In my work as a career coach, people usually approach me after months or years of conflicting thoughts and nagging doubts about what they should do about their career. You may recognise some of these snippets of internal dialogue (which are real messages that I have received in recent months):
"I'm desperate to know if there's any other career path for me but have no idea where to start! Plus I don't know what else I would do."
"I feel I'm ready for a change but I keep changing my mind about what to do."
"I am not sure yet if I need coaching but the best way to find out is an exploratory session".
Sound familiar? I want to explain to you what career coaching is about and help you to decide whether hiring a career coach is the right thing for you.
Here are six things you should know about career coaching:
1. We all face career challenges in our life
You are not alone. Anyone who works or who wants to work will at some point in their career have a need for a career coach. Whether you are about to graduate from college, find your second job, switch your career mid-life, recover from a redundancy, set up your own venture, talk through a work-related challenge in your current role or try to figure out a flexible arrangement as a parent or someone wishing to downshift, our lives are full of career-related challenges. In this respect, age is just a number. My clients have included people in their early 20s to individuals nearing retirement.
2. Your company, however progressive, may not be supporting your long-term goals
The best kind of self-development comes from - you guessed it - you. Companies are structured to develop your talents and to provide training as long as they align with the company's mission in the short-term. But what if your heart is going in a different direction? Career coaching is about your dreams, your desires, and your goals. It is a space where you can, guilt-free, explore different options without rocking the boat at your day job, and where you can build a sustainable plan for the future.
3. How you react to career challenges matters
We can all just survive our career crossroads, but wouldn't you rather like to thrive? Career crossroads are also, by default, crisis of confidence which often means that we lack the courage to make the right decisions for our future selves. We opt for the "safe" option too quickly or we don't put our hand up for that opportunity that comes along once every blue moon.
We let our work dreams become sources of disappointment and proof that we are not good enough to deserve a work life that we want. A career coach, is exactly that, a coach. They will spot your potential, they will provide you with feedback and insights on your strengths and they will support you on your journey towards your career goals, even in those moments when you think that nothing will ever come of them. If you hire a personal trainer for your fitness goals or a financial advisor for your financial goals, why not hire a career coach for your work-related goals?
4. Working on your career goals also means working on your life goals
People often ask me whether I am a life coach. My answer is as follows: No, I am not a trained life coach, but inevitably, we will explore your life holistically when trying to plan a career strategy for you. So many things in our life impact our careers (our family, our finances, our health, our backgrounds, the trauma we may have suffered) that in order to move forward, we need to look back at all relevant issues in our lives. Be prepared to bring your whole self to the career coaching session and watch how different parts of your life and work start to make sense in a new way.
5. The outcome and timeline of career coaching might be surprising
Career coaching usually consists of 60, 90 or sometimes 120 minutes sessions spread over three to six months with meetings taking place approximately once a month. In between, you may work on a particular aspect of the career coaching process, such as defining what is important to you, visualising your future, recrafting your CV to be geared towards your future work self, and so on. The coaching aims may be imminent (e.g. find a new job quickly) or more long-term (craft a plan for a lifestyle change over the next few years). Your objective may be about a job or career change, but equally, it can be about making the most of your current role or dealing with a particular work-related challenge.
It is not uncommon for the goals of the coaching to change during the coaching process. As an example, I once coached someone who was very determined to leave their organisation and find a new role at the beginning of the coaching assignment, but it actually emerged that they ideally wanted to stay but thought that progression was not on the cards. In the end, the person ended up being promoted to a more senior role and the coaching ended up supporting the transition to a more senior role in the same company.
Sometimes the impact of the coaching sessions can be felt years, or even decades later. As an example, back in 2005, I had one coaching session with an experienced career coach and I still regularly think about aspects of that conversation which has shaped my thinking about the kind of working environment that suits me.
6. Find a coach that you click with
There is an abundance of career coaches out there. While this is great news on the one hand, on the other it may lead to difficulties in identifying who would be the right coach for you. My advice would be to try a few so that a) you get a sense for what works and doesn't work for you and b) you get more clarity about what you want to work on. Many coaches offer chemistry session before committing to a full package - take advantage of this offer! If you want to try out a free coaching session with me or other career coaches, you can click here.
Armed with the above six pointers, you are in a great position to make the most of career coaching. I wish you well on the next stage of your career journey!
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