From leadership training to life coaching, many professionals seek out coaches for any number of reasons. But career coaches often work specifically with people who are looking to bring better focus to their profession. “You spend so much time at work. Why not be happy?” says Chandra Drevjany, owner of CareerMark and co-founder of eloftcareers.com, which focuses on student and graduate job market success.
Coaches usually work one-on-one with clients and tailor their programs and timing to suit their needs. While programs vary, they generally cover a few common areas.
Identifying goals and strengths
In the first step, you work with the coach to pinpoint what you expect to achieve. “We look at your goals, your values, what you like and don’t like, what you are passionate about,” says Roxanne Cramer, founder of CCC Academy in Toronto. “That’s a big part of it.
Another big part is identifying strengths (or “superpowers”, as they are sometimes called). But it’s not enough to just say you have certain strengths, says Cramer. “You need to show a potential employer how you have demonstrated those strengths in the workplace.”
In this step, you build your story—your resumé, LinkedIn profile, social media footprint, bio and portfolio. And the value of having a portfolio should not be underestimated. “Whatever the field, you should have samples of what you have done,” says Cramer. Also, if you are responding to a specific ad, you need to make sure your cover letter responds directly to any questions highlighted in the ad or job description.
Once resumés are sent out, coaches help you prepare for interviews. Timing here, as elsewhere, is fluid. It might take months to get an interview, or as Drevjany explains, “You might get a job in two weeks.” In any case, preparation involves a lot of practise, with the coach sometimes playing the part of the interviewer.
Once the first interview is over, you might want to contact your coach to talk about it. At this point, Cramer will tell you to write a thank-you note. “You need to connect,” she says. “If you have three people in the room you need to write three different thank-you notes.”
No matter how long the job search process takes, Drevjany sees it as a series of doors you have to open. For example, getting an interview might be the first door; getting a follow-up interview might be the second. “If you are aren’t getting a first interview, then we need to take a look at your resumé and job search methods. If you aren’t getting past the second interview, that tells me something is going on at the communication level,” she says.
The outcome of any coaching program will depend a great deal on what you bring to the process, says Drevjany. “If you’ve told me you have a certain time frame in which you would like to find a new job but you’re not putting in the work you need to do, it is my job as your coach to hold up a mirror.”
All in all, it’s worth looking at a career coach as an adviser who, like any other, helps you stay on track with your goals—as long as you help yourself. As Drevjany puts it, “People get financial advisers to look after their money. Why wouldn’t they get someone to help them look after their careers?”
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FINDING THE RIGHT COACH
Here are some factors to keep in mind when searching for a career coach.
In addition to career coaches, there is a myriad of other types of coaches, including executive and leadership coaches (who support new, emerging, and experienced leaders in leadership and personal performance) and life coaches (who focus on individuals and their aspirations, goals and challenges).
Even so, you shouldn’t get too focused on titles, says Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching, in Toronto. “There is a lot of overlap. Many coaches offer a blend of work- and life-related coaching. Some do executive coaching; others do not. You need to look at their skills and experience.”
Ask if the coach has credible training and certification from an accredited body. For example, the International Coach Federation is a professional body that sets the standards of competence and ethical practice for coaches.
Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds. For example, Eileen Chadnick has a background in communications, Chandra Drevjany used to work in human resources and Roxanne Cramer has a business degree and has worked in marketing and communication.
These can vary considerably, so it pays to shop around, says Chadnick. “The fee doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the service.”
Beyond titles, approach and background, there is the ineffable value of a good connection. “There’s got to be conversation and trust. You’ve got to like the person,” says Cramer.