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You’ve graduated—now, go find a great manager

You’ve graduated—now, go find a great manager

Note: In honor of our new graduates this month, we’re dedicating the May Gut Check blog posts to the class of ’22 — and, while we’re at it, to the classes of ’20 and ’21, who have emerged into a working world in the midst of a massive transition. If you know any frazzled new grads who could use a little guidance, consider sending this Gut Check for Young Leaders their way. 

For my readers, you senior leaders: I encourage you to read this article while putting yourself in the shoes of the young leaders in your organization. Take a Gut Check and ask yourself how you’re supporting their development. If you were their manager and they were reading this article with you in mind… how would they rate you?


Now more than ever, getting good career guidance from your manager is non-negotiable.

It’s a simple fact of the workplace: Great leaders are great career managers. 

It may seem like a no-brainer, but not every manager takes the time to sit down and probe an employee’s career concerns. This isn’t about telling someone what to do. It’s about listening and offering ideas for consideration. 

In tandem with the Great Resignation, we’re seeing a Great Reassessment. People at all levels and across all industries are rethinking their own default assumptions about their options and career paths.  

In many ways, this is a good time to be entering the workforce—because good managers are getting even better at checking in with their direct reports to understand their frustrations as well as their career aspirations. The Great Resignation has meant that they simply have to develop these skills. 


If an employee is excelling in her role, she should expect advocacy and a listening ear from her manager.

Hybrid and remote-work environments have created new obstacles in collaborative career management endeavors. A manager’s direct reports could be working hard, but no one sees them, which means no one is advocating for them — for promotions, big new projects, organization-wide recognition for successes, etc.  

New hires deserve to feel confident that their managers will advocate for them when they’re doing well, will work to understand their goals and career aspirations; and will offer them clear feedback and opportunities to hone new skills.  

Both managers and new hires need to take it upon themselves to understand how hybrid work has shifted the urgency and approach of career management on their teams. And both should feel empowered to speak up if something is still missing amid the shuffle to hybrid work.


Too many leaders still don’t know how to start these conversations and avoid them completely.

I’ve come to learn that as leaders, one of the most important decisions we will ever make is to engage our employees in career conversations. Unfortunately, I think many leaders simply don’t know how to start the conversation. As a result, they avoid them completely. 

But workers who aren’t receiving this type of career management would be justified in looking for work elsewhere. Over the last two years, these issues have become even more critical. Young workers have been hard hit by the impact of the pandemic. As a leader, you would be wise to invest in their career development.  As a young employee, make sure you find the organization and the managers who are prepared to support your growth and development. 


Here’s how to ensure you find a manager who is committed to you not just as an employee, but as someone at the beginning of a career.

Here are four qualities to look for in a new manager:  

  1. Determine if they are wired to support your career development. Great managers and leaders are developers of people. Ask a potential manager how they have supported the growth and development of their team members. Have they cited specific examples of how they have helped their direct reports succeed in their careers? Any leader should be able to answer these questions. If they don’t sound too convincing, then maybe this manager isn’t the one for you.
  2. Pay attention to the questions managers are asking as they get to know you. Leaders need to know what motivates their people and where they feel they can contribute best. Here are three questions they should be asking: 
        •  What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
        •  When are you at your best? 
        •  What are your current and future career goals?
  3. Don’t Confuse Performance Management with Career Management. Many leaders believe a performance review is sufficient to help employees with career issues. Performance management is about measuring performance; career management is about discovering aspirations and enabling growth. For this reason, managers need to dedicate time to career management that’s separate from scheduled performance reviews.
  4. Does the manager have a track record of showcasing their team members? The best leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work for were always finding ways to share my accomplishments with senior management. Leaders should showcase the talents of their teams by exposing them to people outside their departments or to senior teams. As the world of work becomes more hybrid in nature, it becomes even more critical for managers to be deliberate in how they showcase their talent to the organization. 

So, there you have several tips to help you ensure you are working with a manager who is fully committed to your career success. Good luck! 

About Leadership Contract

We are Leadership Contract Inc (LCI), your partner in strategic leadership development. We help you operationalize leadership accountability at all levels of your organization so you can drive strategy, shape culture, and spark change.

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