To say that a career is a marathon, not a sprint, is an incredible understatement. A career is a journey that will likely last half of your life, a marathon of marathons, with more than a few sprints mixed into it. It is a quest replete with highs, lows, and more in between; navigating them all on your own is overwhelming, but that’s where a career coach can help.
As with other areas where a large-scale challenge intersects with a burning motivation to succeed, your career is where professional mentorship, encouragement, and advice can go a long way. Like a personal trainer, financial advisor, therapist, or dietician, the right career coach can make a world of difference when you need one.
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“Career coach” is a broad-spectrum term describing any one of several distinct professions, including career counselor, life coach, executive coach, or simply career coach. Each has a different specialty or focus, but all help people work through various professional struggles and barriers.
We all face various career challenges ranging from interpersonal dynamics to decision-making, reaching goals, knowledge and skill gaps, confidence issues, and more.
It may not always feel this way, but everyone struggles at different points.
We can attempt to overcome each of these obstacles alone through determination and sheer force of will, and we may succeed. However, engaging the support of someone well-versed in these challenges can help move things along faster and provide solutions we may not have found alone.
As it is a diverse profession, career counseling can help with various goals and difficulties. The reason you pursue coaching may not be the same as someone else’s.
Whether you choose to work in finance, healthcare, hospitality, or another profession, every career is unique, and so are the challenges accompanying it. Even so, several themes radiate through most work-related adversity, and chances are, there’s a coach ready to help you conquer yours.
One of the most fundamental reasons to employ a career coach is to help you figure out what shape you want your career to take. This conundrum is especially common for younger individuals who will soon or have recently finished school. However, reinventing oneself and forging a new path midway through your career is increasingly common.
Whether you’re taking your first baby steps into your career or you’re more established, it’s normal to be unsure of what comes next.
Finding a counselor to talk things through with you is an excellent way to assess your skills, values, and dreams and start creating a map to the treasure ahead. In addition, they may employ tools like a career assessment or personality test such as Myers-Briggs to help identify your top career options.
If you know what type of work you want to do but are struggling to break into the world of work in that industry, a career coach can help. Specifically, you should consider a career center or counselor specializing in job search strategies, employability, and interview skills.
Coaches like these can help you fine-tune your resume and cover letter, find the best career fairs, and potentially practice interviewing. They may also help boost your LinkedIn profile or find competitive internship opportunities to open doors and build relationships.
Low confidence can sap your vigor and weigh down your career development. Often, you have the skills and knowledge you need to achieve your most significant career goals, and all you lack is belief in yourself.
Many issues, including age, gender dynamics, experience level, and educational background, can make it easy to feel like everyone around you is smarter, faster, and better at their jobs than you. So it’s no wonder nearly two-thirds of global employees experience impostor syndrome.
Having someone in your corner to help you learn to see your value and talents can be instrumental when it comes to confidence issues. The right career coach can do just that. Many coaches offer motivation, counseling, and discussions to help you see (and believe in) the value you provide in your work.
Effective career planning often comes down to setting strategic goals and having a clear path to achieve them. Professional career counseling is a fantastic way to turn your biggest career goals into actionable steps.
Advising sessions focused on strategy may involve:
- Building a high-level career plan
- Identifying key goals
- Outlining granular tactics to reach those goals
Excelling in your occupation and moving your way up the ladder involves many moving parts. Working with a professional can help you better understand those different parts and how to make them work for you.
As much as we may want to believe that career growth is strictly meritocratic, there is much more to your professional advancement than how hard you work and how productive you are. In many cases, the career guidance we need most is not in improving our core job function, but our interpersonal skills, including:
- Preventing or resolving conflicts
- Self-advocacy and negotiation
- Presenting a positive attitude
- Taking responsibility for outcomes
- Clear and respectful communication
Regardless of your career path, you will need to work well with others for your best chances of success. If this is an area you struggle with or would like to keep growing in, consider a career coach or a therapist to help you develop the tools you need to thrive.
Every career will present difficult choices from time to time. For instance, you may face a dilemma about whether to take a particular promotion or job change.
In most cases, no one can make these choices for you. You are the one who knows all the particulars of the issue, and only you can sense the answer that feels most right to you. However, career counseling is a great way to weigh all your options and discuss the considerations before making your choice.
Career advisors are typically quite comfortable with this type of conversation and can be an invaluable resource in helping you confidently arrive at a decision.
The age of applying to one job as a young adult and then staying in it for decades is, for most of us, a thing of the past. Instead, ongoing career changes are now the ubiquitous reality — promotions, layoffs, industry shifts, going fully remote, or returning to the office, to name a few.
Transitioning into or out of a role, company, or career has many layers. A job is intertwined with our finances, emotions, and how we spend our time; changing it can impact all of these. One reason to seek career counseling is for emotional, logistical, or strategic support with starting a new job, leaving an old one, or any other significant career transition.
Whatever type of support you need as you move into this next leg of your journey, career services professionals can offer it.
A typical career lasts the majority of a person’s adult life. In that time, each of us will undoubtedly go through numerous personal changes. Situations evolve, priorities and perspectives change, and new fears and dreams supplant old ones.
It is entirely ordinary to experience changes in emotions toward your work during all that time. For example, the things you cared most about when you started working may not be the same anymore. Or you may have once loved the work itself and since fallen out of love with it.
Having motivation and fulfillment in your work is crucial not only to career advancement but to your overall satisfaction until transitioning into retirement life. If you have lost touch with your “why,” consider career coaching as a way to get back in touch with your reasons for pushing forward and creating beautiful things.
Even after knowing the many types of career coaches and what they can do to help, it’s not always clear when it’s time to find one.
It feels easiest to consider seeking career advice in moments of acute struggle, such as when you feel stuck or overwhelmed by a specific issue. A question you don’t know how to answer, a problem you haven’t been able to solve, or a goal you want to achieve are all valid reasons to work with a career advisor.
Alternatively, a career coach can also be a fantastic resource for helping you with ongoing career management and growth or navigating chronic challenges. In such cases, a coach can work like a therapist or mentor, offering continuing support with your career exploration through regular sessions.
The short answer is there’s no right or wrong time to try it. If there’s something in your professional life you’d like to improve, consider reaching out to someone. Many coaches will offer an introductory consultation for free, and you can decide where to go next.
A career is the marathon of marathons, yet dotted all along the way with sprints. There are times when that race is easy, or at least manageable, and forward progress feels natural.
There are many times along that epic journey when you don’t know where to go, there are roadblocks in your way, or it feels like your legs could give out at any moment. When these struggles inevitably arise, there are people who are ready to help.
Career coaches may not be your first line of support for every professional challenge you face, but they are a fantastic resource. The right career coach at the right time can change your life if only you are willing to seek them out.
This article by Sam Stone of Smarter and Harder originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks, and was republished with permission.
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