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How to Give Better Career Advice Than ChatGPT

Recently a potential coaching client mentioned he uses AI to generate his cover letters and correspondence with recruiters. He’s landing interviews this way but is frustrated that he doesn’t have any job offers to show for it. To me, this is a classic example of how AI can be an enhancement but not a replacement for certain things – like career advice.


Career development continues to be a critical success factor for organizations striving to attract and retain top talent, and managers play a pivotal role in fostering an environment where employees can thrive and grow professionally.

Yet a new study found that nearly half of Gen Z say they get better career advice from ChatGPT than from their managers. 

Yikes.



Career development has been (and continues to be) a pain point for many organizations, and the data from this study drives this home – like the fact that nearly half (45%) of employees say their manager has played only a “small” role or “no role” in helping them grow their careers.


Gen Z, in particular, is struggling to get the support needed to advance in their careers. Many of them started working for the first time during the pandemic, and as a result, they haven’t had a traditional office experience. Not only do they feel detached from their managers and other role-modeling employees, but they also tend to have greater expectations for career development guidance and programming than those from older generations. Add on the fact that they’re the fastest-growing employee demographic, and companies should be concerned that this lack of career support and the gap between expectations and reality could lead to ongoing, increased turnover and lack of engagement.


Why career development matters

While it should be a no-brainer, many organizations fail to recognize the direct link between individual career development and broader organizational success. But having a workforce that doesn’t feel supported in their growth can impede an organization’s ability to innovate, compete, and grow. 


And I’ll be a realist for a moment. While we’d like to think a manager understands the win-win of investing in employees for the betterment of their team performance, all managers are humans, and flawed, irrational ones at that.

Human behavior usually involves the path of least resistance, and talking about and taking action on career development and doing something about it takes energy.

Even worse, often managers have a “what’s in it for me?” mindset. They know that offering growth opportunities to their team members means those employees may move on to other things, leaving the manager scrambling to cover the gap left behind. 


To be successful, an organization and its employees need shared goals and milestones. And for this to happen employees require a clear understanding of their role in the company’s strategy, and the right kinds of opportunities to learn, upskill, train across departments, be mentored and coached, and advance in their careers. 


How to offer better career development advice

Many employers are already investing money and human capital on employee development– which is great!  However, for this investment to be worthwhile, three things need to happen.


First, employees must understand how the programming is supposed to help them. Second, they must find it useful. And finally, managers must have the time, resources, and incentives to guide them. 


Simple in theory, sure, but we all know putting something into practice often feels more complicated. So, here are some tips to get you started.


1.Train managers on how to have better career conversations

Career conversations should be frequent and ongoing. Encourage managers to add them to a regular monthly or quarterly check-in. In addition, offer managers a set of questions to get the conversation started, such as:

  • What specific skills or areas of your role do you want to develop?

  • Are there any particular projects or assignments that you’re interested in taking on to expand your experience?

  • What support or resources do you need to excel in your career growth?

  • How can I be a better support to you in your professional development? 


2. Give managers an incentive

The old Drucker saying, “What gets measured gets managed” comes to mind. How do you know development conversations are happening in your organization? Do managers have a goal to develop talent? Is this part of their performance measurement? If an employee moves on from the team, do managers run the risk of not being able to backfill the position? Your answers send a message about how the organization has prioritized career development whether intended or not. 


3. Create a culture of real-time, constructive feedback

Receiving thoughtful feedback in the moment is one of the best ways to grow. For example, pulling someone aside after they’ve presented in a meeting and pointing out one or two things they did well, along with the impact that behavior had on the audience.


And this type of immediate feedback doesn’t need to be limited to direct managers. Creating a culture of real-time feedback (given with compassion!) means giving people permission to seek and receive feedback from a wide range of individuals, not just their boss.


4. Evaluate your employee learning resources and programs

Unfortunately, having a vast library of learning and development programs doesn’t necessarily mean your employees are getting quality career development. Case in point, while 41% of HR leaders would describe their company’s L&D opportunities and benefits as “excellent,” only 22% of employees agree. 


Do some digging to find out which programs are perceived as offering real value and why. Because there’s much to gain by investing in better L&D programs – at least 8 out of 10 employees say that having access to best-in-class L&D opportunities would increase their engagement, satisfaction, and retention


5. Offer mentorship and coaching

Mentorship and coaching are powerful tools for supporting employee career development. Mentorship, in particular, can be a lifeline for younger workers – especially those who graduated from college remotely without a network and have been largely stranded working at home ever since. Mentorship can help them accelerate their career growth, something that’s particularly important as organizations look to strengthen their talent pipelines. 


Organizations should also help managers develop coaching skills so they feel comfortable working one-on-one with their team members to customize career plans. Going back to the potential coaching client I mentioned who’s using AI to land interviews but isn’t receiving job offers, it’s clear to me that what he’s lacking is a knowledgeable human to coach him on relationship building, corporate norms, and interview prep and etiquette.


We can – and should! – do better

Managers play a critical role in supporting the career development of those who work for them. And while the job description of modern-day managers is only getting more complex, if you do it right, the most important thing they “manage” is the success of their employees!


Organizations can and should support managers by giving them the time, resources, and incentives to prioritize giving good career development advice. Investing in employee career development isn’t just a managerial responsibility, but also a strategic imperative for organizations committed to cultivating and retaining a talented and engaged workforce.

And, ultimately, when it comes to career advice there's no chatbot quite like a good old-fashioned conversation.


Interested in learning more about building human workplaces? Send me a note at Katherine@worksproutpartners.com.



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