I didn’t always know I wanted to be a career coach – in fact, I didn’t know until I was near 30. I was just happy to land a full-time job when I first graduated from college in 2009. Companies were still recovering from the 2008 housing market crash but one industry seemed to be doing particularly well: online education. While I was unsure of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, the opportunity to help people enroll in college seemed like a really rewarding position. It was my first interview and first offer out of college, and I took it.
What is a Career Coach and Why Did I Become One?
The World is Not Your Oyster
I remember the first two weeks of my first full-time corporate job very vividly. I’ve gone through intensive training where my class of 10 learned sales scripts, and how to overcome objections. Together, we role-played over and over and over until we hit the real phones. It was terrible.
We had quotas to dial at least 200 numbers a day. I learned really quickly that our company bought leads from people who clicked on various websites’ banners about getting a degree. That click would then be sold to 9 other online universities. Often, by the time I called someone, they would hang up or curse at me, asking why I was the 10th person to call them that day about going back to school. I remember thinking, this is NOT what I signed up for.
But I let my pride keep me from quitting and decided to make the most out of it. Wide-eyed, I understood why we had such extensive training on overcoming objections and building rapport. It turned out the training paid off because I eventually became recognized as a top producer companywide (out of 200+ sales reps), yet I was miserable. I didn’t believe in the product and I felt many times my ethical values were called into question.
The day my salary was supposed to double, I resigned. I decided my happiness and my ethics were more important than money. I learned from colleagues years later that a huge massive multibillion-dollar fraud suit hit the company… turns out the Department of Justice had been building up a case.
When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens
As soon as I left that position, I decided to go into a staffing agency for the first time ever. I will never forget that meeting. There I was, mesmerized that this friendly recruiter was going to help me find a job. I remember asking her point-blank, “Wait. So, you’re going to help me find a job? I don’t need to pay you?” She chuckled and said, “That’s right.”
Little did I know then how recruiters’ commissions worked. We’ll get to that part in a bit.
Instead of marketing me to her clients, the recruiter actually told me about an internal opportunity. While it was a rich experience to learn all about recruitment and staffing, I was most excited about helping others just as she was helping me. Eventually, I was promoted to a full-cycle recruiter and over the years, I was able to recruit for the most prestigious companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
I learned A LOT as a recruiter. Being an agency recruiter is definitely the most challenging job I have ever held, but very rewarding and fun. I think if you’re lost in life and have no idea what to do, being a recruiter is a great path. It teaches you a lot of useful life skills like negotiating, and how to find any job, but also transferrable skills such as interviewing, active listening, rapport building, and selling.
Discovering What’s Missing
As fun as it was being a recruiter, there was a BIG part of me that was still missing. I remember in both positions I was really eager to take them because I thought I was going to be making an impact and helping people. Both of the careers I started with didn’t really feed that inner desire. For the online university, I wasn’t guiding or counseling anyone, I was just trying to convince them that they needed to sign up for a program regardless if they were ready or qualified.
As a recruiter, I was dismissing the people who really needed help. The unemployed, the imperfect resume, the nervous interviewer – forget it. Instead, I was just poaching really great talent who already had solid careers, asking them if they wanted a bump in their salary. Day in and day out I would give a canned rejection statement: Thank you for applying however we decided to go with another candidate.
Finding my silver lining
When asked by job seekers if I had any feedback, I was unable to dive into all of the areas they could have improved on. As a recruiter, our time is our money. Our job is to find the best match; not to counsel and coach job seekers on how to figure out what they want to do and market themselves.
I was always itching to give some kind of constructive feedback, but that often resulted in a job seeker wanting to learn more. What I had to teach would take days and I only had seconds to give up because I was under sales quota pressures and had to find my ‘purple squirrel!’ (Fun fact: purple squirrel is often a recruiting term to find that one needle in a haystack – someone so rare you would think they don’t exist… but hiring managers swear they do. A lawyer who lives in San Francisco and speaks Hungarian knows how to code CSS. That is a true example of a purple squirrel I was tasked to find.
Soul Searching Led Me to Career Coaching
After sitting down and journaling my purpose, values, skills, and natural talents pointed in the direction of career coaching. As I took several personality tests and strengths assessments, a recurring theme came up around counseling and human resources. When researching options, I felt career coaching was the true calling that would allow me to take all of the knowledge and experiences I’ve held over the years, and make a real impact.
I’m thrilled that since launching in 2016, I’ve been able to coach hundreds through finding their passions and helping them master each of the steps in the job search process. I’m also really fulfilled knowing that I’ve been able to reach thousands with my career advice through the form of blogging and writing. Blogging is a personal passion of mine and it’s really amazing that I get to call this work.
For the first time ever, I feel like I’m making a real impact AND I’m helping those who really need it. While the previous jobs didn’t seem like my long-term career at the time, they definitely shaped me into who I am today and have contributed to me being a strong career coach. Every experience is worthwhile even if it’s “the worst experience ever.”
I find the positions you hate are often the ones you grow from the most. Learning what you dislike is just as important as figuring out what you do like. So, if you’re in a position you hate, don’t be despaired! You’re just building up life experiences that will make you more resilient in the long run.
So, What is a Career Coach?
As a Career Coach, I’m focused on helping people gain clarity and confidence around the direction they want to go. People can benefit from a career coach at all stages of their careers. While the majority of clients come to me because they feel unhappy and are actively seeking a change, I have also helped many who are doing really great but want to get to their next level. Additionally, I have helped many who are in the middle – they are not looking for a career change – but want to figure out how to deal with difficult managers or make a toxic work environment better.
We do this by mapping out milestones at the start of our session together. A question I often ask is, “If you can change anything about your current situation, what would it look like in 6 months?” These are the areas that we really target. We dive into the things that you want to do or choose to do, not should do or have to do. By getting clear on why your goals and actions are important to you, you take back your power and steer your own ship. You’ll often hear career coaching is transformational and that’s because, in addition to tackling the outer obstacles, we tackle the inner blocks that show up along the way.
Outer obstacles are often time, money, skills, resources, etc. Inner obstacles are often fear-based, they might be seen in the form of our inner critic and our self-doubt. I have found that both are really important to coach together. I can give you the tactics and the strategies (to overcome outer blocks), but if you don’t have the confidence and the drive (inner blocks), you’re not going to see the long-lasting results you want to see.
What’s the Difference Between a Career Coach and a Life Coach?
While I market myself as a Career Coach, I am actually a life coach at its core. Coaching is a process and any coach can coach around any area of life: business, money, relationships, family, friendships, and health. The same principles and skills apply. It’s amazing to see people shift once they have this big weight lifted off their shoulders. If you can improve one area of your life, you start to feel more balanced as a whole.
I am so blessed to have found my calling and step into a role where I can make a positive impact by helping others. I hope to help you find yours, too!
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