When They Win, You Win - Career Conversations Tool

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Conversation 1: Life Story

Helps employees define Career Values, one story at a time.

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The Life Story Convo Length/Format consists of a 45-60 minute conversation, manager and employee—a get-to-know-you, timeline style conversation to understand the employee’s life story with a focus on their major pivots.
Use the tool on this page to elicit 5-8 of the employee’s career values that will be foundational for the employee's Career Vision Statements and Career Action Plan to follow. Defining these values is the main objective of this conversation.
Remember to take copious (preferably handwritten) notes to make it easier for you to extract values from what is shared.
After the convo, the manager documents their findings, then shares with employee, who then has the final say on what sticks.
Makes any adjustments you deem necessary

Step 1: Explore Life Stories

The Life Story Conversation is a get-to-know you, timeline style conversation centered around an employee's life story; your goal is to uncover 5-8 ‘core values’ — things your employee deeply values in their career - as evidenced by the decisions and pivots they've made.

Manager: Ask employee to walk through various aspects of their academic and professional life in a timeline fashion.

How to get the conversation started
Use a timeline approach as a framework for the Life Story Conversation. One way is to open with something like:
“Starting with kindergarten, tell me about your life...”
Move the conversation along by probing pivots in major partitions of their life, such as:
Elementary/primary/middle/junior high school
High/secondary school
Undergraduate university (if applicable)
Earlier career
Graduate school / previous role(s)
Current role
How to keep the conversation moving
If you need them, use the below prompts to facilitate the Life Story Conversation—to draw out stories related to their academic/professional life. Use prompts such as, ‘Tell me more...’ or ‘Why...’ to probe deeper. These are suggestions, not a checklist.
How did the people around you view education?
Anything to share about your family? Siblings? Community?
Tell me about your friends.
Did you do any activities in school? What did you get out of those things? What
Did you love about them?
Describe your high school life.
Did you work during high school?
Why did you choose that university? That major?
Why that internship?
What did you learn about yourself in college?
Previous Roles
Tell me about your first job—how’d you end up there? Why did you end up there?
Why did you leave? Why did you choose your next company?
When was the last time you said or felt “I love my job.” Why did you feel that way?
What aspects of past jobs have you loved the most?
What aspects of past jobs have you hated the most?

Current Role
Why did you come to this company?
What do you love about this company? What do you hate?
What’s the best part of your week?
What makes for a great day around here?
What kinds of things get pushed to the bottom of your task list?

Manager: Take copious notes during the conversation

Write down notable stories, insightful learnings, and quotes—anything you find interesting.

Life Story Conversation Notes

Use this space to jot down notes
Elementary/primary/middle/junior high school
High/secondary school
Undergraduate university (if applicable)
Earlier career
Graduate school / previous role(s)
Current role

Step 2: Extract Career Values and add Supporting Evidence

After you’ve had the Life Story Conversation, your next job is to look for patterns that demonstrate what your employee values in their career. You must name a value (5-8) and cite the evidence from the Life Story Conversation. We’ve given some common values below, but you may name them whatever you like. It’s less important that the value is perfectly named and more important that you and your employee have a shared understanding of each value and the stories that support it.
Make sure that once you complete your list of values in the table above, that you then add supporting evidence by citing specific examples from the Life Story Conversation. Simply jot down stories, events, pivots that illustrate the value. We have samples below for guidance.

Manager: Articulate employee’s Career Values and add supporting evidence

Now that you’ve had the Life Story Conversation and taken copious notes, go back through and find patterns that suggest something about what your employee values. ☝️ Remember, there is no substitute for having the Life Story Conversation, so please no shortcuts!
How to create a list of employee Career Values
Select from the list of available options in the ‘Value’ column below (i.e. Adventure, Autonomy).
Change your mind? Click ‘X’ to remove it from the list.
Don’t see a value that matches? Just start typing, then select it from the list (’+ New_value’) to add our own!
How to come up with evidence to support values identified
A few sample supporting evidence statements:
Autonomy: "From a very young age, I was expected to make my own decisions. My decision to leave college to become a [leader] in France was not something my folks were excited about, but they let me do it, and I followed my passion around the world outside of Michigan."
Build Something from Nothing: "I loved my job at xxx, because I built something from nothing, and we were pioneers – and regarded as thought leaders in the industry."
Exploration/adventure: Buena Serra" : ) Loved travel. One rationale for Dartmouth: stretch outside CA, stretch for relationships. OUTDOOR - outdoor club at Dartmouth, rock climbing (chose ww kayaking!). Cog Science enabled "exploration" across departments. Colorado Sophomore summer. Always had a job, extra cash - to never have to turn down doing something bc of $. 5 months in Nepal. NZ sabbatical.
Lifetime Learner: Reading on car trips, "good at school", valedictorian, magnet puzzles, freshman skiier = slow and scared, moved toward mastery "clear improvement" - "really liked training for skiing". Math minor, German minor. Favorite thing about Company XYZ - always a new, exciting project, always learning.
Competition: State spelling bees, math competition, homeboy Lyle who is "so smart, but we tied", "real" valedictorian :), beat the hot shot ski girl, "yeah I'm super competitive
Global View: Italy in 5th. German (age 9), French + German in high school, Claire. Experience living on East Coast. 1 Dartmough quarter in France, 1 Dartmouth quarter in Germany. Nepal. COMPANY XYZ - involved in many areas, enjoyed "global view" of company, broader context with visibilty into other departments.
Hard work: "I got a performance grade and an effort grade in high school. My parents were in many ways more proud of the effort grade."
Health: Believe it or not, I used to be over 300 pounds. That can never happen again.
Learning: “Nothing was more important to my parents than education and family. Constant learning was emphasized from day 1 of my life."
Mentorship: “Taught skiing in CO, "never doing that again." ... did it again. Big brother, big sister, Tutor. Nepal teacher. Boisonwood Bible. Miss having a team at Company XYZ”
Outcomes matter: "I took some fluffy classes in high school, and my parents made it clear that they were concerned these would not take me anywhere."
Relationships: "I met my lifelong best friend, Adrian, when I was in 3rd grade and we’re still best friends to this day.” “I don’t enjoy the process of sales, or cold-calling, but I love building relationships."
Relationships: “5 Friends elementary school = friends today, Best friend from 2nd grade = best friend today. Our homie, Lyle. High school friends not based on arbitrary criteria (proximity), but on substance (smart people, people who share global view). Dartmouth: tight-knit floor (Hoth outpost).”

Add a value to your list
You've currently identified 2 values.

Evidence from Life Story Convo (why this value was chosen)
SAMPLE: Loved travel as kids - “Buena Serra”. Chose Dartmouth largely for the stretch outside of CA and the stretch around new relationships. Also they have a killer outdoor club there with rock-climbing, kayaking, etc. Cognitive Science major enabled “exploration” across departments. Sophomore summer in Colorado. 5 months in Nepal. New Zealand sabbatical.
Global view
SAMPLE: Italy in 5th. German (age 9), French + German in high school, Claire. Experience living on East Coast. 1 Dartmough quarter in France, 1 Dartmouth quarter in Germany. Nepal. COMPANY XYZ - involved in many areas, enjoyed "global view" of company, broader context with visibilty into other departments.
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View sample value library

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When you are finished articulating your employees’ career values, share this document with them by clicking ‘Share’ at the top of the page.
Once you’ve done that, move on to the new page together
to define your long term career goals.

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