I had just been overlooked for a promotion I really worked my tail off to get. I was pulling 60-70 hour work weeks (salaried too, ouch). I was up to my eyeballs in work, while hitting my deliverables out of the park in every aspect. I even had a glowing recommendation from my boss.
But I never got an interview. I didn’t even get a meeting with anyone to tell me I wasn’t being considered. I got a rejection email.
Needless to say, I was pissed. Indignant and on a mission to really understand what I was missing, I hired a career coach. I thought for sure that a coach could tell me what I was doing wrong. Was I too ambitious? With all those extra hours I was working, was I enabling an overworked/under-recognized pattern? Maybe I just smell like corn chips or something.
I discovered Coach Jennie at a Network Roulette event here at Brazen Careerist. Jennie is spunky, audacious and a driver of awesomeness for folks. She spoke my big, loud language and I was convinced she was the coach for me (side note: check out the “Ask a Coach” group to identify more awesome coaches).
But Jennie was also 700 miles away. I was certainly more than a little skeptical about giving money to someone who knew nothing about me, the company I worked for or my industry. Additionally, I seriously questioned whether or not a remote coach could help me. An hour on the phone with a stranger once or twice a month was supposed to change my world? It seemed like a big iffy risk with money I shouldn’t spend.
But I set my doubts aside and decided to just go for it. I jumped in head first, and it has paid off in a huge way. In a few short months, I went from being desperate for a promotion among a sea of cubicles to creating my own promotional materials in anticipation of launching my own business in the fall.
You can gain similar benefits from a career coach if you take the necessary steps. Here are some guidelines for how you can get the most out of working with a career coach:
1) Pick the right coach
Personal dynamics are so important in a coaching relationship. Some career coaches are nurturing and like to give a lot of affirmations. Some coaches are data-driven and pragmatic. Some subscribe to the tough love philosophy while others provide a more spiritual angle. Mine doesn’t allow excuses or the words “I don’t know” during sessions, which suited me perfectly. Pick a coach that complements your own communication style. Strike up a conversation with the coach via email and you should be able to determine whether the two of you are a good match or not. Don’t settle for a coach that doesn’t fit.
2) Always answer honestly
You’re paying a coach to help you so you better be giving them the tools they need to do so. Fudging the truth and holding back are just going to postpone your ability to succeed with a coach. Coaches gauge their approach to working with you based solely on what you tell them and what they can infer from those stories. If everything is out there on the table, they’ll have the tools they need to get you moving where you want to go.
3) Do the work
If your coach wants you to write down all your strengths and weaknesses, take the time to do it and do it well. Just like homework in school, if you wait until the last minute and deliver weak answers on the spot the next day, you’re only cheating yourself out of the learning experience. You’re paying a professional to help you – trust that he or she will know what you need to learn about yourself and do the work that is asked of you (no matter how bizarre or goofy it may sound). It helps you to learn about yourself and helps your coach know where to lead you next.
4) Leave your self-doubt and skepticism at the door
Negativity can serve as a protective shield against the scary stuff of life, but it’s not helpful in the coaching environment. Upon suggestion that I start my own business, I once told my coach that entrepreneurship is “just not for me” and explained that the inherent risks of going it alone were just not in my life plan. Weeks later (while watching some admittedly awful reality TV) I realized I was not open to creating my own business simply because I had been taught all my life that it was too risky. The shield I was wielding was from other peoples’ fear of risk — not my own. I really wasn’t scared of risk of at all. Now I’m in the beginning stages of building my own business and I’m loving every minute of it.
The coaching experience can be phenomenal if you’re committed to it. I went from being a scorned young professional trying to make traction on the corporate ladder to corporate day-jobber and budding entrepreneur in a handful of sessions with Coach Jennie. I also don’t think my experience was so positive because Jennie is magically more effective than other career coaches necessarily (I might argue she is, but of course I’m biased). The success of this experience is because she was the right coach for me, and I did my part too.
What other strategies can help you get the most out of sessions with a career coach?