spots, rescuing sales or resuscitating projects. They have little time to focus on career conversations although they’re almost always engaged in some kind of conversations, such as, one-on-one, project meetings, Go-to-Meetings, debriefings, preparation or planning discussions, team and strategy meetings, etc. Are you embracing these moments as precious opportunities to open up quick career development conversations? Why not use these moments as touch points to spark and develop your career or the careers of your people? Don’t wait for bi-annual or annual career discussions to pick up the pace on your career or the careers of people you manage. Good managers and remarkable employees seize the moment and take advantage of frequent touch points to have career conversations.

Touch Points
Most career decisions and opportunities show up in conversations – sometimes with managers and other times with colleagues, customers, leaders or friends. Some are scheduled events, but most are unplanned, serendipitous incidents. The more you can capitalize on the day-to-day events in your life as “touch points” for your career and careers of others, the more opportunities you’ll find. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Jack Welch, the legendary figure at General Electric said that he always encouraged employees to raise their hands, to be seen, to make a statement, or ask a question about their career choices.” He advised, “If GE isn't the place where you feel you’re making progress, go somewhere else. People never should allow themselves to become victims in an institution. If they do, they are in the wrong job, or they have plateaued or they don't want to rock the boat.” He believed people need to seize daily opportunities to have a successful career.

Touch points are those daily work situations that impact facets of your career development. Always try to leverage chance encounters. For example, one day a retail sales clerk, who was working for a national auto parts company in a job she described as “a dead-end job,” stopped to help a customer with a stalled car in the parking lot. She found herself staring at the company’s national sales director, who was looking under the hood of his car. He knew more about cars, but she wanted to talk to someone about her career and her manager was always too busy to meet with her. She grabbed the opportunity. “I knew it was a long shot, but I got out of my car helped him get started. Then we talked about my career dreams. The fifteen-minute career conversation I had that day brought me into a world of new career opportunities that lasted for the next fifteen years.”

Carpa Diem
Great managers and remarkable employees seize the moment to plug into touch points. Stop a moment and think about what’s going on at work, with your job or with your reports. Examine what’s happening and look for touch points. Are you beginning or completing a project? Preparing for important meetings? Changing organizational strategies because of new leadership? Reducing resources, downsizing or flattening the organization? Find yourself in a new software environment, etc.? These are some great touch points for exploring career development.

Examples of Touch Points and Possible Conversations
The chart below demonstrates a number of examples of quick touch points for discussion. Block “A” highlights an important career question to explore taking charge of a career.. Block “B” lists possible touch points for career conversations, whether the beginning or end of a new project, meetings, diverse organizational changes or work environment changes. Block “C” contains examples of topics for discussion, such as individual strengths, leadership and learning opportunities, branding and reputation, new skills and knowledge, decisions to align aspirations, and avenues to acquire learning skills. Lastly, Block “D” describes some of the results you may anticipate from these touch point conversations.

To get started, choose an event that best fits your current situation in Block”B” and then focus on the subject for discussion in Block “C.”

Career Questions

The When
Touch Points
The What
The Possible
Outcomes Results
Person – How Am I Unique?

Appreciate individual uniqueness
- Strengths
- Development
- Values
- Interests
- Passion
- Style
Beginning of a New Project -

End of a Project
Your strengths and why you are on this project

Development Areas – what you want or could learn on the project; working with people outside of your organization; a possible mentor is also on the team – what could you learn from him or her? Demonstrate
Leadership capability

Get and give
feed-back on contribution.

Assess goal achievement.

Brainstorm next projects for on-going career development.

Person knows the strengths that they are counted on for the project.

Find a mentor
Have more advocates who know you strengths.

Quality feedback

Publicize accomplishments and contributions.

Identify other areas for contribution and other projects to join or lead.
Performance – What Are My Capabilities?

Assess capabilities:
- Team Performance
- Network
- Reputation
- Individual Performance


Project Meetings


How do you come
across to others?

Quality of your ideas?

Major contributions – team & individual

How might you be
more effective
Widen your reputation to people outside of your functional area.

Increase knowledge.

Build stronger or wider network.

Showcase your strengths.

Get real-time feedback.

Place – How Is the World of Work Changing?

Anticipate the future & trends in industry, organization, profession or job.
Changing Organizational Strategies because of a new leader How the change will affect your current job or your future job options

New skills that might be required – innovative leader; authoritarian leader or more of one project and less of others
Expand knowledge or skills in a new strategic direction.

Challenge your values.

Understand implications of a different work environment where you’ll be evaluated on different metrics.

Possibilities – What Are My Options?

Long and short term goals

Career Options
Limited resources to achieve goals – making organizations flatter & flatter – outsourcing & downsizing
To stay or leave – If you stay, you’ll need to build your network and have greater access to resources there.

Honest discussion about whether YOUR JOB will be outsourced and what else you could do
See another job opportunity and start preparing for it.

Change your profession to one that will be needed in the future.

Start looking at another job or functional area that’s more directly related to the mission & strategies.

Plan – How Can I Accelerate My Learning? New software environment

Changing work environment – new processes or systems

Discuss finding a mentor that can help you learn more quickly.

Discuss on-line learning or tutorials.

Discuss people in the organization who can coach you.

Set learning goals and activities to master the new software.

Decide weekly check-in schedule Schedule time to take the tutorial or set up coaching.


Let’s assume that your most current career problem stems from your organization’s limited resources to help you achieve your goals (Block B). You need to have a touch point career conversation to align your aspirations with your current organization’s strategies (Blocks A and C) and look at some of the examples of the possible outcomes of those touch points in Block D.

Good managers take advantage of touch points to have quick career conversations. Whether you’re an employee or a manager, stay alert to these opportunities to hone your career., The “When do I have a touch point,” the “What should I talk about” and the “Possible results of touch points” vary in as many ways as people, places and events are different. This article examines a number of examples of quick touch point suggestions presented in the form of a simplified chart of examples. Seize the moment!

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Sony, Northrop Grumman, Bayer, Lockheed-Martin and Capitol One. MasteryWorks provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate more than a dozen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career selection, “Who is Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. Her strategic approach consistently delivers on employee engagement and retention goals for her clients. Visit or contact Tom Karl, Executive Vice President for more information - or (703) 256-5712.

MasteryWorks, Inc.
2230 George C Marshall Drive, Suite 122 Falls Church, Virginia 22043 USA 800-229-5712