Careers used to be permanent decisions in our lives. Once the decision was made, a thirty or forty-year career was nothing more than an expectation.
Nowadays, modern professionals experience career shifts more than ever. In the United States, the average worker goes through around ten jobs in a lifetime, and that number is growing.
Many of those who go through career transitions or advance to new positions in their industry are unaware of the positive influence that a professional career coach can have. Let’s take a closer look at career coaching to see whether it may be a good fit for you and to explore some tips to get the most from a career coach.
Understanding career coaching
A career coach is a professional that offers you valuable expertise to help your career. Just like a human resource consultant advises corporations on employee policies or dispute resolution, a career coach is like your own personal consultant.
A coach offers support and encouragement during tough times, and they introduce you to resources to help advance your careers.
There are many instances of career coaching – from career counsellors to employer-sponsored coaches to informal mentorship programs. While they can all be valuable, today we’ll focus on maximising the professional service of your own contracted career coach.
You need to put in time and effort
It can take years of hard work to find a career that is fulfilling and aligns with your values and objectives. That same hard work has to apply to your efforts in a coaching program. While it won’t take years to achieve meaningful results, it’s also important to know what you’re signing up for.
A single coaching session may take one or two hours, and a full program may run for weeks or months. Expect to commit an hour per week to the sessions themselves plus a few more hours on homework and practising new skills. The good thing is that many of those tasks are specifically related to your job. You can complete them as part of your activities at work.
As far as relationships go, it’s not uncommon for people to stay in contact with a coach for years – even after a program ends. Especially if you find a career coach that’s a good match for your personality and industry, it can turn into a valuable lifelong networking opportunity.
How do you get the most from a career coach?
Coaching is a personal experience. To get the most from your coach, you have to understand each other better. That’s why you’ll have to be vulnerable at times. You may need to discuss personal things like aspirations and challenges.
To get the most from a career coach, consider the following advice:
– Remind yourself that your career coach only wants what’s best for you.
Their advice is intended to be practical and objective. Your coach won’t judge you, no matter how embarrassed you may feel about divulging your aspirations. Any information you share will only help your career moving in the direction you want and help you get the most from a career coach.
– Be sure to share your expectations.
Be honest with yourself and the coach to set your goals – anything from switching careers, writing a new resume or even touching up your LinkedIn profile. Making your intentions known will only make the process run smoother.
– Manage your expectations.
After setting your expectations, it’s time to manage them. Be sure to keep a level head and be patient. Don’t expect a single coaching session to answer all your questions or set you up with your dream job. Coaching can take time to get right, and managing expectations is an important part of the success.
– Listen to your coach’s advice.
While this may sound like an obvious tip, you’d be surprised at how many career services have failed because of a lack of motivation. A coach can assign homework between your sessions, and it’s important to actually follow-through.
Maximize each coaching session
The best way to maximise your time during sessions is to come prepared. After all, you’re spending your hard-earned cash on a professional service to build your confidence and gain insight about your career.
Talk with your coach in advance since they may have a routine or preference for each session.
It’s common to bring your resume, portfolio and an idea about your expectations for your first coaching session. While this may sound like preparing for a job interview, don’t worry! Your coach is here to help you, remember? Having your employment history handy only helps your coach understand your skills and experience to help get to know you and develop advice.
For subsequent sessions, you and your coach will work together to figure out what kind of preparation is required.
Measure your progress
It can be a challenge to track and measure the impact that coaching has on your career. How do you make sure you get the most from a career coach? The advice may be intangible like tips to build confidence, interview skills or networking abilities.
Nonetheless, you should talk to your coach about ways to track and measure progress. If you work with an experienced coach, they’ll know some tricks for measuring progress toward your goals.
The best way is to start small and work your way up. Try setting two or three goals for your coaching program. These can be anything from applying to a certain number of jobs, to making connections on LinkedIn. These metrics can be tracked with numbers, but that’s not all you should measure.
Other ways to measure progress are more qualitative, like getting professional feedback from your career-related activities. Suppose you have a job interview but are unsuccessful, follow-up with the employer for their feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. This qualitative feedback can be excellent fodder for your career coach to design further advice.
Evaluate your options
Just like it’s important to measure the career-related benefits of a coaching program, it’s also important to determine if coaching is right for you.
It’s a safe bet to give career coaching a try – there is no obligation to pursue a multi-month program if you don’t feel like it’s right for you. Even after a session or two, you can take a step back and evaluate your experience.
Sometimes a simple mismatch of personalities can result in difficulties in achieving results or building the trust that’s required to get the most from a career coach.
Don’t beat yourself up over it, though. Just like in your career, sometimes you have to adapt and try again if things don’t work out. It’s your career, so make sure you make decisions that are best for you.
If you try it and like the concept but feel like a different coach might be a better fit, that’s okay too. If you switch career coaches, your first experience will form an excellent foundation to build on with your new coach.
Career coaching is about development – so keep your eye on building your experience and skills and you’ll be on your way to maximising your coaching program and finding traction in your career.
Want to learn more?
I hope this has given you ideas on how to get the most from a career coach session. If you want to learn more, take a look at our blog about coaching and the changing face of work.