A career coach can help you enhance your current career, plan for your retirement job or encore career, find a career that fits your personality, or give you advice on your job search. In this article, we’ll discuss how to work with your coach and get the most out of the experience. It is important to remember first off, that you are responsible for your progress. You have to invest the time and energy needed for your coaching sessions for them to be successful. Once you have picked a career coach, how can you make sure that you are getting the most out of it? Follow these tips…
Identify your objective. For career coaches to help their clients, it’s important for the client to know what their career goals are, and to communicate them effectively to their coach. Be clear about your goals from the beginning. If you don’t know what some of them are, do your best to explain them and let your coach know you need help with identifying them. That can be part of the process, is knowing what you want and where you want to go in the first place. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your career coach about what you are looking to accomplish in your sessions. Identify two to three goals you would like to work on at a time. Add more to your plate as you progress. Also remember it’s important to be as clear and specific as possible with your coach. Avoiding generalizing. Being specific like this will help you outside of this relationship as well. (You’ll be able to articulate your goals to a prospective employer or to your boss, by practicing this with your coach!) For example, don’t just say “I want to join LinkedIn”, when you really mean “I want to leverage my experience and skills effectively on LinkedIn to communicate with organizations I’m interested in working for.” There is a big difference. One statement sounds more confident because it’s specific, one sounds wishy-washy – good practice for those difficult meetings we all have where we feel like we need to sound stronger. So, before you start with your coach, give some good thought to what you want to accomplish through working with them.
Prepare for your sessions. It is important for you to prepare for each session. Depending on how often your coaching sessions are, your coach should provide you with some type of homework that is appropriate for reaching your goals, or for feeling more comfortable in some aspect of the business world. Make sure you take the homework seriously. If you have virtual sessions with your career coach, ask them to provide you with materials you can download or access online. Having a career coach isn’t like high school – you can’t spend little time on or skip your homework and expect to graduate. If you really want to reach your objectives, make sure you clear time in your schedule to focus on your homework, evening-weekends-lunch hour-early morning, whatever works for you. You may need to create a system of accountability to keep yourself on track. Ask your significant other to help you stay serious about your homework.
Communicate with your career coaches. George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Make sure you are really talking to your coach, not just saying “yes” or “no” to everything. If you don’t agree with a certain suggestion, let them know, and let them know why. If a certain exercise isn’t working for you, tell them. Everyone learns differently, and a good career coach will want your direct feedback and want to leverage your learning style. To do so, they have to know what works for you, and what doesn’t work. However, a word of caution. Be willing to be pushed out of your comfort zone. A good career coach will build upon your strengths and help you examine and overcome your weaknesses in both your professional and personal life.
Be honest with yourself and with your coach: Admit your obstacles. To have career breakthroughs, you have to be willing to be vulnerable in your sessions. Although going to a career coach isn’t the same as going to a psychologist, you have to feel comfortable sharing your feelings, dreams, and fears with them. Doing so can help you and your career coach identify possible obstacles and work on what is holding you back from reaching your full potential in the business world. Perhaps you had a bad experience in a certain job and you are still holding onto that fear moving forward. Recognizing your fear is the first step to letting go. Remember to be patient during this process. Obstacles will not disappear overnight, and sometimes getting to the root of a problem in itself can take time. Be patient with yourself and trust your coach to guide you through the process of working through it.
Stay focused. Successful coaching requires that both you and your coach are fully invested. Where you have your coaching sessions says a lot about how invested you are. Many choose to have their sessions over the phone, which allows you to be flexible. But if you regularly have your session in the car while you are driving, or while you are watching your kids, how invested are you in advancing your career? Choose a quiet place for your sessions where you can really focus. Let your family know that your coaching sessions are important, and talk about how you can work together to help you focus on your coaching sessions. This could include setting up a special place in the house for you to have your calls, or use your home office. Whatever works for you to ensure that you have a quiet place to focus and reflect.
Make sure it’s the right fit. It’s important to interview career coaches before deciding to work with them. Once you’ve chosen your coach, continue to be attentive to the advice your career coach gives you. Do you feel better after your sessions? Do you feel inspired? Or do you continue to feel lost and stressed after your time with them? A career coach should be able to effectively determine how you want to live and work, what you really want to do with your life, and why. While these are deep topics, if your career coach never touches on them, they will be missing out on important dimensions to determine your career path. That, in effect, means that your career coaching may not be as effective as it should be. Talk with your coach about it, and be direct about what you need instead. Give them the chance to make it right.
Have fun! Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Too many times, clients forget this part. While you want to take your sessions seriously and learn as much as you can, don’t forget to have fun! Embrace this phase in your life and enjoy your sessions! Don’t be afraid to become friends with your career coach. Many clients stay in touch with their coaches years after they have finished coaching. You are more than just a person to your coach, you are a person they have gotten to know very well. Most coaches enjoy hearing from their clients well after the coaching relationship has ended. But be balanced. To respect their professional time, remember if you are asking for their advice, and it really should be provided within a paid session, ask them for a session. Be mindful that they get paid for their time giving advice.