My career has been unconventional from the outset. From working as a producer and radio operator at a community radio station to becoming their Accounts and Office Manager, I ended up in financial services - starting with data entry, to managing billions of dollars’ worth of assets.
My career was never by design and I never followed the “path” offered by most organisations. I’ve only had one or two promotions over my whole career, because each time I was ready to step up, the organisation I worked for didn’t offer what I wanted to do next.
And throughout that journey, I’ve been guided by coaches and mentors: some were structured relationships with clear objectives, like the sessions part of my investment bank redundancy.
Other mentors I was simply drawn to and I was fortunate they took (and still take) an interest in my career, and who were generous with sharing their time, experience and knowledge whenever I needed guidance.
How coaching shaped my career …
1) An objective point of view
You can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar, so having an objective, impartial point of view was invaluable, especially when emotions and frustration levels were high.
Sometimes we need someone who understands our industry, or sometimes a different perspective from someone with cross-industry experience can led to new ideas and new options.
The guidance I received working with someone who had achieved what I was seeking to do was invaluable, and I was inspired by their experience in establishing their businesses.
The key is objectivity and impartiality, and I found coaches gave me a broader perspective than my ex-colleagues because their experience was wider and their only concern was that I made the right choice for me.
2) Support when I was frustrated & desperately wanted change
Most of us forget the ‘why’ of our career because we get caught up in our day-to-day. I certainly had no intention of working in finance: I just ended up there, and same thing has happened many others.
Even if you don’t know what’s next, a coach can help you work out where your passions and skills lie and put a plan in place once you know what you’re aiming for:
Do you need to do more training or qualifications?
Can you take more responsibility in your current job to prepare you for the next role?
What skills do you have that can be transferred somewhere else?
Is creating balance in your life a priority so you don’t burn out?
When you open yourself to someone who is objective and whose priority is for you to make the right decision for you, the possibilities are endless.
And given we spend so much of our lives at work, wouldn’t it be great if we actually enjoyed it?
3) Guidance & Clarity when I didn’t know where to start
So you’re at the end of your rope and ticking most of the “Signs you should leave your job” boxes.
Sometimes all we really need is a similar role somewhere else rather than a complete career change - but it’s difficult to see what you want and make the right decision when emotions are running high.
Coaches can provide structure to guide your decision making. They can help you work through the layers of emotions to tap into what is really unsettling you.
From there, they can help formulate a plan, identify skills gaps for you to work on, and suggest ways to inch your way closer to your goal.
4) Being held accountable & taken seriously.
We’ve all had the chat with the parents or partner about what you want to do: some of these go well. Some don’t. Some just laugh when you tell them you want to give up your full time highly paying job to teach Pilates (yep, been there too).
What you get with coaching is the space to clearly state what you really want, be taken seriously, and take serious action.
Don’t be dissuaded if you get a negative result from family and friends - what you need is the right ear, and the right support to put your plan in place. Because, quite frankly, you’re capable of doing anything you put your mind to.
Research shows making yourself accountable to someone you respect is a powerful way to stay on track.
And the one thing you will get from coaching - I assure you - is accountability. Because there is nothing worse having to rock up to your next session having not done a single thing you’d set out to do previously. You’re more likely to achieve more and make greater change with someone looking over you, than trying to flog it out on your own.
5) Develop confidence
Whether you’re uncertain about your career direction, been knocked back from potential roles, or been let go or made redundant, your confidence can take a hammering.
Whether it’s the extra training they suggest, thinking laterally about the skills you have, interview practice or preparing your CV to put you in the best light possible, working with a coach to brush up on our weaker points will better position you for that next role.
Each and every one of these things will help you lift your chin and make that next move less arduous to reach. And it’ll be oh-so-much-sweeter when you get there.
Career coaches don’t do the work for you …
… but they help guide you through uncertainty when you feel like you’re drowning. You get to leverage from their experience, objectivity and structure; and you’ll have someone who can help you to see your true potential when you are too stressed and emotional to see it yourself.
It’s also OK to make a mistake on your journey - it’s part of the human experience and makes you stronger for it.
And remember that YOU are the person who is responsibility for your happiness. You can choose to do nothing and be miserable, or do something positive and proactive to find the career and life you want.