Several years ago, a coaching client of mine contemplated the next step in his career. At the time, he was a Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. His ambition was to become a CEO, but uncertainty clouded his decision-making. We reviewed the qualities of successful leaders and identified a strategy that included increased participation in meetings and conversations about the business as a whole, not just marketing. Our sessions gave him insight into his relevant strengths and ones he would need to develop. As his confidence improved, he experienced marked success influencing his boss and members of the executive team. In time he was able to clarify the next step - working in a venture capital firm. Armed with a compelling personal brand message and strategic networking activities, the company's portfolio company offered him a position as CEO.
Career coaching puts you in charge of your future
The story above illustrates a typical coaching engagement. Clients often hire me to help them decide the next step in their career because they are unable to assess their skills and abilities accurately. It’s not surprising that most people find it difficult to evaluate themselves objectively.
Many professionals believe that a resume revision is all that they need to take the next step in their career. Unfortunately, this is a short-term tactic that bypasses the self-knowledge and values assessment - essential for choosing the right career. Instead, they are dependent on the hiring organization to define their worth.
A career coach is trained to help clients get a more accurate perspective of their assets. The fundamentals of this process are actively listening. Here, a coach listens intently noting what is said and unsaid, then reflecting for accuracy. Next, a coach asks questions to help the client interpret their narrative into a clear path for what they want and what is best for their career.
Career coaching is not about finding solutions for clients but aiding them in finding the answers themselves using exercises, assessments, and other tools.
This principle empowers the client to uncover the answers, putting them in control of their destiny.
One-third of your life is spent working
An article in Gettysburg College's website states that the average person will spend one-third, or 90,000 hours of their life working. When you consider that breathtaking statistic, why wouldn't you seek expert advice on how to make that time count?
Studies have shown that managing a career is more than a financial concern. Work can be a satisfying endeavor where you are learning and growing in a way that supports your life outside work activities.
When it's not, it can lead to burnout, putting your health at risk and diminishing your lifestyle.
Three reasons to hire a career coach
There is a myriad of reasons to invest in career coaching, and they roughly fall into these categories.
- Career management: Your values and experience are always evolving, and even if you are happily employed a coach can help you gain insight into your career trajectory. A good coach will help you assess whether your job is offering you opportunities for growth, learning and increased financial compensation. It may not be in your best interest to stay in your current role if you are not continuing to learn. A trained coach could help realize any dissatisfaction or boredom. Whether you are in the early stages of a career or approaching retirement coaching can help unlock your potential more effectively than you can on your own. Performance coaching also falls in this category.
- Job Search: People are most inclined to ask for help when they are job searching. As with the case study in the first paragraph, the client may need help in evaluating their skills, talent, and experience and how to best leverage them for a job search. The process will involve a thorough analysis of the client's work values and incorporating all of the above into their brand. Coaches will also offer tips on network building, interviewing and salary negotiation.
- Career Change: Similar to a job search, this will involve an assessment of skills, talents and experience. Where it differs is in strategically applying them to define your new brand. Your current expertise could be used to your advantage. A coach is best equipped to determine how.
The Benefits Career Coaching
The International Coaching Federation is a global non-profit offering coaching training and certification programs. Their accreditation requirements are strict and include a minimum of 125 hours of work with faculty, six hours of observed coaching sessions, ten hours of mentor coaching and performance evaluation.
ICF also publishes coaching industry research that includes consumer awareness studies. One study found:
- 70% improved work performance
- 80% improved confidence
- 67% improved work-life balance
What differentiates career coaching from going it alone?
- Accelerates a job search
- Will identify the right career path more effectively
- Will expedite process of career decision-making
- Define achievable goals
- Can offer tools to grow leadership skills
How Pros in business and sports rely on coaches
Famous CEOs, athletes, musicians and actors rely on coaches to help maintain their competitiveness.
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan use mental health-meditation coaches. Tom Brady relies on a health and fitness coach who advises on his diet and exercise. In an interview on NPR, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, Atul Gawande, explains his belief that more people could benefit from regular coaching. “Even those who think they’ve perfected their craft,” he says. “They’re there to help you achieve your maximum potential and help you figure out how to get there along the way.” Musing on an eight-year track record, Gawande questioned why nobody ever watched him perform surgery or pushed him to “get better results.”
Gawande also talked about a conversation he had with Itzhak Perlman, the great violinist, another professional who had a coach throughout his career.
Should you hire a coach?
You wouldn’t think twice about paying a doctor, dentist or financial advisor. These professionals are trained to help you make important decisions that affect you and your family. Managing your career is equally important.
Investing in yourself puts you in charge of your career.
Take the reins.