Many people looking for some career help wonder what exactly career coaching is, and what a professional career coach does. But not everyone agrees on what makes a career coach good – whatever your definition of career coaching may be!
I have a friend who sees a lot of people unhappy with their jobs, and so he dreams of starting a career site that would basically tell young people what to do. He thinks that a career coach’s real job is to figure out what the person needs, and then guide him or her to HIS vision of where they belong.
Would be nice, I guess, if we could walk into a room and have someone magically create the perfect career or life for us. Would sure eliminate all the struggle and angst we feel over figuring these things out for ourselves – and then actually making them happen!
Beware of the Svengali coach!
My friend is definitely not alone in wanting to be the Svengali of the career transition crowd. There are professional career coaches (and life coaches too) who also believe this. Even in the classes for my Career Planning and Development certificate, there were coaches-to-be who talked about telling their potential coaching clients what to do and how to do it. It made me shudder to see how sure – and determined – they were.
And I know that they aren’t the only ones out there who think that career coaching is about the coach finding all the answers. There are professional coaches who will feel the need to take charge and come up with your answer for you. Some even use career assessment testing (which can be useful if used right), to help “scientifically” reinforce their own pronouncements.
Who has the real answer for your career?
There’s only one person who knows what you really want to do, and that’s you. Even if you don’t know it yet. A good career coach helps you get there, supporting you along the way, and helping to guide you in your exploration.
The good news is, there are a lot of good career coaches out there. I know some of them – and I try my best to be one of them. But if you have a coach who is telling you what to do (especially without a great deal of exploration and realization on your part), think again about your coaching relationship.
It may feel like a relief to finally have the answer to your life’s career path in such a neatly-wrapped package, but what you may have instead of YOUR answer is the answer that your coach wants you to have, so that he or she feels they’ve succeeded. That won’t help you a year from now when you’re on your own, wondering how you got where you are.
So what’s the most important thing a career coach can do?
They can listen. And guide. And support you. And they can tell you the truth, like sometimes career transition takes far longer than you can imagine, especially if you’re still searching for what it is you truly want to do. For some, that could take years (accompanied by targeted interim steps along the way).
But a good coach will listen carefully and ask questions and encourage you to explore. They will get you pointed in the right direction. And they’ll understand if you need to take breaks – and then be there for you again whenever you’re ready to continue.
Most of all a good career coach can help you find the answer that comes from inside you, even if it feels like an uphill climb at times. Just remember to get yourself some good climbing shoes. You’ll love the view from the top when you get there. And oh that “aha” moment!
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