I know what you’re thinking. A blog titled “Do I need a career coach?” written by a career coach. You’re thinking this is going to be a long-winded sales pitch about how great career coaches are blah blah blah.
But my answer may surprise you. The truth is, no, not everyone needs a career coach.
A good friend of mine is a cardiologist. Let’s call him Andrew. He comes from a medical family and just about everyone in his family is a doctor. His family belong to a wide network of medical professionals. Andrew knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was a kid. When he finished school, he applied to medical school and got in. Once he completed his internship, Andrew decided he wanted to specialise so, using his family connections, he found the best cardiologist in his area of specialisation and studied his PhD under their supervision. His career path was very clear and he had mentors to offer guidance on study and career choices.
Andrew now works in a public hospital and finds meaning and purpose providing the best cardiac care available to people who need it (not just those who can afford it). That’s not to say he doesn’t have bad days (there are plenty of frustrations working in the public health system) but on the whole, he’s satisfied he’s found his vocation. I like to say that he has discovered what he was put on this earth to do.
Andrew doesn’t need a career coach.
But not everyone is that fortunate. As kids, not many of us know what we want to be when we grow up, let alone when we are adults and in the workforce. No-one ever talks about or encourages us to consider jobs that fit with our strengths, work preference and passions. That is, the job that is right for us.
People find work, or work finds people, in a variety of ways. Some find work by circumstance – their family has a business and they are expected to work in it, or out of necessity, like taking a job out of school because they needed the money. Others choose to study at university, generally based on how well they score in Year 12 rather than what makes them happy. Some university graduates discover their chosen field of study is not what they hoped it would be. Whatever the reason, many people find themselves in jobs that pay the bills but don’t offer them any sense of fulfilment, satisfaction or purpose.
If you can relate to this, then a career coach can help you.
What can a career coach do for me?
There are many ways you can work with a career coach, it depends on your circumstances and what you want to achieve. When I meet people for the first time, often they don’t know precisely what they want other than a change from the status quo.
They usually start by telling me their career problems – it could be that they find their job unfulfilling, unrewarding or just plain boring (often a sign that they are in the wrong job) or they talk about a poor relationship with their manager or colleagues or a lack of opportunities (usually a sign that they are working for the wrong employer).
Once we define the problems, we can start working on the plan to fix them.
The Small Stuff
Most people think of career coaches when it comes to major career changes, like switching industry. But you can also talk to career coaches when it comes to minor career matters like:
- Re-writing your resume for a new role
- Overhauling your LinkedIn profile
- Coaching on how to ask for a pay rise, promotion or performance review
- Preparing how to network at a conference
A coaches will act as external sounding board to provide you with an external perspective on your issue. This helps you develop a new understanding of your situation and find innovative solutions to your career dilemmas.
Nervous about finding a job
If you’ve taken a career break, like parental leave, or if you’ve been made redundant, you can feel uncertain about stepping back into the workforce. When you feel nervous, it can be hard to recognise your strengths and see the opportunities around you.
In an earlier article Nervous About Finding a New Job? I mentioned a survey of 2.500 workers revealed 80% of us think finding a new job is more stressful than serious dental work.
A career coach will provide much needed support and encouragement as you search for a new job and start your new role. Using a combination of tools and conversations, a career coach can help you pin point your strengths, identify your work preferences, find your passion and match them to jobs that will give you purpose and meaning.
Being promoted to the next level can push your boundaries. For example, imagine you step into a role where you’re responsible for managing other people for the first time. Not only do you have the complexities of your own work to manage, but you also have the complexities of leading others. This is challenging and in that situation, it is useful to have an external sounding board you can lean on to ask questions and discover how to navigate your new role.
Career at a Cross Roads
If your career is at the crossroads and you need direction on where to head next, talking to an external specialist can open your eyes to new possibilities. There is a wide world of career opportunities and the perfect job for you may be one you’ve never considered. A good career coach will help you explore a range of career opportunities that may not always be obvious to you and give support as you resign and shift into your new role.
Missing Out on Promotions
Are you missing out on promotions? Many people experience this frustration and don’t know how to promote themselves and their achievements. In my article How to Speak Up for Yourself at Work I explore why people hesitate to speak up at work and suggest ways to increase your powerbase in a professional and respectful manner.
A career coach can help explore why you are missing out on promotions, why managers aren’t seeing you as the “go to” person and help you devise strategies to get noticed for all the right reasons.
What’s the difference between a coach and mentor?
A coach is an independent professional who is qualified to give career advice. Career coaches are professionally trained and have an obligation to undertake professional development programs every year. They are professionals who work on a fee for service basis, so you pay for their advice. Career coaches will explore your concerns with you and then develop a personal program to help you achieve your career goals. Your career coach will help you get through career obstacles and support you to achieve your goals.
A mentor is often someone more experienced in your field who you can talk to about challenges you’re facing at work. Generally, they tell you how they dealt with the problem and leave it up to you to implement a similar approach. In some cases, a mentor will be paid for by your company, or they may be someone who offers their time for free, as a way of giving back to the profession. A mentor isn’t always trained in how to give career advice but they offer guidance based on their own experience.
It’s important to consider these differences when deciding if you need a mentor or if you need a coach.
How do I find a career coach?
The most important step is to find someone who is qualified as a career coach. It’s wonderful that your best friend wants you to be happy but that doesn’t mean they have the resources, frameworks or skills to help you build a flourishing career.
A good place to start your search is the Career Development Association of Australia (www.cdaa.org.au) where you will find qualified, highly skilled, experienced professional career coaches. Another alternative is to search for “career coach” on LinkedIn.
Once you have your list, check out their profile, read their articles, watch their videos and see if the topics they discuss address any of your career concerns. From there, make your shortlist of preferred career coaches.
I’d recommend you call each of the coaches on your short list. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a free initial meeting so you can evaluate whether they are the right person for you. It’s important to make sure you have an easy rapport with your career coach so you feel comfortable. Use this meeting to ask about their previous experiences, their programs and of course, their fees, of course check out their online reviews or ask for referees.
Like anything in life, cheap does not always mean best so you’ll need to make a value judgment on what you will receive for your fees. Here is a little tip, the cost of your career coaching program may be a tax deduction, to be sure I encourage you to check with your tax agent or the Australian Tax Office
A career coach will help you navigate the small career humps and the major crossroads. Your goal is to find the right career coach, who will be supportive but also challenge you to strive for the very best in your career. I offer a free 45 minute career breakthrough conversation so you can assess whether my service is right for you. Click on the button and take the first step towards creating your own flourishing career.