Career Development

If you struggle to stay focused at work, it’s time to find a new opportunity or leave.

Reid Hoffman

I spent most of my career managing people. I was good at it and worked hard on career development. But my knowledge and experience pale when compared to that of the great managers I interviewed for Develop Great Managers.

This article captures the best thoughts and ideas from the question that I asked these great managers during their interviews. The question I asked was – “How do you approach helping someone with their career development or path?”.


Managers who are the best at helping with career development have a unique mindset. They view it as an honor and privilege to help others. It is an opportunity to give back. They will drop everything to spend the time needed. Oftentimes this is one of their biggest strengths (take a look at StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath – now called CliftonStrengths).

I love the opportunity to mentor and coach and help someone with their Career Development. I see it as an honor and really an opportunity to give back. I listen to what their career goals are that they have and then help them to identify the tools and avenues that they can leverage to gain experience and learn from others. To me, it’s truly a privilege to help others and their Career Development.

Laura Ortman

Their Career

In every case, great managers see it the same. It is THEIR career, therefore it is their responsibility.

First and foremost, make it clear that they are the Master and Commander of their careers.

Josh Lory

First and foremost tell everyone it’s your career. You’re responsible for it. I’m never going to be responsible for your career. I can give you insight into what I did in my career to the extent that helps. I can provide training opportunities if that’s what you’re after I can coach. But if you don’t take responsibility for it, then we shouldn’t carry on. I need to stop them so my role is just that of a supporter.

Bob Worrall

Pat Gelsinger takes it a bit further. He does not focus on career mentoring. He has a deep desire to focus on the whole person through what he calls “life mentoring.”

I always tell people I don’t think ‘the person’, I don’t think ‘career’, I do life mentoring.

Pat Gelsinger

Make Time

These managers will make the time. They recognize the importance! They care and they know that making this a priority will be a good thing for all involved.

Time accessibility. I think at the end of the day people if you want to help influence or provide guidance and counsel, you have got to invest the time. That’s one thing. The second thing I think is – be open.

Robin Matlock


The first and most important thing that great managers do is listen. They work to build a good understanding. They seek to understand. They put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

This is a fun one because I try and do this quite a lot and I think the initial approach always is to put myself in their shoes, or what can I do to realize is that everyone’s approach and circumstances are very different.  You can’t impose your way of thinking. The way I end up doing it, rather than giving them the answer, is to act as a medium and brainstorm. It sometimes frustrates them. They often come to you seeking the answer but I always believed that they have the answer. You just need to bring it out. Helping them bring it out is my way of helping them. It’s great.

Simran Singh

I’ll tell them, describe to me what your future self looks like.  And if you don’t know, come back to me when you know. I don’t want you to sit in front of me saying the sky’s the limit. I can be anything. Have a specific viewpoint. Have an idea. Have a target and then we’ll work backward from there.

Joel “Thor” Neeb

I spend a lot of time listening. I want them just to tell me everything. Where are you at? What are you thinking? I do it in a completely open manner as well. The philosophy being – do the right thing for them. I try to listen for probably the first 20 minutes before I have any of my thoughts so I can really understand where they are.

Kit Colbert

It goes back to that one on one relationship and really understanding what’s important to you. Putting myself in your shoes and understanding what’s important to you.

Scott Bajtos

Provide Support

At this point it is important to transition from listening to helping. Great managers are genuine and honest in their assessment.

I’m very open, honest, and transparent in my conversations.

Rupinder Saini

As a part of these discussions, some great managers like to set expectations or gain alignment around where their strengths and weaknesses are. This can be done using a tool like a Radar Chart where they score a set of important skills and then you do the same. This provides a structured way to provide feedback. This can also be done through conversation. Regardless of which approach you take, be open and honest.

I’ve used the same tool for many years now, a radar chart. I am a very visual person so I sit down and look at 15 different topics.  I put them into a graphical representation, breaking them into four different segments of leadership, execution of ideas, etc. We each give a score of 1 to 10 on where they are. This gives you the opportunities to discuss, especially where there are gaps in how we scored.

John Dolan

Now that you understand the direction that they want to take, great managers look for opportunities to provide help and support. This includes things like training, introduction, new assignments, and visibility into roles outside of the current organization.

Fostering growth by providing opportunities. Some kind of serving up by opening up doors and opportunities for people to thrive.

Scott Bajtos

I think mentorship is really important. We try to have mentors for everybody on the team.

Josh Lory


There are five important aspects of helping with career development.

  1. Go in with the right Mindset. It is an honor and opportunity to give back.
  2. Make it clear that it is Their Career, their responsibility.
  3. Make Time, this will show that you care.
  4. Listen, seek to understand.
  5. Provide Support in terms of mentoring, 

We started with a great quote from Reid Hoffman, and we will end with one that I really like as well.

Unlike most founders who are like, “You should work at this company forever.” My view was, “Some people should work with this company forever, and some people should work in this company for some time – and then go off and do other things.”

When I first take on a new report, I ask them “What’s the job that you want next that’s potentially outside of LinkedIn?” And, explicitly it’s like, so you’d say, “Look, we’re going to help you get to this new level in your career, and obviously there’s a mutual interest if it works out that it’s at LinkedIn. But in many cases, it won’t. And, how do we both massively benefit from your being here and massively benefit you?“

Reid Hoffman

See Also

Categories: People


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