Work and careers have become so important in our lives. We spend one third of our lives at work. Work is not only a way to earn money but also a way to socialise, to understand who we are, fulfil our purpose and and meet our needs of significance, competence, learning and more…
As work is so important; when it does not go well it affects us greatly. It sucks our life energy out, it affects our relationships negatively; if we don’t take action, it makes us create coping mechanisms that are not healthy and caring in their essence.
How likely it is that the work life does not go well? Very likely. Because
- we don’t know ourselves well
- we don’t know the jobs well we take before we take them
- jobs change and so do we (Jobs are becoming obsolete with the emergence of new technology, new jobs are appearing – who would have guessed jobs like social media manager and YouTuber 20 years ago?- we do change too: we find out we love doing something later, we discover different sides of us throughout life and we evolve)
How does career coaching work?
In an area that is so important in our lives and where there are mistakes, learnings, new trials more likely than in other areas, coaching is a needed support.
Career coaching helps the client to gain awareness to what matters to her in a job, reconnect to her strengths, skills, areas of knowledge and interest so she can gain more confidence in herself and increase her motivation to go work the work she enjoys.
ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. We coaches don’t solve problems, we see problems as a step to learning and have our heart on maximizing the potential of the client. But, coaching clients do come to coaching because they want to solve a problem. When they come for career coaching, it is usually because they cannot stand their current jobs any longer. And they themselves alone couldn’t find a way.
In coaching, we work with vision and goals. We support our coachee to visualize the future version of herself and her life and work with her to become the person she wants to be and create the life she wants to live. Imagine a coaching client coming frustrated, angry or depressed to the first session. How would she react if you asked her “What does your ideal job look like?” She is in pain, she is frustrated, she is focused on how she feels in the moment. How can she put on the pink glasses and dream the future?
Therefore we start with today: we work with our coachee about how she feels, what she thinks about her job. Usually the coachee lists what is not good. She is right. Whatever she is experiencing is real. We listen with empathy, we summarize, we reflect to her what we heard and felt. She needs to feel heard and understood and we help her to understand her current state and what causes that. Once she works with her current emotions, she can find the space to dream the future.
A good way to start is reversing the negatives i.e. “You said you feel micromanaged and cannot experience freedom of decision and managing your own time. What would you like instead?” We help our coachee derive the ideal state making use of what she does not want to have at that moment.
When a person is in a negative emotional state, there is a hyper focus on the negativity and the positive aspects might go forgotten. But there might be important bits of information in what is positive in her current job. We explore that. Some questions can be “When is a moment when you enjoy work?”, “What are 3 things that are good about your work?” There our coachee can remember what creates the enjoyment.
Making use of all this information, our coachee can list what matters to her in the job. We can now support our coachee to create a new vision for herself.
In this new vision, our coachee may be feeling limited with the work alternatives that she would enjoy. She might think of only the current job or the past jobs she had which she did not really enjoy. To explore alternatives, when she thinks of people she knows who enjoy their work, she might feel like what they do does not match with her background and skills. She may want to have new alternatives. We coaches can support our coachees create these alternatives.
Creating new work alternatives
Using the method described in the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard N. Bolles we need two things: our coachee’s favourite transferable skills and her favourite areas of knowledge and interests.
The skills are the actions / verbs such as to create ideas, to lead people, to craft artpieces, to analyze data. Our coachee might tend to list her skills from her work. We dig deeper. We inquire where she solved a challenge or worked in a project and enjoyed herself and what she did. “What she did” answers the question of the skills. We gather as many stories as possible and see which skills are frequently present. These are the transferable skills our client has most experience with and she enjoys using.
We also help our coachee list all the areas of knowledge and interests. It can be from all areas of her life: work, studies, hobbies and private life. Which of these interests and areas of knowledge is she enthusiastic about and how experienced is she in these? We pick up 3 of these in the sweet spot (high enthusiasm, high experience) and 2 with high enthusiasm and not so much experience. Now we have everything ready for coming up with alternatives.
Using the top 5 areas of knowledge and interests and 5 favourite skills, we brainstorm all the possible jobs. We come with as many alternatives as possible. The coachee decides which of these alternatives she would like to explore.
The next steps is up to our coachee. Bolles suggests that the individual should involve people around her, the colleagues, the friends, and the family to come up with alternatives showing them the 5 areas of knowledge and interests and 5 favorite skills so that she collects many more job alternatives she herself couldn’t come up with. Then it is time to gather information to close the gap between what we know and what is. The individual can interview people that are working in these jobs, make small experiments as intern, shadowing, part time working, or pro-bono service. She then can decide for the next career step.
We coaches support our coachee for their career change but also to grow into their new careers, to craft their new jobs and to serve the world with their talents.