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Early Career Conversations Young Workers Need to Have

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By: Asad Husain

Early in our careers, there is much to think about and look forward to. Whether we choose a profession aligned with our educational background or not, many factors influence our decisions and we face numerous challenges and concerns presented by the changing economic and job landscape.

Without proper guidance, challenges such aseconomic uncertainty, lack of experience, pressure from family or society, lack of clarity andself-awarenessorbalancing work and lifecan lead to uncertainty and indecision and make it difficult for young professionals to make informed career decisions. Years later, a vast majority of these young professionals are not happy, successful or fulfilled in their careers.

You must seek early career conversations to gain clarity and confidence in your decisions and navigate these challenges successfully.

As a child, I wanted to be a pilot. As a teenager, I was determined to be a cricket player. Entering college, I thought engineering was what I needed as a career. I dropped out of engineering and felt that my calling was an MBA and a marketing career.

Having just completed my MBA, I began preparing for interviewing for marketing jobs—the profession I thought I wanted. At the same time, Exxon came to our campus and asked the graduating class to take an aptitude test as they wanted to recruit candidates for various jobs in the company. My entire class took that test. Based on the test results, the company called me a few days later and said they would like to offer me a job in the HR department. I had no inclination or interest in HR at that time. I accepted the position as my father convinced me that it was a good company, and after a few months, I could request a transfer to marketing.

I reported to the Training and Development Manager of the company, who was an outstanding leader. I was unsure when to have a ‘transfer to marketing’ conversation with him, but in my second week, he decided to talk with me about my career. The critical message that struck a massive chord with me in that career conversation was that there were only a few MBAs in the HR field at that point in time. The function was considered an administrative and a policing function in Pakistan, however, it was moving towards a transformation where it would be asked to add more business value. He said that in this new HR function, I would stand out in the HR profession because of my business degree and ability to add value. This conversation instantly changed my perspective on HR and how I could succeed and make a difference. I never looked back. That one conversation helped me understand it and clarified how to proceed with my career. Now, imagine if I had never had this conversation. I may not have ever known what I was really seeking, and I would have just focused on getting a transfer into marketing.

How do you seek to get these early career conversations?


The conversations should be about what is happening in your profession, where it is headed and what it takes to succeed in it. You’re looking for alignment between the profession’s requirements and what you want to do.


Show a willingness to explore new thinking and ideas, ask questions that peel the onion further, and seek new knowledge. Look for information that helps you decide your career goals, the path to progress, learning and fulfillment.


You can change your direction, goals and path. Don’t rely on preconceived notions or assumptions.

Choosing the right person to have this conversation with is also essential. It can be your supervisor, a leader, HR or a coach. Be bold about seeking several individuals and exchanges. You could look for these factors in that person/s:

  • Someone who has relevant experience

  • Someone whose career trajectory you admire

  • Someone you feel comfortable with

  • Someone who is recommended by a person in a similar situation as yours

The second kind of conversation I highly encourage you to seek is career development and growth discussions.

These are not your regular performance review discussions. These are intentional conversations you should have with your manager, HR, mentor or colleagues about your career aspirations, long- and short-term career goals and growth opportunities.

You must seek these conversations regularly in your career. Focus on overcoming any limiting beliefs you have developed about why you can’t achieve certain positions, and focus on identifying what it would take for you to get there. Here are some tips when seeking these conversations:

  • The best kind of career development conversations are going to help you unlock and maximize your potential.

  • Most managers and leaders need to be more experienced or trained to have these conversations. That does not mean you do not seek them.

  • Do not treat these conversations as feedback sessions. Prepare for them and bring your thinking, your challenges, and the opportunities that you see to these meetings. Seek other perspectives and viewpoints.

  • Remember the aim of these conversations is to seek diversity of experiences and delivery of increasing levels of impact. Explore opportunities for lateral or vertical moves, discuss potential projects or assignments and seek advice on progressing in your career.

In my view, conversations early in your career that give you clarity and direction are essential, as well as those that help unlock and maximize your potential, conversations that lead to performance leverage, and conversations related to your salary increases, all of which will have a significant impact on your career. But it is actively taking the time to consider what you want from a career, and seeking guidance from other more experienced individuals, which makes the real difference in cultivating both a fulfilling and successful career.

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