What not to expect from a career coach

By April 10, 2019Advice

It’s no secret that with all the economical and political uncertainty out there, the job market is becoming tougher and tougher, both for those who are out of job at the moment and for those who do have a job but not their dream job. This is not necessarily bad news, for us coaches, as it keeps the demand for some career support rather high. However, I feel that many coaches forget to set expectations at the beginning of the coaching relationship with their clients, which leads to confusion, frustration and a huge disappointment at the end of the sessions for both. Therefore, I thought I’d point out some common misinterpretations people have about coaching, which leads to unrealistic expectations from coaches:

Your coach can’t guarantee you a new job

I find that many people confuse the roles of a career coach with a head hunter. Whereas I understand the subtle link between these two roles, it’s worth clarifying the fact that these are two completely different services. A head hunter is, effectively, someone who’s looking to find the right candidate for certain vacancies they have. A career coach, on the other hand, helps their clients move forward to attain their self-chosen career goals. Indeed, some people’s goal is to find a new job, which is where, I presume, the confusion comes from. In this instance, the coach will help their client through that journey, acting as a facilitator. At Fitin Skills, I even prepare candidates for job interviews based on a specific job description or the interview type. But a coach can never guarantee the client will, in the end, find their dream job, as this solely depends on the client and the efforts they’ll be making toward that end.

Typically, one session is never enough

Unless you, as a client, have a very specific quick-to-achieve goal in mind, or are looking for some specific interview tips, you’ll need more than one session to achieve your goals. Normally, people hire a coach when they feel overwhelmed to work on their career challenges alone, typically because these are too big, too abstract or they don’t know how to go about it. What they are really seeking is an accountability partner, someone who can make them think outside the box and who can push and challenge their thoughts throughout the process of achieving their long-term objective. As an example, a recent client of mine, a Senior Manager working within the energy sector, reached out to me because he needed some help finding a new job. His company had recently been acquired by a competitor, and inevitably, they were planning to make huge job cuts as a result of merging the teams. Although my client would benefit from a rather large redundancy payment should the worst happen, psychologically he didn’t want to face such a situation. He thought the best option for him would be to exit and find something more exciting before redundancy hit his team. We worked together for a couple months, and following some great and profound conversations, it was only during the fourth session that he came to realise his ultimate goal was to be a top performer and stay at his current company. Despite the risk of redundancy and the current harsh environment, he felt the takeover company shared the vision and mission he had as an employee. Thus, sometimes our objectives are not easily identifiable until we’re challenged on our beliefs. But for this to happen, a healthy coach-client relationship needs to build-up and that can take some time.

Your commitment is key

Coaching is a two-way process and requires engagement from both the coach and the client. If you’re not committed to the coaching process or you don’t take it seriously, you’ll be spending your money on a coach in vain. Seriously! A coach will always be by your side, will try to help you as best as he or she can, whether it’s by awakening your wisdom, using specific exercises or finding out what really motivates you. But commitment on the part of the client is critical.  You must be engaged in the process, willing to accomplish something, honest with your coach, open to looking at alternative ways of doing things, and most importantly, invest time between sessions to work on your actions. But if you’re not committed to the process and don’t do your part, the process simply won’t work.

Coaching is not advising

As a very general comparison, the difference between giving advice and coaching is similar to the difference between telling someone the answer to a problem and helping them discover how they can solve a problem for themselves. In that sense, advising can be quick and clear, and generally comes from someone who has experience in achieving what you want to achieve. Coaching, on the other hand, can take more time and skill and it uses the gentle art of asking instead of telling to initiate developmental feedback and change future behaviour.

Needless to say, each practice has its own place depending on the need of the client and, similarly, each coach has a different approach. At Fitin Skills, I vary my approach a lot depending on each client and their needs. I might provide a coaching session with some mentoring involved, where I share a relevant experience of mine as and when needed. I might also give my opinion if I feel it will add value or I might conduct a pure coaching session, focusing solely on finding out what prevents you from reaching your goals and helping you set a clear action plan to get there. But ultimately, when working with a coach, you should have the mindset of being asked questions rather than asking questions.

As a coach, I’ve had comments such as, “You’re the expert, you tell me,” as a way of avoiding a deeper inquiry required for a meaningful transformation. But using coaching as a quick-fix and expecting answers instead of questions won’t get you ahead of your game.

So, whether you’re looking for your next career move or looking to overcome any other career challenge, using the services of a coach could be of great support. But make sure to put in some willingness and be open to self-reflection, and you’ll get a much better return on your investment.

Lusine Magakian

Lusine Magakian is the Founder and Executive Coach of Fitin Skills. Lusine founded Fitin Skills 4 years ago, following a decade long career in banking. Her passion for coaching and helping others has always been an important part of her career and life. Lusine is also a qualified Performance Coach and an Organisational Psychologist. If you need help with interview preparation and/or career coaching sessions, please get in touch with Fitin Skills at enquiries@fitinskills.com. We would love to hear from you.

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