How to mentor employees who do not have a career path

How to mentor employees who do not have a career path

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? This used to be (and still is) one of the most common questions asked in job interviews. Very few have clarity about what they will achieve in the next 5 years. Most make up hypothetical scenarios that they hope will impress their interviewers enough to land a job. But a few years later, if you asked them the same question, they might be more honest and let you know the truth: that they have no idea about what it is they hope to become in the coming years. This lack of direction, is definitely not due to shortfall in motivation or willingness.

The traditional definition of a career path has changed. Employees may feel that their career is not going anywhere or there is a lack of clear direction. This is more common in the younger generations. Thus, many jump from one company to another in the hopes of getting to that desired stage where they feel ‘on-track’. It is the responsibility of their company to help them understand how to deal with this situation.

Here are some ways companies can help employees understand and plan their career goals:

Explain that career paths need not be rigid:

The notion that individuals are nowhere near the career path they set out on is one of the most demotivating things ever. This is primarily because these individuals think, that what they have preconceived is the only way forward. And with that in mind, they relentlessly pursue this supposedly linear path. Individuals need to be more open minded and also consider other opportunities that may come along the way.

Today many companies are opting for flat hierarchies. So if an individual started out as a junior executive and had his or her eyes set on becoming a Senior Manager in the short term and a CXO in the long term, then he or she is in for a rude awakening. If these designations are absent, how would they determine their progress on their ‘dream career path’?

Instead employees should be encouraged to identify what areas (apart from those existing in their job description) excite them. Is there any other function that seems to fit their interest? What would be the skills needed to take on this additional responsibility?

So while there may not be a straightforward career path, there is a path that constantly develops them and expands their horizons.

Liberty to experiment:

Business processes are becoming more agile as the old established ways can no longer support flexibility. There is a constant need for employees to be on their toes and look for ways that can help them perform better. Certain processes may have worked well in the past but will need to be revamped if they want to increase departmental efficiency.

Companies need to give employees the liberty to experiment and come up with ideas that can improve these processes and eliminate all inefficiencies. Provide training in areas that employees believe will help them get better. Of course that does not mean they should not be monitored. Their managers need to keep track of this training and its subsequent implementation. At the same time these managers need to also be trained so that they can provide actionable and frequent feedback of their employees/teams progress. Make sure that they avoid common mistakes while giving feedback.

Encourage learning transferable skills:

Being a specialist is great as it allows you to focus all your efforts on that particular skill. But how about learning skills that can be used in multiple situations? While employees get to diversify their skills, the company can benefit as well. There are many instances where companies require employees with certain skills but these are not always available in-house. Thus encourage employees to develop a growth mindset so that they learn some of these skills and increase the chances of exercising them. This also eliminates the need for hiring additional employees.

Identify skills that are needed and allow employees to choose those they want to learn out of the available options. Discuss with them and together understand how these new skills can further improve their performance and enhance their job profile. If they lack certain skills and they are being held back because of it, then make it a priority to provide training at the earliest. These efforts increase the goodwill between the company and employees to a great extent and leads to higher engagement levels.


Millennials – the generation that is labelled ‘entitled’ has often been accused of not being satisfied with most things. Things that seem to work out perfectly fine for the earlier generations. One of these would be starting a job in a company and retiring after working at a higher designation in the same company. It was all about stability and security back then. But with the current pace of changing business environments and technological advancements, it has become difficult to follow this career path.

Here, it is not that the millennials are impatient or entitled for quick growth. That is the need of the hour and they are simply trying to go with the currents. If not, very quickly they will become irrelevant in the company or generally everywhere.