Time for a confession. During a long, professional life in the film industry, before undergoing a dramatic reinvention to become a career coach, I did not believe in the value of coaching. In fact, I was the polar opposite. I was barely curious, mostly a skeptic. I quietly scoffed at others who used the services of a coach, imagining that what they offered was vague and dreamy. As the proud daughter of an accountant, I was raised to be a pragmatist. I like tangible results, not smoke and mirrors. This was definitely not for me.
But then, everything changed. And karma came calling.
It started when I lost my job. I’d been recruited to run a project for the Discovery Channel and the American Film Institute, but soon after being at the helm, the role was relocated across the country, and I was unexpectedly faced with a job search for the first time in 20 years. Angry and unprepared, I made several key mistakes, and as I dug a deeper hole, I longed for an expert who could help dig me out.
Humility is a surprising eye-opener. At a networking lunch with a respected colleague, I learned more about their experience of career coaching, and it grabbed my attention this time. So much so that I suddenly had a clear idea about my path forward. That lunch not only changed my viewpoint about the value of working with a coach, it made me want to become one. Within days of the lunch, I set a plan in motion that sent me off to school at the ripe age of 60 to retrain for a new profession.
Career coaching is rooted in action.
That awakening was years ago, and I’ve now coached more than a thousand people through various aspects of their career development. But I still remember the inaugural day of training to become a coach, parked in the first row of the classroom, arms crossed, still a bit uptight and unsure of what I was doing.
Could coaching really be a tangible framework to help others in their career development?
Well, the answer I have to that based on the experience from that first day to the years of working with people since, is an enthusiastic YES! And here’s why. Coaching is rooted in action and results. It’s not the least bit vague or dreamy. And whether I’m guiding someone who is looking to grow in their current job, find another job, or completely shift careers, we collaborate to develop a pragmatic, step-by-step plan to achieve their goals.
Building workable plans for career development
I recently worked with Tracey, a content marketing manager at a toy company, who loved her job, but got in touch because she felt like she was stalling in her career progression. On our first call, we identified the most pressing areas for her, with the potential for maximum impact. One of Tracey’s long-term goals was to
move up to become a senior manager, leading a larger team. But she recognized the need to demonstrate better time management, and prioritize an already-intense
workload. And in the midst of that, Tracey was feeling burned out and isolated as she and the staff worked remotely. Once we had clarity, together Tracey and I were able to
build a plan, with doable steps to address her goals, allowing for the challenges that might get in the way. Within a few coaching calls, she had found an online system for
keeping rigorous track of the open items on her to-do list, which she would actually use.
We brainstormed to devise a strategy to regularly communicate her successes to her boss, and be more proactive about taking the lead with presentations at full company
meetings. Through the course of our working together, Tracey committed to finding a mentor to guide her career development at the company, and actively pursue casual
meetups to stay connected with other colleagues. But even with all her drive towards career growth, Tracey was also ready to address her burnout, and determined to secure enough downtime away from the job to be able to show up at work as her best self.
Career coaching helps frame your professional story during a job search.
One of the crucial elements of a successful job search is confidently and concisely answering the inevitable “tell me about yourself” interview question. This is often an area where my coaching clients need the most help. This was the case with Chris, who was recently the director of project management at an electronics manufacturing firm. Chris had lost his job twice in the last 3 years, and though neither loss was performance-based, his confidence was shattered. In order to build his confidence back up, I worked with Chris to reconstruct some of his notable accomplishments, down to every last strength and talent it took to achieve them.
An aspect often overlooked is encouragement. I worked with Chris to help pay attention to not only the tasks but also the positive impact he has had on the companies where he worked. With all this information now at hand, Chris began the process of putting together a polished narrative that demonstrated his unique value. After practicing several dry runs together as part of extensive interview prep, he was ready to tell his story to prospective employers. Within a few months of our engagement, Chris landed a new job at a rising company with enormous growth potential, and he’s still there!
Streamlining a path to a new career
My path to discovering the way forward to a career change took years. And now, looking back, I’m convinced that a career coach could’ve shortened that journey. I write this, taking inspiration from the many clients I’ve coached during their career reinventions who decided to get out of their comfort zones and go for it! Some decided they’d had enough of full-time employment and wanted to become a consultant in their area of expertise, like Leigh, a former HR executive who now works with small businesses. Others had an entrepreneurial idea that had been simmering for years, and realized it was finally the time to work on it, which is what happened to David, the founder of a startup that launched in March. And I’ve coached clients who took the plunge and went back to school to retrain for an entirely new profession (as I did) with a nod to Alex, who’s getting a Master's degree on the road to becoming a therapist.
Career coaching works because it streamlines the process by taking what might start off as vague ideas, coaxing them out, then moving them into exploratory first steps, and finally nurturing these ideas into becoming a reality.
Career development coaching moves you forward.
To the skeptics out there, I hear you. I was you. But let me be clear. As a seasoned career coach, my only agenda is to listen carefully to what you most want to achieve in your professional life, be a collaborative partner in creating a personalized action plan that works, and offer accountability and ongoing support to help you maintain momentum. As I discovered years ago, coaching is practical, just like my Dad’s career. So, if you’re in a career transition or looking to advance on the job, and you have an opportunity to work with a coach, GRAB IT!