What a Career Coach Can Do For You

perfectjob_12Coaching is a cutting edge method for professional self-improvement. For years, athletes have had coaches, actors have had coaches, singers have had coaches…and you, too, can have a coach, a trained career professional to support your career development. With a career coach, you can discover what it would take to work in your career of choice, advance in your current position, or manage your career in the best way.

Coaching is all about facilitating change and transformation. In today’s workplace, change is the norm, as well as the challenge we must conquer to be successful. A career coach will help you determine what it would take to make change your ally. Coaching is a process driven by you. You decide whether you want to be challenged and held accountable by your coach, or gently nudged and asked curious questions. You decide what it would take to create your action plan and then follow it. Successful coaching depends upon your commitment to the process. As in any activity, you will have to do the work; your coach can only light the path to help you find your way.

Coaching is a skill, a craft, an art…a way of life. The best coaches don’t turn it on and off. They live coaching in all aspects of their lives. More than something one does, a coach is one who is. It may sound a bit corny, but I believe coaching creates a third space where coach and coachee can learn, trust and grow in the truth of now and the hope of the future. Real-life goals get accomplished, if that is what you want to do.

What would it take for you to experience the joy of coaching? What would it take for you to hire a career coach and reap the rewards from having someone there just for you…to cheer you on to career success? No more need to dump your stuff on your partner or spouse. Your coach will take on that burden for you.

Most coaching is done by phone. You call the coach at a regularly scheduled time, usually weekly. Fieldwork assignments between sessions are usually offered by your coach to enhance your learning. Sounds simple? No, not really. It takes a lot of work – but you can do it!

Are you ready to take the plunge? Are you ready to try coaching to boost your career success? Then first find a career coach that is a good fit for you. Check out credentials, experience and recommendations of at least three coaches before choosing one. Three seems to be the magic number – if you interview too many coaches, it will become difficult to keep them all straight. While coach evaluation is important, don’t get hung up on finding the perfect coach. There is no such individual. Learn to trust your gut or intuition a bit. All in all, most coaches are sincere, so the “fit” is probably the most important criteria for you. If a coach is experienced, they will also be looking for the right “fit” with a coachee. Who do you feel is the best fit for you? Whom can you trust?

Finally, remember the old saying, “No pain, no gain.” The coaching journey can become tedious as well as uplifting. It can become painful as well as rewarding. Whatever you do, stick with it! Discuss any doubts you have with your coach. Change won’t happen unless you really want it and do everything you can to make it happen. Just do it! You’ll be so glad you did.

Career On-Hold for December? Why?

When I went to the post office this week, I had to firmly grip my steering wheel with both hands as my car wanted to turn down the street to the shopping mall — all by itself! Seriously, I wanted so much to go "play" and leave work behind in the office. But if I did, what would my career coaching clients say when they called for their appointments and I wasn't there? What would my clients think who were expecting their resumes completed, and I hadn't even started writing them? What would my creditors think if I ignored the bills on my desk and just added more? I had obligations to myself and others that I needed to fulfill despite the holiday season with its good cheer and temptations beckoning me.
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Traditionally, December is a time when employees party-hearty, slack off some, use up vacation days, and wind down in anticipation of holidays during the month. On the other hand, companies look for ways to meet budgets, trim expenses, and complete their annual planning for the new year. Sometimes layoffs occur before December 31 as cost-saving measures to enhance a company's year-end bottom line – you know that, right?

You may ask, "How does this relate to MY career?" Well, let me tell you — plenty! The economy is coming back. Today the national unemployment rate was announced at 7.7%, the lowest rate in four years. When employers begin hiring in 2013, will you be ready? Or will you be someone who has put your career on hold for December, choosing to play instead of prepare for the hiring rush? Perhaps you are happily employed and have no desire to change career or job right now. If that is your situation, congratulations…you must be working your passion, and I am so thrilled for you.

However, according to several recent reports, 20-50% of all workers are miserable in their current
Definesuccess208gifjobs and want to "bail out"
the first chance they get. If you are ready to jump ship, or if you are currently unemployed, December is the perfect time to update your resume, practice job interviewing skills, work on your career plan, and get ready for January. Don't be left behind when hiring gears up.

Contact Abilities Enhanced for your career change needs. I'm ready to help you!

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Your Career: Have You Reached Its Final Frontier?

Astronaut Neil Armstrong died last week. He will always be remembered as the first man to walk on the moon, saying as he did it for all posterity, "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." I vividly
Moon landing recall that day in July 1969, as do most of the Boomer generation. We were glued in awe to our TVs, some of us still watching black and white sets. What a day! If a man could walk on the moon, then anything was possible! The event filled me with hope and anticipation as I looked forward to my first year in college and the launch of my career. As most high school graduates then, and even many today, I had no inkling that my first career wouldn't be my only career. It's taken years for me to comprehend that career paths are meant to change.

Interestingly, career change correlates to space exploration. Like for those involved with many of NASA's projects, we have to patiently persevere and let the change process evolve, accepting things that can make us say in doubt, "Yeah, but…" If we try to rush it, chances are we'll fall into a career by default instead of by choice. Many names of NASA's space vehicles iterate major steps of career change, the most current being Curiosity.

Curiosity

Forty years after the first moon landing, NASA continues space exploration – this time with a robot on Mars. Launched in November 2011, the Mars Rover, "Curiosity," landed perfectly on the "red planet" on August 5, 2012. Just imagine it, over eight months to travel from Earth to Mars. Once again, I was awestruck at the grandeur of this event that led me to reminisce about the moon landing.

In changing careers, eight months isn't an outlandish time. Some career changers can accomplish the process in as little as three months, while for others, it might take up to a year. Influencing the time factor are one's commitment to the process and the actual hours available to invest. Most of my career change clients reach their goals in three to four months with my career coaching assistance, motivating and cheering them along.

Exploration

The first U.S. satellite, "Explorer 1," launched in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik. Look how far the U.S. went in space exploration in the eleven years before man's walk on the moon!

In career change, curiosity leads to exploration of options and possibilities. Questions get asked and with the right focus, answers are found. Once you see a few career possibilities, it's time to explore their viability for you. At this stage, the career change process involves a lot of research, talking to people who actually work in jobs that you are considering for yourself. Consider the information you receive; what matches your life's purpose and your core values?

Discovery

In the 1990s, NASA's space shuttle, "Discovery," busily carried communication satellites to various space destinations to facilitate man's deeper exploration of the space frontier. This exploration led to many discoveries that contributed to more than the just the satisfaction of man's curiosity. Scientific discoveries built on each other, paving the path for greater things to come.

As you choose a new career following your research and testing, I hope you accept that this career may not be your last. Most people will change careers several times in their life. Instead of looking at it as your final career, do the mapping to build on this career so it can lead you to even bigger and better career opportunities.

Summary

Just as the NASA space program has endured major budget cuts and accepted private industry into the realm of space exploration, periodic layoffs will occur in the workforce and careers will continue to evolve or become extinct. (Does anybody remember a keypunch operator?) One thing is true about change of all kinds – it happens – change is a constant of life. When you are able to embrace change and rebound from it in your career, you will be better prepared for whatever the future may hold for you. Parts of the career change process you can direct, but there is plenty beyond your control.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Career Coaching: The Core of All Career Services

As the phone rings, I set my timer for the career coaching session that is about to begin. Sally is always on time for her weekly career coaching calls, and I tell her how much I appreciate her promptness. Once we exchange pleasantries, I ask her what issue she wishes to focus on today. Although I had offered her fieldwork to complete after last week’s session, I ask her what issue is most important – perhaps the fieldwork will have to wait, as the client always drives the career coaching agenda and I let her do that.

Phone coachingSally decides to discuss the fieldwork, an exercise on clarifying her work values and determining how they align with her company’s culture. It so happens that Sally is unhappy at her current company, or maybe it’s just her current position, or her boss. She’s not sure, and that’s why she has hired me. She needs a sounding board, a personal career trainer who will ask her the tough questions to help her figure it all out and determine which career changes she needs to make. She needs a career coach!

When Sally first contacted me she thought she just needed a new resume as she felt her only option was to enter a job search. Upon initial discussion with her, I quickly learned that she couldn’t define her job target, wasn’t sure of her skills, and was overall very confused. I explained the career coaching process and how it could help her resolve her dilemma. She was intrigued and relieved at the same time, eager to start a career coaching program.

What attracts clients to coaching? Other than the fact that studies have proved that it works, coaching offers clients the opportunities to be accepted and self-centered in a safe environment. They come to coaching full of desire for self-discovery, ready to do whatever it takes to define their goals, create an action plan and achieve their best results.

How does coaching work? As a trained career coach, I ask a lot of questions; I call it using a “pragmatic inquiry approach.” I practice active listening to hear not only what is said, but also what isn’t; to hear the nuances caused by voice inflections, pauses, and silences. I tell stories with metaphors to stimulate “aha” moments. I provide feedback; I tell my executive clients that I do “in your face” coaching and they ask, “How soon may I start?” They are not accustomed to having someone be totally straight with them and appreciate the fact that I will always tell them the truth.

Although some coaches still meet their clients face-to-face, like most coaches around the world, I prefer coaching by phone. Whenever I coach a client, we enter into a safe “third space” where all activity is client-centered and confidential. By conducting coaching sessions over the phone, potential distractions can be eliminated (for the client and myself), so I can focus my entire attention on the client.

Sometimes I am contacted by coaching prospects who express doubt that coaching by phone works more effectively than in person. Whenever this happens, I offer a complimentary coaching consultation so that the skeptical individual may experience phone coaching first hand. Usually, the outcome is positive and a doubting client has been converted. However, if the outcome is not positive, I am quick to refer the person to a career coach who does coaching in person. (A comprehensive referral network is just one of the benefits of membership in professional coaching organizations.)

Between coaching sessions, I encourage clients to exchange unlimited emails with me to address challenges and concerns, or celebrate successes. Some coaches will conduct coaching sessions by instant messaging with any of their clients. Another coaching method made available by technology!

Regardless of the method used, the profession of career coaching is growing rapidly. It is the leading Definesuccess208gifvirtual method for providing career management and career transition services to global clients. In our world that has transitioned from an industrial to a knowledge economy, career coaching is more than just a trend. It is here to stay, not as an add-on to other career services, but the foundation from which other career services sprout. Just like my client who thought her only need was a resume, most coaching clients don’t initially realize the power of what coaching can do for them until they experience it first hand. Then, watch out! They take off like a shot and nothing can hold them back.

As for Sally, she has decided to leave her project management position and begin a new career as a personal trainer. How did she make this decision? She has always been passionate about Yoga and exercising. Once she realized that it was “OK” to have a “fun” career, she raced to research what requirements she would have to meet to get certified. She is now enrolled in a special class and studying in preparation to take her test. Her attitude has shifted from one of over-responsibility in a job she detests, to one of joy and enthused anticipation for a new career just over the horizon.

This original article was previously published a few years ago. After review, I realized it is still very applicable for today's career changers.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Abilities Enhanced Acquires KansasCityCareerServices

In January, Abilities Enhanced acquired the career coaching business, Kansas City Career Services. This purchase will help our company enhance our presence in the Kansas City area with its own website and new connections. It is with great enthusiasm that I announce this addition to our professional career coaching and resume writing services.

One new feature for Kansas City-based Career Chaos readers is a local blog that will feature Kansas City area job leads furnished by local HR professionals, recruiters and other reputable sources. At Abilities Enhanced, we want to help everyone who yearns for a job. This is our way of promoting employment for all!

In the days ahead you may see messages and activities that will work to link Kansas City Career Services to its parent, Abilities Enhanced. After all, we work in a global space where even Kansas City employees are affected by workplace practices throughout the nation and the world.

I look forwarded to communicating more personally with Kansas City careerists who seek that special place made just for them in the "right" workplace.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Find Career Solutions By Taking Time to Process!

About six weeks ago, one of my career coaching clients took the leap of faith to work with me for three months. Treadmill3Ben (not his real name) had been feeling like a hamster on a treadmill as his head spun in circles trying to figure out what he wanted from a career, or even a job. All he really knew was that what he was doing now was eating him alive. A man of many talents, he couldn't decide what he wanted to do, where he wanted to do it, and how to become successful in his quest. He'd been spinning out of control for months.

Like so many floundering career change wannabees, Ben wrestled with mixed messages all around him. He gave me permission to share his struggle with you in the hope that others could more quickly overcome their own career barriers and make a satisfying career change. One exercise we did was to assess Ben's negative beliefs that have held him back. We all harbor assumptions based on personal past experience or external messages. Here is one of Ben's beliefs and how he processed through it:

Message: My background and experience aren't good enough to find the work I desire.

Source: Hiring managers pile on rejection letters following my job interviews that reinforce that I'm not good enough, that I lack something.

Assumption: I lack the right skills, or I'm not presenting them well enough.

Analysis: I know this is true because I haven't been able to find a job I enjoy. Also, I see the struggles of so many people trying to find work. And the media keeps saying that the economy and the job market are tough.

The Shift of Ben's Belief:

Is it productive to believe this? No, since this limits what I can do going forward.

What is more productive to believe? While my inability to find work may be blamed on the economy and glut of unemployed talent, it could be the result of my needing to learn new job search skills.

What is probable? That my beliefs are a combination of my unrealistic conclusions and the economy in general.

What is possible? I need to find ways to promote myself better, either through a better resume, networking, more nuanced job interview responses/techniques – or all of the above.

What models show me this is possible? I've seen other job seekers succeed at finding employment. Their preparation and dedication paid off.

What action can I take? Remind myself that I am not alone. Every time I receive a rejection letter, I know there are hundreds also receiving similar letters. Understand that the job search search process is a numbers game – I first have to collect my "no's" to get my one yes! And, I have to turn off the television and talk radio; instead, put myself only into positive learning environments.

Wow! And this was just one message! Ben had more to work through, but this one shows you how it is possible to create your own beliefs and not become a passive receptacle for the messages and pontificating around you. Don't get sucked into the prevailing head winds. Stand up and face your beliefs. You decide what you want to believe. The easy way out will not move you down the road to successful career transition. Quit blaming others and start seeking honest answers from within you. Take the necessary time to process. (Not widely known fact: for college graduates with experience, the unemployment rate is only 4.4% – so forget that 8.9%.)

What happened to Ben? Here are some sound clips from his email to me just this week:

"Meg – I think I may have had some sort of epiphany!"
"I started thinking about all of the big ideas from our previous coaching session…"
"The above will sound rambling and disjointed but this idea of [blank] is sticking for some reason."
"I also started thinking about potential applications."
"Anyway, I've been thinking about it a lot. We can discuss this more in depth during our next career coaching session. Just thought I would share." 

I just smiled. I so love it when my career coaching clients discover their "it." A05That's what makes my own career one I truly enjoy.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Your Career: What Do You REALLY Want?

"I hate my job." How many times have you said this? Do you know why? Like many, you may have a career by default instead of by choice. You know what I mean – a career you fell into right out of college, a career that you've grown by expanding your skills without passion. Or maybe it's a "job du jour," one that you're doing this year, didn't do in 2010, and hopefully, won't have to do in 2012.

I know, the economy is tough right now; new jobs aren't easy to get. But guess what – if you love what you do (and are good at it), you'll move from one company to another with ease as your personality shines through during your job interview. Attitude does matter, and is quickly discerned by hiring authorities. If you are looking for just a job, any job, interviewers will see right through you and choose a little less qualified candidate who shows enthusiasm and energy! No kidding – best skilled doesn't always win.

The big question isn't how do you get a job. No, the big question is this: What do you REALLY want? Most people find it much easier to say what they hate than what they like – does that ring true for you? The only way to get closer to naming what you want is to eliminate all the "hates" off of the table. Make a list and then throw it out the door, burn it, or whatever you need to do to get it out of your way so you can once and for all name "IT," own "IT," and get "IT!"

WHAT YOU HATE is addressed during the first week of the career coaching program, "Now What? 90 Days to a A03New Life Direction." As an Authorized Facilitator for this program created by Laura Berman Fortgang, MCC, I can tell you that it works! If you'd like to learn more about it, visit my Now What? web page. Be sure to download and take the quick quiz to determine your eligibility for this program - how many of items did you check off?

Make 2012 the year you decide to take a risk and go for a career change. When you follow the right process, you'll surprise yourself at what you discover about your career must-haves for your career satisfaction.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Don’t Have a Mentor? Why You Need One!

Each of my new career coaching clients is asked a question on the enrollment questionnaire, "Do you have a mentor (or role model)? If so, who?" We all need inspiration to be successful, especially in this crazy work environment. However, most of my new clients don't have a mentor. Do you? Many answer that question by naming a parent, sibling, or friend. That's OK, but did that person really inspire you in your work? That's what a true mentor can do.

If unable to answer the mentor question, I suggest to my career coaching clients that they research biographies and autobiographies of successful people, particularly in their fields. It is possible to glean "mentor-esque" inspiration from reading about accomplished individuals, and applying that inspiration to your own life and career.

One creative, brilliant person that most would happily call a mentor left us this past week. Steve Jobs A lot of glowing information has been written, spoken, and broadcast about Steve Jobs. And all of it is rightfully justified. He was thoughtful enough to produce his biography which is due for release in a few weeks. But even without that, you may learn a lot about him just by researching on the Web. I recommend that college students, as well as all others, spend some time learning about the life and gifts of Steve Jobs. Here is your "mentor" for almost any career.

Perhaps what has impressed me the most is what Jobs said in his commencement address to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. At that time, he knew his life would not be as long as most, so he used his address to inspire young adults to make best use of their own lives. He encouraged them to discover the career that made them happiest as that is the only way to go through life – living your dream. His bottom line was, "Don't settle." These words are simple, yet so powerful! Watch this speech for yourself that is posted by author, Daniel Pink, on his blog.

Don't get to the end of your life, or even retirement, and feel you lacked the will power, direction, or whatever it was to allow yourself to be able to work your passion. Yes, money is important, but most of the time you can find a way to follow your dreams after they filter through a business reality.

Now that we've entered Fall season, it's a time to start making career plans for 2012. What big career dream do you have that has gone by the wayside? Or is it that you just can't come up with any great dream at all? Start with a career coach to discover and clarify, then move forward with a mentor who can give you long-time support as you shift career gears and reclaim your career passion!

Wishing you career success now and in 2012!

Meg

“Horrible Bosses” Strikes a Nerve

Have YOU ever had a "horrible boss?"Almost half of all workers have according to a new OfficeTeam survey as pointed out today by Diane Stafford, the Kansas City Star's careers and business columnist, in her article, "Bad Bosses: Nothing to Laugh About." This number makes sense when you look at how many media outletsBad boss  and blogs are publishing "bad boss" articles as the movie, "Horrible Bosses," is released to the general public this week. Besides the Kansas City Star, I've seen commentary on this subject on MSNBC.com, ABC.com, DailyFinance.com, Complex.com (blog), and more.

I can honestly say that I, too, have experience working for a horrible boss – a demanding, demeaning, tyrannical person. But I want to play devil's advocate today. I think it's only fair to walk in a boss's shoes for awhile before casting judgment on so many.

In the present workplace environment influenced by current economic conditions, it takes a lot of skill, poise, and savoir faire to keep a team of disgruntled, tired, and sometimes bored subordinates engaged and productive. Many of these employees are feeling overworked and underpaid before even considering how they feel about their boss. All kinds of surveys have reported that most workers would jump ship if they had a ship to jump to. Furthermore, the boss himself (or herself) may feel the same way about their own jobs, but because they're the boss, they have to follow "mum's the word" on sharing their true feelings.

For example, "bottom line results" is the number one goal in most companies these days. Bosses get leaned on pretty hard by their own bosses – all the way up the line – to squeeze every bit of work out of each person under them. "Do more with less" is the motto of most companies. That kind of pressure can create a lot of stress for a boss. Do you think they enjoy making their people unhappy – really?

Routinely, I have career coaching clients complain to me about their bosses. Some are fearful that they will be terminated based on their boss's behavior toward them. However, most of the time I've seen my clients find some inner peace once they address communication gaps with their bosses. Just yesterday a client confided that she and her boss had a total breakdown in communication over a new, simple procedure involving the use of email to notify outside sources of a situation. An entire procedure had been devised to accommodate this new policy. My client approached the implementation as she always does, using an analytical and logical processing method. On the other hand, her boss's main concern was, "How will this new procedure be regarded by the email recipients?" Bam! Left brain met right brain, a head-on collision. Neither knew how to proceed from their position.

Communication is the real key to success in the workplace, especially when you sprinkle in some empathy. "If you can't get out (of the company), take a deep breath and examine how you can improve communication lines (with your boss)," is part of my quote in today's Kansas City Star article. Try to imagine yourself in your boss's place – what would you do if you were the boss of you?

Approach your boss with open-ended questions to initiate dialog about your communication gap. Listen – really listen – to what your boss says about how you can improve. Don't defend yourself, but ask for guidance on approaching problems from your boss's point of view. Sure, it may not be as comfortable as your space, but give it a chance. No matter where you work, there will be people who look at things differently from you. Maybe sometimes you can get your way, but not always. Play the empathy card and you'll become amazed at how workplace communication slowly starts to improve.

Wishing your career success in 2011!

Meg 

#Jobseekers: Networking 101 for Introverts

Last week one of my executive career coaching clients asked for tips on how to do in-person networking with new contacts. As an introvert, he feels hesitant just going up to someone and initiating a conversation. Since he is Networking working on improving his relationship-building skills, an upcoming conference offers an opportunity he can't afford to ignore.

Here's what my career coaching client said:

"How can I get more comfortable and effective in general networking situations? When I am in a setting where my position/authority/role is clearly defined, I am much more comfortable approaching people and engaging in conversation; for example, if I am giving a presentation, then interacting about that material is very easy and comfortable. Or, if at a conference with table seating, I can be comfortable conversing with the people on either side because that is a clear expectation.  

Where I am less comfortable is: 1) walking into a general cocktail party or reception where no one knows me or why I am there, and initiating a conversation with anyone. I know this is partly a self-confidence issue as I tend to be thinking, 'why would anyone want to talk with me?' 2) also, engaging directly with people I admire from afar is difficult; I can be totally fascinated listening to a presenter from the audience, but incredibly uncomfortable approaching that individual to have a one-on-one. Part of this is my learning style – I learn by listening intently and then absorbing internally what I have heard – but I have to be able to approach and make contact with key people."

For an executive to admit this is quite a feat. I give him kudos for stepping up and confronting his fear. Perhaps you can relate to his situation? One way to help conquer this fear of networking is to seek out career coaching.

I offered my client the following quick tips:

1) When entering a room, most people are hesitant to jump right in and start meeting people. As an introvert, I suggest you look for one person standing alone and walk up to him first. (Chances are he is also feeling intimidated by the experience.) Introduce yourself and then ask questions that you can feed on in order to ask more questions, adjusting as you go for contributions that you can make about yourself. Usually, an individual will ask questions in return.

2) When it’s time to sit down, look for a different individual who may be alone and sit by her. Then strike up a conversation again with questions. As more people join the table, they will want to get involved in the conversation, too. It’s important that you connect with as many people as possible.

3) Don’t freely pass out your business card if not asked for it, but ask for another’s IF you really feel you’d like to stay in touch. Sometimes at the table, everyone will pass around business cards so all get each other’s. That’s OK.

4) Know your agenda in your mind before you enter a room for networking. Know what you want to take away from this experience. That will help you feel focused and organized.

There are entire books written about networking. One of my favorite books is Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber and Lynn Waymon. These authors offer a site with lots of good networking information.

For introverts to become successful at networking, it's important to practice, practice, practice! Eventually, you will become more at ease with this activity. And don't forget, whenever you meet someone with whom you want to develop a relationship, make sure you email him/her within 24 hours to schedule a follow-up meeting for coffee or lunch. Don't wait for someone else to call you – take the lead and help this relationship grow!

What do you think? How do you initiate conversation in a networking situation? I'd love to hear from you - please leave a comment below.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg