Best practices in Career Conversations: A Q&A with a supervisor and employee at COM-P

Best practices in Career Conversations: A Q&A with a supervisor and employee at COM-P

By Brad ContentoDivision of Human Resources
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Human Resources announced updates to the Career Conversations model in April.
Human Resources announced updates to the Career Conversations model in April.
Raquel Dominguez, Program Coordinator, College of Medicine – Phoenix
Raquel Dominguez, Program Coordinator, College of Medicine – Phoenix
Sherie Petersen, Manager of Clerkships, College of Medicine – Phoenix
Sherie Petersen, Manager of Clerkships, College of Medicine – Phoenix

In April, the Division of Human Resources announced updates to Career Conversations, which is the model the University uses to support employee success and growth through a shared process in which employees have structured discussions with their supervisors that involve reflection, planning, problem solving and honest and constructive feedback.

One primary change was to the Career Conversation form, which now has a section titled "Set SMART Goals for Success." Employees are asked to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals that align with the University's strategic plan, the University's values and their unit's goals.

In another change, Human Resources is now recommending that Career Conversations be completed between April and June, followed by at least two check-in meetings throughout the year to monitor progress.

Aspects of the new approach have already been adopted at the College of Medicine – Phoenix. In this Q&A, a college supervisor and one of her direct reports – Sherie Petersen, manager of clerkships, and Raquel Dominguez, a program coordinator – talk about how they have collaborated to use the Career Conversations model to foster growth.

What benefits have resulted from setting a consistent, annual time frame to complete Career Conversations?

Dominguez: The annual time window allows employees not only to have a realistic time frame to accomplish their goals, but also to track their progress and growth. At times, we don't always see how much we have accomplished in a year. Comparing and contrasting conversations helps you remember where you were a year ago and visualize where you want to be in the next year.

Petersen: It is also nice to align the entire team in one time frame so we can all be working on our goals together. It allows us to share the vision of the University and its strategic efforts.

Can you share an example of how you were able to maintain Career Conversation goals as part of your discussions throughout the year?

Dominguez: In our case, we have the syllabi timeline. Each year, we are tasked with the process of refining and developing new curriculum for the upcoming academic year. This year, as part of my Career Conversations goals, I managed this process with Sherie's guidance. The ongoing guidance allowed me to meet my goals by creating visibility and interaction with new stakeholders. Although it was challenging, it was also very rewarding. I have been recognized on many levels for my high attention to detail and ability to communicate effectively. This project was very hands-on. I couldn't have done it without the help of my team and leadership.

Petersen: As a supervisor, I trusted the process because we both had similar goals that contributed to the success of the University as well as the individual. I was able to coach and lead, but also allow Raquel the autonomy to own the process. Raquel had many goals to reach throughout the year, and, through our regular interactions and team meetings, she achieved excellence.

Can you share a SMART goal that was set and met during your Career Conversations process?

Petersen: One of the SMART goals that Raquel had was to find new challenges within her role by taking more leadership opportunities, where appropriate. Beside the syllabi process mentioned earlier, she took on ongoing scheduling while adapting to the COVID pandemic. She also supported the surgery clerkship with a new curriculum that aligns with national standards. She was frequently a leader within our department (Department of Academic Affairs) and was given many tasks outside of her scope. She seamlessly supported various high-level meetings that involved many stakeholders. Since we moved to a virtual environment, it required many savvy technological innovations to transition to solely online learning.

Has the Career Conversations process helped reveal achievements or ensure recognition of achievements?

Petersen: Our unit is often recognized for its efforts and successes, and Raquel's name is almost always involved. Although sometimes individual items may seem to go unnoticed, the Career Conversations framework sets her up to grow within the University as opportunities arise. The dean that supports our unit (Steven A. Lieberman) is very aware of Raquel's contributions and will continue to support her growth.

What else would you like to share about your Career Conversations process?

Dominguez: Through the COVID pandemic, we really learned a lot about ourselves as a team. We learned what it takes to support one another but also how to manage curriculum from a distance. It is challenging to celebrate successes remotely, and as a team we feel Career Conversations are essential for morale and for the completion of the work.

Petersen: As we are preparing for a class expansion, our unit will continue to utilize Career Conversations and SMART goals to succeed. We believe that Career Conversations are an important tool to reflect upon growth, progress, accomplishments and coaching opportunities. This next cycle, we plan to make goals as an entire unit.

Haven't completed your Career Conversations yet? There's still time! Visit Career Conversations on the HR website for a video guide, FAQ and other resources.


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