top of page

Identifying 4 counselling microskills to generate insights in a career conversation

Updated: 6 days ago

Jane is having a 1:1 catch-up with her boss, Jake. It is a normal weekly routine. 

The agenda is about how she is progressing in work, the challenges faced, and if she needs any support. 

If there is a need to, Jane will zero in on any specific issues.

However, there is something that misses out. Jake did not start any topics related to Jane’s career pathway. 

On the other hand, Jane feels that KPI-driven discussion suffices since organizations are usually result-oriented. 

However, Jane thinks indifferent deep down. Bringing up her career objectives may sound like she is not following the norm. 

She is worried her boss does not have the time and mental space as he may be pressured by the top to deliver results.

This is not new.

According to a survey conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) with a sample size of 1,010 Singaporeans aged 21 to 84 in October 2022, PMETs like Jane are significantly likely to find meaning and purpose in their work.

Both are part of the ingredients in a career conversation.

Singaporeans are looking for the “why” and “how” of their contribution to an organization’s vision. Career-related discussions include the exploration of an employee’s characteristics that will fuel a team’s performance that is tied to an organization's quarterly/bi-annual goals. 

If an employee identifies their true north, and the company’s vision fits into their plan – likelihood that there will be congruence which improves their performance.

So, why didn’t Line Managers develop purpose-driven career conversations during check-ins with their team members? One reason may be attributed to the lack of knowledge in microskills. 

Therefore, I would like to identify the top 4 types that power up any 1:1 chat.


Using phrases like “from what I gather”… “seems like you are feeling troubled” shows a level of intent listening. Being heard helps to develop an employee’s trust and makes the individual know that he/she is part of the team.


Through observation, a Line Manager can pick out cues to connect to an employee’s feelings. For instance – “I can sense that you are enthusiastically taking up this project and I am happy that you have volunteered to drive this……can I understand how you feel this will positively influence your career trajectory…..”. 

The word “enthusiastic”, helps Jane feel that Jake reads her heart well. 

This strengthens the mutual relationship, knowing that Jake is on the lookout to groom her for future progression.


An employee can be a star performer. However, there will be days of underperformance. Instead of dwelling on the action, how about directing the chat to recognize how they feel and think about their career in the organization? 

For example – “what-if we put KPI aside, how would career success look to you?”   You will be surprised by their answer!


How often would you, the Line Manager ask your staff to envision what they think about their current career life? 

Using keywords in a mind map, objects or Google images help. Link the pieces up and you will get valuable information to discuss further. 

Quick Pointers

Just a note to sound out – assure your team members that any details fleshed out from the career conversation will not jeopardize their performance appraisal.

Secondly, highlight to them that pay increment is a separate issue but linking to personal growth opportunities will have an effect thereafter in the future, henceforth the need to develop a deeper 1:1 career conversation.

Lastly, make sure that anything brought up is confidential. 

If you are managing a team of people and their performance are sub-par, perhaps there is a need to zoom into their career needs to find the root causes of their motivational level.

Find ways to get them engaged through humanistic career conversations, using microskills that make your team members feel they are being heard and cared for. 

Ken is a Private Career Counsellor and Certified Practitioner, helping people find employment successes. I specialize in addressing career issues and workplace challenges - e.g., burnout, job mismatch and a lack of fulfilment.

On a corporate level, I help HR professionals in organizations develop talent development best practices using evidence-based career management models.

If you need a 1:1 chat, feel free to book-in a free 45 minutes consultation.

Find out more about career counselling at 

1 view0 comments


bottom of page