As a career coach, my job can seem kind of mysterious from the outside. People often want to know exactly what it is I do and how I do it. More importantly, they want to know if I can help them achieve their professional goals. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work with a career coach — and if it’s something you should consider—keep reading. This article will answer all of your questions.
Why Work with a Career Coach?
Even before I became a professional career coach, I always believed in the power of coaching. I spent a summer in high school working with a tennis coach and, in a matter of months, my game improved more than it had over the previous 3 years combined. No one questions the value of coaching in sports, but for some reason, it’s harder to understand when it comes to your career.
Think of it this way: a coach, whether in sports or in your career, is in the business of results. Their job is to guide and advise you as you work toward achieving your goal. At times, they may correct you and provide constructive feedback. They’ll cheer you on and keep you focused. They’ll ensure you’re taking the right steps at the right time to create the right outcomes.
What’s It Like to Work with a Career Coach?
Before you get too excited, here are some of the basic things you should know if you think you might want to work with a career coach:
- Coaching is not therapy. The entire process of coaching is focused on the future. Therapy, on the other hand, is focused on the past. Both are valid methodologies in the journey toward self-actualization, but they are very different. A career coach will help you learn from the past, but ultimately, the goal is to apply those lessons and move forward.
- Coaches will not tell you what to do. You are still the one in the driver’s seat. Your coach is there to walk with you and offer suggestions, but he/she won’t dictate your path. You still have to take responsibility for your own choices and actions.
- Coaching is an uncomfortable process. A coach is there to challenge you and push you beyond your usual limits. They want the best for you, so they aren’t going to let you get too comfortable. For some people, this can conjure up resistance, but don’t worry: Your coach will help you work through that.
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When Should You Work with a Career Coach?
Now that you’ve got the basics, here are some of the situations in which you might want to work with a career coach:
- You need help with decision-making.
If you’re considering a new career path, or exploring an exciting opportunity, but you’re not quite sure which way to go, a career coach can help. Again, they won’t tell you what to do, but they will help you weigh the possibilities, offer new perspectives, challenge your assumptions, and generate alternatives you may not have considered.
Think of your coach as an advocate with no agenda. They aren’t steering you toward what they want for you (like some people in your life may be doing). Instead, they’ll help you figure out what YOU want and how to go about achieving that in the smartest way.
- You need education.
You might want to work with a career coach if you’re planning a job search or attempting to position yourself for career advancement–especially if it’s been a while since you’ve done so or if you’ve been working on your own without success. Think of it this way: you’re not a job search expert and you’re probably not an expert on career advancement strategies. That’s okay! But, without that expertise, you may not be employing the best practices. You could be unintentionally sabotaging your efforts. Why not hire someone who is an expert in all of these things?
A career coach can provide best practices for resume and cover letter revision, interview preparation, job search strategies, networking, personal branding and more. He or she can offer recommendations based on real-world experience, not anecdotal evidence (the way friends and family tend to). They’ll help ensure you’re setting yourself up for success and not falling victim to the common, easily avoidable traps that prevent people from achieving their goals.
- You need accountability.
Finally, work with a career coach if and when you need someone to hold your feet to the fire and ensure you take action. Left to our own devices, many of us get distracted by the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life. Working on our goals can be indefinitely postponed.
A coach will keep you moving forward, even when it’s hard. He or she will remind you why your goals are important. They will keep you focused on the big picture and help you implement strategies to overcome the obstacles standing in your way. They’ll listen and encourage you when motivation is waning, and they’ll push you to keep going no matter what.
If you’re still wondering what it’s like to work with a career coach, there’s an easy way to find out: Take the leap and give it a try. Even if you don’t know what you want to achieve in your career, a coach can help you figure that out. As any star athlete will tell you, victory doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You need the right people surrounding you, lifting you up and pushing you toward your goals—and a coach is the most critical “behind the scenes” player.