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  • Dr. Susan Doering

What Are Career Conversations For?

In last week’s FT Working it podcast editors Isabel Berwick and Claer Barrett looked at how to ask for a pay rise. They talked to Max, a project manager in the renewable energy sector and found out how, when he followed the FT’s advice on how to go about broaching the topic of salary, he succeeded in landing a huge pay rise of 36%.


The podcast is well worth listening to for this specific topic, but one sentence at the very beginning of the podcast caught my ear. Max said:

“I sat down with my manager for literally the first time in my career and asked, how can we make this work.”


Max had been in his job for 3 years and had never broached the subject of salary before. He did know, he says in the interview, that he had been doing a really good job, so he had obviously been getting feedback from his manager and possibly other stakeholders. But it sounds as though he might not have been having the focussed career conversations that would have allowed him to position himself sooner for the salary discussion.


A career conversation is not a performance discussion, so, what is it for?

Really, it’s about anything related to your career development that you want it to be about.

It can touch on any of the following:

  • · How you feel you can develop your work-related skills, both those you are currently using fully and those you would like to develop more

  • · Opportunities that would allow you to develop your skills and know-how

  • · Contacts who would be useful for you to widen your horizon

  • · Your career aspirations and how your current job is preparing you for future positions

  • · How your work aligns with comparable jobs in the market as regards scope, outreach and salary

Max had been hesitant to have the salary conversation partly because he didn’t want to come across as difficult or give the impression he was about to jump ship. If he had had regular, ongoing career conversations with his manager there would have been fewer such barriers.


Max found the conversation, when he finally had it, surprisingly easy; his manager was prepared to listen to his wishes and arguments. Some people may feel this will not be the case; but this is all the more reason to have regular career conversations, so that there are fewer surprises.



Next time we’ll look at some other people to have a Career Conversation with, in addition to your manager.

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