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Don’t Let Your Employees Voyage the Sea of Career Paths Alone   

I’ve been listening to the Moana soundtrack on repeat since I went to see the movie. Moana, the daughter of a Chief, sets out on a voyage to save her people and find herself. I realized that finding the right career path can be a lot like voyaging overseas. Voyaging across turbulent seas can be frightening. The unexpected obstacles can make it difficult to voyage alone.

Today’s top companies are already supporting employees along their career paths, in a variety of ways, in order to compete as employers of choice. It’s time for you to board the canoe and guide your employees on their voyage through the sea of careers.

Board the canoe and guide your employees on their voyage through the sea of #careers! Click To Tweet

If you are not yet ready to board, join us as we map out ways you can prepare your employees to become avid career voyagers.

Where should they go? Identifying career paths

It is likely that some of your employees have not found a destination for their career journey ahead. In order to find out where they want to land, they need to find out what jobs and paths exist in the mysterious and wondrous sea of careers. Simply starting a conversation can help employees discover where they want to be. You can become or identify a mentor and set up monthly or weekly time to discuss areas of interest. During these conversations, ask key questions about past experiences and where they see themselves in the future. Maybe, in five to ten years they will be sailing through a different channel.

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What do they need to get there? Finding skills and strengths

Seafarers can’t bring everything on their voyages. They need to pick and choose which items will be most beneficial to them on this unpredictable journey. An employee’s strengths can be their most important tool to get through any stormy seas. If you or your managers are struggling to help employees identify their strengths, ask your employees to take a personality test or the Strengths Finder. Focusing on strengths is an empowering way to lead employees through professional development.

Although strengths are important, you also need to be prepared to address skills gaps. Gaps are like leaks in the canoe, preventing employees from sailing to their desired destination. It may be more beneficial for both employee and organization to develop missing skills in existing employees than to look for the perfect candidate in a competitive market. Provide your employees with the tools they need to patch up the canoe and sail on.

How will they get there? Discovering career development opportunities

Now that the voyager has an idea of where they want to go and what they need to weather the voyage, they need to start plotting a course to the destination. Highlight career development opportunities that will steer them in the right direction. Since they have uncovered their strengths, they can look for job destinations that showcase them. As a helpful retention tip, if the employee is not already on course to the destination of their dreams, keep them apprised of any internal job postings that may be a great development stop along the way.

In the end, the voyage may not go exactly as planned. They may even end up somewhere that that they never imagined. Like Moana, you may not know the exact right way or how far they will go. Eventually, your employees will end up exactly where they need to be. With a little bit of coaching your employees will also be able to navigate the sea of career paths.

What have you done to help employees identify their career paths? Share in the comments below!

Jaimelenn Uemura
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12 Comments on "Don’t Let Your Employees Voyage the Sea of Career Paths Alone   "

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We started with a Job Analysis and then took that information to further develop the next step which was meeting with each departments management team and outline a “typical” progression for each functional area. This has been a huge under taking and will continue to be tweaked, I think the most important thing is the conversations that managers have with their employees to inquire, follow up and make a priority their aspirations, and opportunities.

Jason Magill

You mentioned developing skills in existing employees over looking for the external “perfect candidate.” We’ve begun asking employees to add their skills to our HRIS database so we can better identify the right candidates from within. It’s surprising how many resources we’ve had at our fingertips without realizing it! Identifying current skills is key, but it’s important to be able to track and utilize those skills as well.

Tony C

One of the best things I think we have done is not separate the work and career goals from personal and life goals. When the two are married, that’s when employees really shine. Understanding someone’s personal goals and dreams are key, and one of the books that helped me with this concept the most was The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. Once you start to understand the dreams of people outside of the work environment, you can really help them to thrive.

Mary Fitch

Providing job information for career path dicussions is critical. Also educating managers on what is available is necessary and holding management accountable to have such discussion is a key link in the process


We have followed similar steps, but have found consistently that the conversation is the most important piece, regardless of documented structure. Understanding and articulating not only what knowledge, skills and abilities need to be demonstrated in each job but also what role(s) the employees aspire to, what they need to learn and do in order to get there and then closing the gap between existing staff and their desire and readiness to move with available opportunities.

Liz D\'Aloia

Helping people understand that career paths aren’t linear is key. That boat is going to get blown around into ports that the employee never even knew existed. Besides playing to strengths, and being a lifetime learner, I think learning to deal with change is key. Plus, it helps to have an open mind when in a new port (role). It might be completely unexpected and a very welcome challenge.

Dave R.

For our company, we really emphasize “soft skills”. An employee can certainly have the “technical prerequisites” for the job, but we try and identify the “soft skills” necessary to succeed and then try and find the right match.


We don’t currently have a formal process of outlining career paths for our employees, but informally managers have discussions about new skills employees would like to learn for the up coming year. I am really enjoying reading this blog and the comments, you guys are giving me some GREAT ideas!

Julie Pinto
I recently completed a job analysis project of all of the 400 positions in our headquarters location. I did the analysis by department. When I conducted the job interviews with employees I noticed that a lot of people when I asked the question, “What would this position be promoted to?”, people didn’t have an answer or only could think of being promoted to their supervisor’s position. Since we are a growing company, I decided that we needed to provide each department a “Career Ladder” to show employees that just because a position in between themselves and their supervisor didn’t exist… Read more »
Jeracah Lawless
Recently, we have focused more inward and are discovering lots of talented folks who are ready for new roles. We are pushing our mid-level managers to take on more of a “management” role and less of a “worker bee”… this has forced them to work on developing supervisors and employees who report to them. We’ve also used this as an opportunity to collaboratively create job descriptions (instead of them being created by HR) and then get several employees to review and provide input on them (usually the manager’s manager, individual in the role and a peer). This helps everyone to… Read more »

Some of our greatest leadership successes came from internal applications, so naturally whenever we’re looking to fill a leadership position, we consider qualified internal candidates first. We’re getting better at making these opportunities more visible to the whole organization, which sometimes has been challenging in the past. The biggest challenge of all, however, is to pace the need for growth of the individuals, with the need for growth of the organization.

At a previous company we created career paths for nearly every functional area of the business. While this took a few years to complete, at the end it was so beneficial for us all. HR and business leaders had a structure to follow. Employees were able to see laid out on paper in front of them what it takes to get to the next step, and how they could transition their skills and personal goals into a new line of the business. There were definitely bumps along the way; this project needed management support and participation at every step and… Read more »
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