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.
Sally 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 virtual 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!