Coaching: Not a Panacea for all Your Career Ills!

posted by Dilip on June 24, 2018

After being in this career and life coaching practice for 18 years now I have seen clients of all needs, stripes, and colors. Although most prospects understand what a career coach can do for them and for putting their career on a better track, some approach me with very different ideas, expectations, and, misapprehensions. I am writing this blog to share some of the common such misapprehensions, so that readers have a better sense of what a career coach can and cannot do for them.

  1. A coach cannot provide an instant cure: Some prospects come to me expecting that within the first session I can divine their special skills (their genius), figure out how to package that into their message (résumé), and “wind” them on their way to pursue their dream job.One such client, in her mid 40s, came to me a few years back expecting me to know how to show her getting a “dream job” that paid well and allowed her to work on her terms (occasionally going to work, but working from home whenever, etc.). She had changed 11 jobs in her 18 year “career,” often getting laid-off or terminated for poor performance in a variety of office jobs. When she came to me she wanted me to figure out what would be a dream job that paid well and expected me to give her a final résumé at the end of that hour in spite of my telling her in the first 10 minutes that a résumé is more about the job you want to pursue tomorrow than it is about what you’ve done in the past. She herself did not know what job would be her dream job.
  2. You must do the heavy lifting: Many prospects forget that going to a career coach is much like going to a gym, where a trained personal coach shows you what exercises to do to address the specific physical needs your body has, but you must do those exercises yourself by learning how to do them better under the coach’s guidance. The coach cannot do them for you, while she is doing them instead of your doing them, no mater how much you are willing to pay her for it.Similarly, when a career coach diagnoses your ills afflicting your career progress they will guide you on how to remedy that ill and show you what to do and what not to do—even how to do it—but only you must do those tasks to see for yourself how the changes from those behaviors impact your situation. Internalizing the process, owning it, and taking on new challenges to apply those skills to improve your situation is the only way to make any change to your situation. A career coach can only guide you what changes are appropriate and how to implement them.
  3. Overcoming Unconscious Incompetence: Most prospects start their first coaching session in their state of Unconscious Incompetence—blind ignorance or they do not know what they do not know—so a coach is responsible for fleshing out those blind spots and moving the client to the state of Conscious Incompetence. This state also includes some prejudices or wrong expectations from the coaching process (e.g., coaching is mostly for those who are in trouble). The coaching process can move you from unconscious incompetence to the ultimate state of unconscious competence, where you do the right things without thinking about them—almost instinctively. However, this is life’s work.
  4. Making you someone else: No matter how good a coach is, they cannot make you someone else. Many clients come to me and lament the fact that many of their colleagues and classmates have gone on to become luminaries in their field of work, enjoying great wealth, status, and fame. Their aim in seeking my help is to become like their jealous counterparts—some even wanting to beat them through embracing a career coach. In most such cases if they cannot own their own fate and learn how to make their situation better for themselves in their own way, without making these invidious comparisons with others, I politely tell them to go somewhere else.
  5. Changing others: This is yet another misapprehension some prospects have: They think that by learning from a coach they will know how to change others around them to build better relationships and to improve their interactions with them to make their work life less stressful. It is almost impossible to change others and even difficult for most to make a meaningful change for themselves in their own ways of working with others. Making a change in how you interact with others and changing that dynamic, however, has the same effect as wanting to change “the errant” others with whom you interact (read my blog of May 27, It’s a Big Job Changing Yourself; Don’t Waste Time Changing Others!).

A good career coach can help shake you out of your state of unconscious incompetence. How you then progress to achieve the state of unconscious competence is up to you!

Good luck!