Megan Fitzgerald, Expat and International Career Coach of Career By Choice – Photo Courtesy: Megan Fitzgerald
There are times in life when you just feel stuck and you donâ€™t know how to move forward. These days, those moments seem to be increasingly common with regards to careers.
For many people, the question is: should they somehow try to rediscover their passion and motivation and stay in their jobs, or should they try and head off in a new direction? Career coaches and counselors can help.
Coaching vs. Counseling
There is a small and subtle difference between career coaching and counseling. In an interview with LearnVest, career coach and counselor Donna Sweidan says that coaching is more solution orientated. Clients and coaches work together to determine practical steps that will help clients achieve their career goals. Career counseling, like most other forms of counseling, is process driven and involves a holistic look at all behavioral, emotional and psychological factors that could be holding clients back.
Coaching and counseling also have a couple of things in common; for instance, they are both designed to help clients learn more about their skills and goals, and what is necessary to help develop those skills to meet their goals. They also both take a closer look at the different options available, and weigh them up against current life circumstances, as well as future expectations. Finally, they provide clients with the tools and motivation to drive their careers forward in the chosen direction. All in all, both processes should give clients the confidence and ability to make informed decisions that are right for them.
Those who adopt a more counseling-orientated approach are careful, however, to state that they can only work with certain underlying (not too serious) issues, as they relate specifically to clientsâ€™ careers and work life. Serious problems, like depression and bipolar disorder and the like, need to be treated by fully trained and qualified professional psychologists and psychiatrists.
How to choose a career coach or counselor
Not all career coaches and/or counselors are what they seem. According to Katherine Brooks, executive director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, the rapidly growing field is almost entirely unregulated, which means that anyone can set themselves up as a career coach or counselor, no matter their qualifications â€“ or lack thereof.
Katherine Reynolds Lewis also warns about the many people who set themselves up as career coaches without the proper training, experience or credentials.
The two ladies provide some good advice on how to choose a coach/counselor who has the skills, qualifications and expertise to help you.
1) Think about what you want to achieve
In another article, Reynolds Lewis cites job-search coach Lora B. Poepping, who says that knowing what you want to achieve will help you choose a coach. For example, if your problems are more soul-based, that is, you donâ€™t feel that what you do is personally rewarding and youâ€™re looking for more meaning in your work life, then you probably want someone with a counseling-orientated approach. But, if you need some help with devising practical steps and solutions to achieve a specific career aim, then a coach may be better for you.
2) Do your research
Career coaching might not be regulated, but that doesnâ€™t mean that there arenâ€™t any professional organizations or associations doing their best to ensure the fieldâ€™s integrity by maintaining best practices and professional standards. Find out if the coach youâ€™re considering belongs to any industry associations, like the International Coach Federation (recommended by Brooks).
You might also want to find out more about their qualifications and about the education and training providers through which those qualifications were obtained. A two-day training course from some little-known, possibly fly-by-night center certainly doesnâ€™t carry the same weight as a diploma in counseling or a psychology degree from a reputable college.
3) Shop around
As with any counseling or coaching relationship, the best person for you isnâ€™t necessarily the person who offers the best deal financially. You need to be able to establish a rapport with your coach; you need to be able to trust them and that makes the decision a very personal one. Itâ€™s a good idea to see at least three different coaches before making a final decision. That way you can find out more about their styles, approaches, philosophies and whether they suit you.
Whether you choose a counselor or a coach, you need to realize one important point: they are not miracle workers. The process is not a quick fix. In fact, the key word there is process. You wonâ€™t find the answers youâ€™re looking for in one session. It typically takes between six and eight sessions to get the desired results, and in some cases it could take as long as six months.
You also have to be prepared to do the work. Quite a lot of introspection and self-exploration and discovery is necessary, so you will get â€˜homeworkâ€™ to do between sessions. You have to do it if youâ€™re serious about the process and getting yourself out of your rut. Coaches and counselors can only provide support and tools; itâ€™s up to you to use them.
Jemima Winslow is no stranger to career crises, which is why sheâ€™s seen a career coach, who has helped her narrow her focus and give her the confidence she needs to start looking for jobs overseas.