Career coaching - take control of your future
Career coaching is an excellent investment of time, money and effort for anyone who feels that they aren't in control of the trajectory their career is taking. Perhaps you've just graduated, or are just about to graduate, and want to get onto the first rung of the career. Perhaps you've been downsized, fired, or quit. Perhaps you're looking for a better job, a more worthwhile job, or a job with better prospects.
Whatever your circumstances, career coaching offers you help in three main areas: First, it can help you come to a clearer sense of what it is you want from a job and a career, and help you determine what career paths this suggests. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and having a clearer sense of your goals and ambitions, is an essential first step to a rewarding career – and self knowledge has benefits that go beyond work to enrich every aspect of your life.
Career coaching will also help you develop the skills and strategies that make for successful job-hunting. Once you know what kind of jobs you want, the next step is to find them, and to make sure that employers notice your efforts. Knowing where to look for jobs, and how to craft a resume that gives you the real opportunity to compete for them, involve skills that few people have had any reason or opportunity to develop...until the need arises.
Finally, coaching can help you craft a message, delivery and presence that put you in the best possible position to convince employers to give you the job you want. From crafting targeted cover letters to preparing for interviews, finding the right way of expressing your qualities and your goals to potential employers is the road to sealing the deal, and this is a matter of research, practice and confidence, all of which a coach can help you with.
When it comes to all the practical skills involved in finding and getting your dream job, an experienced coach can act as a mentor, sharing the know-how that most people will never have the need or opportunity to accumulate on their own. The career coach isn't just sharing their own experience; they're also sharing the experience of the many, many people that have come before you, and faced similar challenges. Similar, but as unique as your own -- which is why individual coaching is such a powerful tool.
Career coaching for graduates
It's a sad fact that a good education doesn't guarantee you a good job – certainly not the great job you're looking for. It takes practical know-how and hard work to turn a degree into a dream job. And even when you excel in the hard work department, know-how can be elusive and slow in coming. That's where career coaching comes in.
A career coach can offer you advice and help in finding and getting your ideal job in three key areas. First, a coach can help you clarify what exactly you want from a job and a career, and what sort of job best fits your talents, education and individual personality. Second, a coach can be a valuable ally in the task of finding jobs to apply to; there are far more jobs out there than you think. Third, coaching can help you develop the many skills that successful job-hunting demands: from making a resume that stands out from the crowd, to nailing interviews, to maximising the potential of networking.
And the skills and understanding coaching helps you develop aren't an extravagance. People under 40 in today's workplace are changing jobs on average every 4.4 years. It doesn't really matter whether that's because of job-hopping or downsizing, the result is the same: they're looking for jobs. Good job-hunting skills keep their value: they're a good life skill to learn as early as possible.
And there's one more consideration: a skilled coach can be an effective motivator and supporter when the task of finding a really good job seems daunting or impossible
Assessment and analysis of strengths
Finding a good job isn't fun, and can be downright frustrating and stressful. That makes it important to know you're focused on the right kind of jobs – jobs that match your expectations and your talents and skills. There is a wide variety of tools available to those who want a more objective sense of their abilities and aptitudes, interests and personality, and what these mean for their choice of careers. The Big 5/15FQ Personality Assessments, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the California Psychological Inventory analyse personality and preferences. Aptitudes can be assessed via the Highlands Ability Battery. And interests can be explored via the Strong Interests Inventory, which looks at your interests and attitudes as they relate to possible occupations. Tools like these are products of decades of empirical analysis and improvement, and when they're taken and interpreted under the guidance of an experienced career coach, they can prove highly effective for anyone seeking greater clarity about their choice of careers.
Job search strategy, online and offline
Resumes, cover letters, applications, online strategies:
A top-notch resume and effective, targeted cover letters are crucial tools in the fight for the best jobs. Top employers can easily receive tens of thousands of applications a year, and haven't got the time to interview more than a fraction of applicants. They employ 'weapons of mass rejection' to cull applications, and knowing how to avoid the cut is essential. The brutal attrition rate among resumes is why it's important to go beyond the resume, and learn how to use the growing range of online resources, from LinkedIn to Zerply to Facebook's Branchout to your best advantage.
Once you've passed the first hurdle, and created a resume that gets noticed and put in the small pile, the next step is an interview, or a series of interviews. If you're looking for your first career-trajectory job, the competition will be strong, so it's essential to put work into preparing for interviews; from knowing about the employer and understanding what they're looking for, to being able to answer those inevitable questions about your own goals and interests clearly and authentically, on the basis of a clear understanding of what these are. If someone asks: 'what can you bring to our company', your answer will always be more convincing if you know what you can bring! And there are proven strategies for how to conduct yourself and not to conduct yourself in interviews. The mock interview is a proven technique for fine tuning everything from language and posture and dress codes, to how to answer a question, to how to ask one.
Preparing properly for an interview has a second advantage: the higher your level of preparation, the more relaxed and confident you'll be going into the interview, and the better sense of who you are the interviewers will get.
Many universities and non-profits offer career advice, and there are off the shelf 'products' out there – from interactive software to series of inspirational videos – that promise to answer all the needs that a graduate brings to their first serious interviews. But nothing can compare with the individual attention that comes with the individual attention of a coach, and the years of experience they bring with them. Coaches don't default to cookie-cutter solutions; they help clients understand themselves, and to bring this understanding to everything from letter and interviews to the choice of career itself. And a coach is there for their clients in an ongoing capacity, when they need advice in their new job or about looking for another one.
Downsized? Fired? Quit?
In today's economic environment, restructuring and downsizing are increasingly common events. But there's no common scenario when it comes to dealing with the end of a job – whether it's a result of termination, downsizing or resignation. For some people it can come as a welcome relief – like an early release from prison. For others, being downsized, fired or laid off can be one of the most gut-wrenching experiences in their lives, triggering feelings of loss and a plummeting self-esteem that magnify all the financial anxieties that come with loss of income.
A career coach starts by helping with one of the most effective strategies to coping with the end of a job: getting proactive, and turning your circumstances into an opportunity for assessment and self-knowledge.
The first step is to undertake a clear-headed and thorough assessment of your talents and skills. What are your greatest strengths, and how have these served you so far in your career? What areas need improvement? These questions can be explored face-to-face in the coaching process, or they can be approached using assessment tools such as: the Rhodes Thinking Intentions Profile, which explores cognitive styles; LeadershipPro, which measures a wide range of leadership competencies; the Emotional Quotient Profile, which assesses emotional intelligence as it pertains to the demands of leadership.
Whether it's through dialogue or objective assessment, having a better idea of your talents and skills, goals and values, helps in fundamental ways. First, it helps you define the course you want to pursue. Another job in the same industry and capacity? A new direction? Self-employment as an individual consultant? A start-up business? Second, it can help in the process of achieving your new goals: there's no more important element in being able to articulate your value as a leader, or your goals and values as a person, than to have a clear idea of them yourself! Third, it ensures that you can approach the interviews, whether they're with potential employers or investors, with greater clarity and greater confidence. Self-knowledge is empowering.
Getting to work at getting work:
Finding a new job is a job, and never so much so as when you don't have a job. Good coaching will help you organise this job as efficiently and effectively as possible: helping you research opportunities, making sure your resume is the best possible reflection of your career to date, and that your cover letters speak to each potential employer. Most people who've been downsized don't have a luxury of time to spend finding work, and so the job of finding a job needs to be organised like a corporate campaign, with maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Coaching will help you make the best use of your time. It will make sure that you don't just send out five resumes a day, but send out five effective, tailored resumes, with letters that hit the bullseye with respect to each potential employer's expectations.
Interviews and attitude:
Self-knowledge is empowering when it comes time for interviews. So is preparation. What are the most likely potential interview questions you're likely to face? And what are your answers? Preparation like this, with the help of a coach, will help you concentrate on other important issues: what answer do they expect for that question? What if I surprise them and say this? The combination of relaxed confidence and active engagement is a winner every time. And confidence is a keystone in the maintenance of what really is the most important element you can bring to the search for a job, with the help of a coach: positivity.
With the help of a good coach, you have the power to turn one of the worst things that could happen to you into one of the best. Coaching can ensure that you never get caught in the vicious circle of self-doubt, avoidance and dread. Take stock, make a plan and get to work.
Time for a change of job or career
Ok. You have a job. But it's not quite the dream job, or the dream career, you imagined yourself having. Or perhaps its nothing at all like your dream job. Perhaps your employer clearly undervalues your contribution and talents, and it's increasingly obvious that you're in a dead end. Or perhaps you've been successful, but want a job that is more meaningful, more interesting or more aligned with your personal ideals.
Whatever your reasons, it's never too late to change jobs or careers, and it doesn't need to involve a leap into the void. It's all a matter of strategy. Coaching can help you at every step of the way.
Explore options and interests
The first step in any good strategy is to determine exactly what that strategy should be working towards. What are your career goals? Are they attainable? Are they too modest?! What are your interests? What are your talents, skills, strengths and weaknesses? How do these relate to the demands and circumstances of your target career? If a client wants it, there are a host of objective tools available for looking at these questions. Cognitive styles, interests, emotional intelligence, leadership quotient, personality traits can all be explored in depth, with a coach who's had experience interpreting and integrating the results. The same issues can be explored in more informal ways as well, if that's your preference. The end result should be the clearest possible understanding of just what your ideal job looks like, as well as a clearer sense of why it is – a clearer self-understanding.
The next step is to prepare the tools that will help you get the attention and interest of employers. This begins with a top notch resume, and cover letters that target the needs and pique the interest of your dream employers. Identifying your best references, and establishing an online presence via tools like LinkedIn, Zerply and Facebook's Branchout are important elements at this stage. You're marketing yourself; the more effective your strategies, the more opportunities you'll have. Once you have all this right, with the help of your coach, you're ready to start actively looking for jobs. Even in the slowest economy, there are thousands of jobs out there, waiting to be found, and you'll benefit from the the experience of a coach who knows where to look and who to contact.
The final step in getting your ideal job is handling the interview. Whatever your role in your current job, it's likely it hasn't involved much experience in being interviewed, and this is where the help of a seasoned and experienced coach can be most crucial. A successful interview doesn't happen by accident; it's the result of thorough preparation. The first step here is a study of the employer, so that you know as much as possible about their activities, corporate culture and structure. In a very real sense, the preparation you made at the very beginning of the whole process of shifting careers will serve you well in interviews. Good answers to tough questions are easier when you know what you want from a job, what you bring to it, and how you'll handle it. Preparation with a coach, which can include practice interviews, will help you learn how to address the specific needs and expectations that employers bring to interviews, concerning everything from dress and attitude to responses and counter-questions.
The final advantage to thorough preparation with a coach is that it will give you the confidence that allows you to present the best possible version of yourself to interviewers, whether on the phone, on Skype or in person, with a single interviewer or a panel. A career coach can't find you a new job. You have to do that yourself, and it's hard work. But coaching can make sure that your hard work is focused on strategies that actually do work. And in the process, coaching can prepare you to enter your new career with greater insight and self-knowledge, and a clearer idea of just what you want from it.