Getting in the Game

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“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential.”
- Bob Nardelli CEO, Home Depot

If you want help planning your financial future, you ask an accountant, your bank or a financial planner.  If you’re planning to renovate your house, you seek the advice of an experienced contractor.  If you’re planning an exotic vacation, you visit a travel agent for assistance. So why don’t more of us seek professional help to plan our careers?

Many of us spend thousands of dollars training to prepare for a specific profession. We carefully research colleges and universities to find the best fit, we think long and hard about what specialty or industry we’ll enter. We constantly burn the midnight oil to get the best grades.  But then, once in the workforce, we often leave our career path up to fate, waiting for opportunities to fall in our laps and, when they don’t, moving to another company and then waiting some more.

Ever wondered why someone with less experience and less knowledge occupies a position higher than you?  There are two answers to that question. Either that person was just lucky, being in the right place at the right time when opportunity came knocking, or he or she planned their career, knowing exactly how to get to their goal.

So why don’t we all have a career management plans in place?  Probably because a career management process begins with setting specific goals and objectives and this can be difficult if you don’t know what career opportunities are open to you or you’re not fully aware – and confident – of your talents and abilities.

This is where a career coach comes in.

Coaching is the key to success

“A coach is the guardian angel you need to rev up your career.” – Money Magazine

Career coaches are becoming more and more popular with people of all ages and in all professions. Many professionals are using career coaches to help regain confidence after being downsized or to redirect their career plans after being passed over for a promotion. With aspiring executives, coaches help develop a unique style of leadership, and for young people with their foot on the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder, a coach also acts as a mentor, helping them navigate often confusing political situations.

A career coach acts as your “agent” to not only support you through the rough and tumble world or work but to help you negotiate the best terms when you do land that great job.  And they stay with you to ensure you’re successful in that new job and that you’re positioning yourself correctly for the next step in your career.

The process

What’s involved in the coaching relationship? Career coaches:

  • Assess your behavioural style. Get an objective look at how and why you work the way you do, then looks at how to leverage your strengths in work and life.
  • Conduct a skills assessment. Obtain a comprehensive overview of hard skills (such as accounting expertise) and soft skills (great people or analytic skills).
  • Create an action plan to achieve your goals. In each coaching session, you’ll identify two or three objectives for the following week or weeks so you’ll can measure your progress.
  • Eliminate clutter and distractions. Coaches utilize tools and assessments to help you achieve greater clarity and focus on what matters most to you. If you have trouble saying “No,” a coach can help you set boundaries and have more control over your life.
  • Offer support and guidance through a transition. Whether you’re looking for a new job or striking out with a business of your own, a coach will help you strategize and execute your plan.
  • Are an unyielding champion. A coach is always on your side, wanting what you want and encouraging you to get there. When you falter or question your abilities, your coach  motivates you to keep going.
  • Will listen attentively and tell it like it is. Although a coach is your supporter, he or she will also be straightforward and honest. They’re not afraid to answer the tough questions to get you to the heart of the issue.

In short, a career coach helps to identify your values and assess behavioural style, skills, and experience as a basis for developing a career management strategy or other action plan. Or to put it another way, a career coach help you make your dream job a reality.

Barbara Jaworski is Canada’s leading expert on boomers, chief KAA-Boomer of the Workplace Institute and author of Rebel Retirement – A KAA-Boomer’s Guide to Creating and Living an Explosive Second Act. You can find out more at

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