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Career Development Can't Stay On The Back Burner Much Longer

Gina Kim

August 24, 2021

Career development and mentorship opportunities have largely stalled. We asked young professionals about how they’re feeling and coping with the dearth of mentorship and development opportunities at what would typically be a high growth and learning stage of their careers.

The early years in one’s career can often be hard and confusing, but also incredibly formative. Many young professionals rely on guidance from colleagues, bosses and mentors as they set the course for the career they want. However, as casual talks around the office have disappeared, development sessions and mentorship programs have been put on hold or moved remote, many young professionals are struggling to strike up those important career conversations. 

This is further compounded by leadership’s focus and attention.In the midst of the crisis, most leaders are hyper focused on business survival and performance, bumping career development of their teams down the list of priorities. For young professionals who are watching their development fall in leadership’s focus, they’re feeling demotivated and undervalued. Managers who often busy with their families or swamped with work are sending strong, albeit inadvertent signals, every time they bump development conversations. 

“Although my company and managers are trying their best to remain interactive and engaged, it’s definitely very different as so many of our interactions used to happen informally at the office kitchen or over a cup of coffee. Phone conversations tend to be focused on work, with networking and mentorship slipping.” - Staff Accountant, Big 4 Accounting Firm 

Career progression has also been deprioritized, or in some cases, put on hold as a blanket policy by many companies. Some people who had been told they would be promoted this spring, have been left hanging with promises of revisiting their promotion once ‘everything is back to normal.’ The  people we talked to, though they understand why promotions have been deprioritized, are finding it hard to maintain motivation when there’s no clear picture of how or when their advancement will be discussed or considered. 

“My pending promotion has been put on hold indefinitely. It’s hard because while working from home, my productivity has doubled and I am carrying more responsibility than ever - yet my next steps remain uncertain.” - Manager, Big 5 Bank

How to support young professionals through a crisis 

With promotion and spending freezes at many companies, leaders hands may be tied when it comes to promotions. However, there are other ways to signal to your team that their growth and development is important to you. Having open conversations about how they’re feeling, giving them stretch opportunities to learn new work, pairing employees with mentors, and showing genuine care for their career development will ease your team members’ anxiety and stress.