Living your best life as a career coach: A personal story
It’s true in life that not all our destinations arrive in the way we plan. I would say that is true of my successful career coaching business and, now other service offerings, that came as an offshoot of that work. In today’s blog, I would like to share with you how I got into this line of work in the hopes that it helps others out there who also have been on a journey to find a career path and work that aligns with their purpose and life balance needs.
A new way of thinking — planning my work around my life
I guess you could say I backed my way into my career as a successful career coach. In a way I could claim that I “reverse engineered” it. I had a lot of clarity around what I didn’t want in my life. I had spent decades working for others in high-stress jobs and had come out the other side burned out mentally and physically. I had returned to school and was working on finishing my doctorate degree when I found myself in desperate need of a part-time job and the cash infusion that came along with it. I recalled that when I was in the Peace Corps, I had a friend and colleague that was a fellow volunteer but also had his own online business. Every morning and evening I witnessed him responding to emails and issues that arose from his business. This example intrigued and motivated me when I began to consider my options for part-time work. What if I could do the same? What kind of work would fit into my schedule? Could I design a career around my current life-style desires? I decided to experiment with my vision and rather than plan my life around my work, I would plan my work around my life.
First things first: figuring out my priorities
This meant having to decide what my priorities were. My health had taken a hit from years of pressure-filled jobs and, while I was on my way to recuperation, there were a few things that were musts. First off, I needed sleep, and in the early days I needed a lot of it. I had to find, or create, a job that allowed for a good night’s sleep and naps as well. Next, nutrition was key to managing my health. I needed flexibility to cook healthy meals and eat at regular intervals. The allure of setting my own hours and the autonomy to do that made the appeal of owning my own business grow stronger. I had taken many personality assessments (and even trained others on them) so I knew my strengths and challenges when it came to my work life.
Spending quality time with my family and friends also topped my list of desires. I wanted a part- time opportunity that left me with the time and energy to fill my social needs. I was a single woman in my forties with no children but I had a desire to adopt. The flexibility I would need as a future single mom was a top concern. I roughed out the approximate time I would need for sleep, nutrition, family, friends, school work and leisure. This gave me an idea of how much time I would ideally have for work.
Learning how to connect my passion to career options
Next on my docket was research. What kind of work would I excel at that I could fit into this ideal, still, fictional life-style? I considered many different fields and, in my quest, I ran across an ad for career coaching. This sounded appealing to me. I had an intense desire to use my education and experience to make a positive contribution to society and helping others find their passion when it came to work held my attention. I began to employ methods to start my own business in a manner that I would later learn how to coach others in finding meaningful work that suited them. I conducted informational interviews with coaches. I asked how they got started, what kind of work they performed, what were the qualifications, what were the rewards and in what way was the work challenging? These interviews would later lead me to hire my own career coach and she helped me in creating a vision of what a practice of my own could look like. She had a successful career coaching business and gave me valuable feedback on my website, marketing, interacting with clients and how to set price points for my services.
Filling my own qualification gaps to change careers
I researched the educational and professional qualifications needed and found that career coaching was a largely unregulated field. One element to career coaching was the counseling portion. I had already earned my master’s degree in social work so that was an aspect of career coaching training I felt I had enough experience in to succeed. I needed an education on what kinds of specific questions to ask in order to steer my clients towards different career fields. I also needed to learn how to go about connecting an individual’s strengths with potential work opportunities.
During my research I had learned the National Career Development Association was a very reputable organization which was full of resources and networking opportunities. I soon joined my state’s career development chapter as well. Through these organizations and informational interviews, I began to develop a “jumping off” point of learning which knowledge, skills and abilities I had and which ones I needed to acquire in order to create a successful career coaching practice of my own.
I went to the NCDA conference and signed up for a workshop on how to start your own practice. I felt I had the coaching/counseling piece of the job down but things like salary negotiation and how to connect the data you recovered from your counseling into career options for someone I needed help with. Again, I turned to the NCDA’s catalog of courses and looked towards obtaining the NCDA’s Facilitating Career Development (FCD) certification offered to people who are either working in career development or switching into the career coaching field but don’t have formal career development training. This certification gave me useful career development theory and taught me about the tools and the resources needed to guide someone through the process of finding their right-fit career.
Pretty quickly, I was practicing on friends and acquaintances, many of whom were in career transitions and provided perfect fodder for my burgeoning career. My networking through organizations and informational interviews began to make a return on investment through new referrals. I found the information I had derived from popular books like “What color is your parachute?” and personal growth retreats were instrumental in providing additional structure and direction to my pursuit. I had originally thought when I earned my master’s in social work that I might become a therapist. There were a couple of reasons that it was not a good fit. First off, I was intimidated by the marketing piece, which was ironic because it later became a necessity for me anyway, and I felt that therapy focused on a lot of what wasn’t working in someone’s life. I also wanted to focus on what was working for people and the exciting possibilities that foundation created for their future.
In my new line of career coaching, I found that the fifteen-minute discovery, or sales calls, I offered to prospective clients surreptitiously turned into 45-minute discussions, because of my natural curiosity and open-ended questions. Not that I minded. I loved hearing the personal stories people offered and oftentimes, my prospective client could see the value in working with me by the end of these calls. Through this process, I learned about best practices in the career coaching field, put my own twist on them, and made them mine.
My new vocation had its challenges
I was loving the work and the opportunities were starting to flow my way but my new vocation came with its challenges, too. The isolation was probably the hardest part. I had to get used to my new life without co-workers and the external structure of a career within an organization. I’ll be the first to admit I am not the best at self-discipline. I was finding all sorts of reasons to procrastinate and “burn up” daylight. My natural curiosity was an asset as a career coach but it could also be a liability, leading me down endless time-eating tunnels. I reached out to other career coaches who were struggling with the same things. This seemed like a eureka moment when it worked but the challenge of fitting into each other’s calendars reared its ugly head soon enough.
Creating my own career assessment tool
Another issue that I had was I could not find the assessment tools and online programs that gave my clients opportunities to see what they naturally gravitated to when it comes to finding work. That discovery led me to create my own online toolkit for job seekers. I named it My Career Design Studio™ (MCDS). It was a comprehensive online tool that allowed my clients to identify alternative career options and learn about gaps in their skills, experience, or knowledge they would need to fill in order to make the transition to those new careers. I created My Career Design Studio™ with a holistic approach to designing careers concept to offer job seekers an opportunity to think beyond work-related issues. For example, there is a feature that allows a client to create an ideal day, so they can include things like an ideal commute, the amount of sleep one needs and time devoted to family responsibilities in their next career choice. My clients loved My Career Design Studio™ and because it was so helpful to them, I created certification avenues for other career coaches to use it.
Business was good and it was time for the next step
I was loving my work and my business was taking off. I recognized that others looking to get into the career coaching business could benefit from my experience, online toolkit, marketing knowledge, and connections to a network of coaches. This led me to create the online, 8-week Empowered Entrepreneur Program (EEP) course that is flexible for working people with busy schedules. This course includes everything you can imagine when it comes to starting your own career coaching business, including an opportunity to get certified in My Career Design Studio™. I quickly found that coaches, both experienced and newbies, have loved this all-encompassing course.
Presently, I have a successful career practice, an emerging coach training course and I am giving presentations and webinars to get the word out on how you too, can open your own burgeoning career practice. If my story appeals to you and has led you to want to sign up for the next EEP course you can click here, or if you have questions and want to learn more, schedule a time to talk with one of our team members. Career coaching can be an exciting, flexible career that creates fulfilling work and an opportunity to give back to others in a meaningful way. Come join me on an endeavor that is bound to make your life more rewarding and balanced than you ever thought was possible!