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So you’re ready to leave your job and look for something new. You've been thinking about it for a while, going back and forth, but now you're sure. Whatever mental and emotional calculus you had to go through, you’ve come to the conclusion that it needs to happen. What now?
Consider working with a career coach to plan your strategy.
Do you know what you want to do instead? If not, how do you plan on figuring that out? Do you know how to make the most of your precious free time so that you can make the jump as soon as possible? Where should you start?
How will you decide:
- which of your options to pursue?
- what trainings/career development to invest in?
- how to break into your chosen field?
You might be smart (and you probably are, if you’re like most of my readers), but that doesn’t mean that you automatically know all the ins and outs of a successful career transition. A career coach can make this process a lot easier, because this is what we do.
Could you figure it out on your own?
Probably. Eventually. Like I said, you’re smart. I muddled through my own transition without professional help. I relied on self-help books and assessments and luck to get me where I needed to go. It took forever and I spent a lot of time wallowing in anxiety, self-doubt, and indecision. But I did get there in the end! You probably can too, if you're extremely self-reliant, motivated, and patient.
How can a career coach make things easier?
I’m so glad you asked. Here are just a few of the ways that working with a career coach will make your transition smoother, faster, and less stressful.
1. A career coach will guide you through the process.
It’s okay that you don’t know what to do next - I’m not an expert in whatever you do for a living, after all. I’m guessing that your situation is stressful enough without also trying to figure out and execute all the elements of a successful transition.
When you work with a career coach, you don’t have to be the expert. All you have to do is show up and be you, and I’ll guide you the rest of the way. I’m not going to tell you that changing your job is easy, but it’s a lot easier when you’re following a time-tested plan instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
2. A career coach will help you with focus and follow-through.
Why do people have gym buddies? Because there’s more incentive to show up if you know someone else will be there. Why is it easier to learn from a class than from a textbook? Because you get accountability, homework, feedback, and the chance to ask questions.
When you’re feeling discouraged about your career, it’s easy to get lost in the conflicting thoughts and feelings about your situation. Even if you’ve created a plan/strategy/to-do list, it can be difficult to stick with it on your own. A coach can keep you on track and help you plan your next steps. Plus, I’ll help you maintain your sanity and humor along the way. :-)
3. A career coach has seen most of it before.
When you’re in the thick of your career drama, it can feel overwhelming. You may have never had to go through something like this before. Imagine someone telling you, “It’s okay, I’ve helped people in your situation before. It’s normal to freak out right now, but you're going to get through this.”
You are beautiful and unique, but your circumstances probably aren't. Stay-at-home-mom returning to the workforce? New grad with no clue what to do next? Burned-out non-profit employee? Only had one job since graduation? I’ve worked with someone like you.
If you're sick or in pain, you go to a doctor. Your discomfort may seem specific to you, but she’s seen lots of people with your symptoms. In fact, that’s one of the reasons you’re there. She knows what questions to ask to determine the best course of treatment.
If reading a career book is like browsing WebMD, working with a career coach is like consulting a top specialist. Yes, it’s more of an investment, but you also know you’re getting the best available care.
4. A career coach will support you without getting emotionally invested.
Why is this important? Well, in the course of your ponderings, you may have talked to friends or family about your situation. That’s great! It’s good to have a support system in place. However, you may have noticed a few issues cropping up:
- Your spouse/partner gets anxious about your financial future whenever you bring it up.
- You don’t want to spend all your time unloading on your friends, but it’s still on your mind.
- Your family has certain expectations of you that influences their advice.
- People are offering a lot of suggestions and you don’t want to be ungrateful, but it’s really getting on your nerves.
- You feel like you need to look like you have it all together, even if you’re flailing internally.
- Resentment builds up if any of this goes on for too long, affecting your relationships and quality of life.
A nonjudgmental, supportive sounding board can be a real lifesaver in this situation. Your coaching sessions will become a haven where you can be yourself and talk things out without worrying about anybody else’s feelings, thoughts, or reactions.
Because you have this time blocked off for dealing with all your career woes, you can enjoy your time with loved ones more fully. Trust me, your family and friends will appreciate this almost as much as you do!
5. Finally: hiring a coach tells your brain that The Game Is On.
Reading blog posts and self-help books is fine. I’ve spent many happy hours doing just that. But it also can be a sneaky way of feeling like you’re taking action without actually doing anything.
You can daydream about the 47 perfect ways your life could turn out, create a vision board or two, decide what your top five values are. These are all valid activities, but they’re not getting you closer to a more fulfilling career on their own.
Hiring someone is Serious. It sends a signal to your subconscious that This is Not a Drill. It’s a statement that your future is important and worth an investment of real time and money. When you raise the stakes, you’re more likely to do something about it.
Think about it. That’s all I’m asking.
If you’re here to get inspired and think about what you might want to do next, that’s awesome. I've got a whole library of articles for you to check out! But if you’re really, truly serious about finding sustainable, satisfying work - it might be time to call in the big guns. Next step? Check out my article on how to tell whether a coach is right for you.
Image credit: freeimages.com/Asif Akbar
Every new relationship has a period of vulnerability.
You don't know them and they don't know you. You're going to have to decide to trust each other if you want to make a connection.
If it's a business relationship, you might ask yourself questions like these:
- Will they help me get where I want to go?
- Will I get a good return on my investment?
- Will they keep my best interests in mind?
No matter who you're hiring, you want to trust that they share your vision and agenda.
Keep reading to learn how to answer these questions in a coaching relationship. But first: a few words about support and trust.
When you hire a coach, you're really asking for their support.
Career coaches like me support you in getting clear on your ideal career direction. We know that this process can be messy and vulnerable and roundabout. There's certainly the potential for uncertainty and self-doubt, so you need to trust that we'll be there to keep you on track.
If you've ever done a trust fall at summer camp or a team-building thing, you know what I'm talking about in a visceral way. Falling backwards into someone's arms, you really want to know that they're going to catch you and haven't wandered off to get a sno-cone.
Trust and support go hand-in-hand. It's hard to accept support (or even become aware of it) without trust. If Support rides a bad-ass motorcycle into your life, you'll likely see Trust in the sidecar.
How do you go about building that rapport? What does it take to feel truly safe leaning on someone - and, in the case of a coach, being incredibly honest and vulnerable with them? Here are a few of my ideas.
See What Others Are Saying
There's a reason coaches love word-of-mouth referrals. We know that you'll take the word of a friend over ours any day, so we get excited when people say nice things about us and refer us to people in their circle. (Click here to see some of the nice things my clients have said me!)
This isn't just good for us - you can use it to your advantage as well. Do you know anybody who's used a coach in the past? Would you trust their opinion? That can be a good jumping-off place.
Interested in a coach that you've heard about? Do an internet search and inform yourself. If they have a blog, check out what they've written and see if it resonates for you.
Test the Waters
Okay, you've picked a coach to check out. Hopefully, they offer the chance to have a conversation and evaluate your mutual compatibility before you commit. I offer a free strategy call, which you can schedule here.
Here's the deal: you don't have to spill your guts in the very first session. Yes, you need to give us enough information to help you figure out where you're stuck and what to try next.
But you can also share a little bit at a time to see how your coach treats your information. Do they interrupt you or steamroll over you with advice, or do they treat your confidences with respect? Do you feel listened to and understood? Do you want to share more?
I don't believe I'm entitled to my clients' innermost stories right from the start. Instead, I try to earn trust by listening with a compassionate and non-judgmental attitude. Usually, it doesn't take long for us to establish a connection and start communicating on a deeper level.
Check Your Gut
Here are some questions to ask yourself after you get off the phone:
- How do you feel? Energized, optimistic, tired-drained, or tired-depleted?
- Do you feel like you were collaborating with or struggling with your coach?
- Did you feel like they were pushing their own agenda, or meeting you where you are?
- If they told you, "I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm the best coach for you," would your first feeling be relief or disappointment?
Working on your stuff isn't always easy or fun, but there's a difference between feeling emotionally drained and emotionally repelled. I'm here to challenge you to try some things that might feel uncomfortable, but I'll also respect your experience and where you are in the process.
Who's Coaching Your Coach?
We all have "blind spots" - those areas where we carry beliefs or assumptions we're not even aware of. A coach's job is not only to point them out to her clients, but also work on her own.
I believe that every coach needs ongoing mental, emotional, and professional support in order to do their best work. It's valid to ask what kind of support systems your coach has in place. "Live it to give it" was a mantra of my training program and continues to be a cornerstone of my own practice.
It can feel vulnerable and scary to trust someone to support you in your journey. (Especially if you're a recovering control freak like me and want to know for a fact that everything's going to work out.)
But you know what's even more difficult? Doing it on your own. I found that out the hard way. Now that I've gotten used to the support all around me, I'm never going back to my Lone Ranger ways.
I don’t know about you, but I've read tons of self-help books: everything from mindfulness and meditation to finding your passion and simplifying your life. There was a time when I would just scan that section of the library, looking to see if there was something would "fix" me - or alert me to an area that needed fixing.
Let me tell you, if I’d been able to internalize half of what I’ve read (even if I’d done all the exercises - which, to be honest, sometimes I skimmed with the intention of going back), I’d be a veritable Buddha-meets-Martha-Stewart by now. What, you too?
Sometimes information isn't enough.
I’m taking a business class with Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz this spring, and she said something to the effect of, “I give away all of my content for free. If people didn’t want handholding, accountability, and the ability to ask questions about their specific situations, I’d be broke.”
Here’s the thing: sometimes, we really do need a key piece of knowledge before we can do whatever-it-is. If you want to change your own spark plugs, you look at a manual or watch a YouTube video or take a class. And then you know how to change your spark plugs ever after.
But if you’re trying to do something like figure out what you really want to do with your life, no amount of reading or exercises will keep you from coming up against all the parts of you that are invested in things staying exactly the way they are. You get bogged down in your blind spots and half the time you can’t even see why you got stuck or why things aren’t working.
Asking for help is challenging, I know.
I’ll tell you a secret: I became a coach because I wanted to help people, yes - but I also thought if I went through coach training, I’d become a perfect little self-sustaining ecosystem of self-help. I’d never need coaching, because I could do it for myself!
I thought coaches had the inside scoop on how to work through every challenge with mindfulness, creativity, and self-compassion. That’s true, as far as it goes - I do have more effective ways to approach life’s challenges now, and I can help others do it as well.
But there comes a time when coaching myself only goes so far.
I have had life-changing insights all by myself from time to time, it’s true. But the times I’ve spent with a thoughtful and compassionate witness who can call me on my BS and be there for me when I’m in distress or discomfort - those are the times when I’ve reached whole new levels of self-awareness and been able to make lasting change.
Now I know all too well that when I start going in circles, the fastest way out is to get help. I don’t mean to trust in others’ judgement above my own - but when a someone else can be a mirror for me, it’s easier for me to see where I’m getting tangled up in my own thinking.
From Self-Help to Letting Yourself Be Helped
I don’t read that many self-help books anymore. So much of what they say is familiar to me now, and frankly I don’t have much use for yet another tool or exercise.
I know all this, and yet sometimes I still get bogged down in the mindset that I should be able to pull myself together or make change on my own and I start wondering what’s wrong with me. That's when I know to schedule a chat with one of my wonderful co-coaches to help me see a way through my thorny-seeming challenges.
To sum up: coaches aren’t jealously guarding the secret knowledge that will magically make your life better. (It came as a disappointment to me, too.) But what we can do is make the journey much, much easier (and sometimes even fun!).
This is not a plea for you to hire me as your coach (although if you want to see if we’re a good fit, you can schedule a free consultation here).
It’s meant to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you if you too have been stuck in the Self-Help Swamp and haven’t been able to get your shit together yet or make progress towards your dream all by yourself.
It’s a gentle invitation to see what happens if you start talking someone who can listen to you and encourage you without dropping into advice-giving or caretaker mode.
Those people can be hard to find, because we’re not really taught how to relate to others like that, but they (we) are out there. And we’re really excited to see what you create when you start getting the support you need, because you don’t have to do it all by yourself.
Image credit: freeimages.com/Judith P. Abrahamsen