What is Career Pathing? Whether you call it career design, career mapping, role planning, or professional development, Career Pathing is a way to map out how your reports can gain the skills, experience, and expertise to grow toward a particular role, responsibility, or outcome.
The larger companies we work with typically have a formalized annual review process. The biggest ones often will have core competencies employees are measured against. Career Pathing can either complement your company’s performance review process or, if you don’t have a formal process, serve the same goals.
Career Pathing focuses on the bigger picture while also identifying the tangible, day-to-day steps that lead to that vision. Since each person brings different skills and expertise to the table, you can’t have one Career Path for everyone in the same role. But you might have a template that you adjust based on the specific employee.
The 3 Elements of a Career Path Discussion:
- Desired outcomes – The goals to be accomplished within a set timeframe.
Examples: Lead a strategy presentation solo, take over social media management.
- Skills needed – The what of the job.
Examples: Project management, public speaking, strategic analysis.
- Competencies needed – The how of the job
Examples: Leadership, team focus, commitment to excellence, communication, collaboration.
We have a form you can download here to help you keep track of all this information.
The desired outcomes should reflect the growth of the competencies and skills the employee needs to develop. For example, if you need someone to work on communication and persuasion, give them opportunities to speak publicly, manage a meeting, lead a project, or take an improv class.
We recommend using a 12-month time frame broken down into three-month periods. (You may need to adjust midway though the year, and that’s fine.) You’ll identify the desired outcomes and needed skills and competencies for each three-month window. As each window is completed, sit with your direct report and highlight wins and review any carry-overs — things that didn’t get completed or mastered. Use your own discretion to determine how much you share with your direct report. How frank you are may depend on their personality, role, level, etc.
Lastly, make sure the Career Path includes outcomes and skills that excite and inspire your direct report. This is how you engage your staff. They don’t need to be inspired by everything on their plan, but they do need to have some interest and want to lean into most of it. If they don’t, then you may not have the right person for the job.
So how does Career Pathing make your life easier as a manager? It formalizes your expectations and wishes along with their aspirations. It gives a blueprint to grow your people. And it helps everyone get on the same page.
You play an important role in the lives of those you manage. What will you choose to do with that power?