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5 Hard Lessons I’ve Learned As A Career Coach

5 Hard Lessons I’ve Learned As A Career Coach

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I’ve been a professional career coach since 2002. Over the last 10+ years, I have learned a lot about the industry and what it takes to be an effective career coach. [Click here to learn more about becoming a career coach.]

Back when I became a coach, the concept wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. In fact, my clients were afraid to admit they were working with a career coach because they felt like it indicated there was something wrong with them. Today, we now understand career coaching isn’t a sign of weakness, but a path to greatness. It’s why all the top pro athletes and business executives use them. If you want to optimize your performance and achieve new levels of success and satisfaction in your career, it’s more than likely you’ll work with a coach at some point. Why? If you could do it on your own, you would have by now.

I Learned These Lessons The Hard Way

Having worked with literally thousands of people on their careers, I have learned some valuable professional lessons. In the beginning of my coaching career, I thought I could help everyone. I was wrong. You can only help people who are ready to be helped. I wasted hundreds of hours on people who just weren’t ready to succeed. I learned the hard way the following five things:

People only turn to career coaching when they are in pain.

School teaches us everything except how to manage our careers. As a result, nobody enters the professional world with the right set of skills and abilities to successfully manage their careers. Unfortunately, it isn’t until a person makes a major mistake or has a career setback that they seek coaching. Only then do they have the Ah-ha Moment that they need to close the gap in their knowledge and abilities so they can get back on track.

1. Don’t believe people who say, “I’ll do anything.”

When in pain, people will claim they’ll do anything to feel better. But, when it comes to their careers, it’s amazing how many people will procrastinate. Avoiding feeling uncomfortable is often the reason people put off what they need to do to fix their problem. Which leads back to #1 – they wait and wait until the pain is so severe (i.e. lose their job, out of work for months, running out of money), that they finally seek help.

2. Coaching creates change, teaching doesn’t.

Teaching is when you tell someone what they need to do. Coaching is when you guide someone through the activities of teaching themselves. When it comes to career development, coaching is what gets people to change how they operate so they can get the results they want. Whereas teaching usually only goes in one ear and out the other.

3. Intrinsic motivation determines professional success.

It doesn’t matter how much someone claims they want to achieve a particular goal. If there isn’t enough internal motivation to push them to do the work on a daily basis, they won’t succeed. Self-motivated people consistently get better results than externally motivated people (i.e. people who need incentives (a/k/a bribes) to do things).

4. Excuse-makers aren’t worth your time.

Just like you should surround yourself with negative people, don’t waste your time helping people who always have an excuse as to why they couldn’t get something done. It’s a clear sign they lack the self-motivation and commitment. They don’t deserve your help until they are ready to do the work.

5. I love my job as a career coach.

Every day, I get an email from someone who has achieved their goal. It is definitely the most rewarding part of my job. However, I’m not sure I’d even still be in the career coaching profession if I hadn’t learned the lessons above. Realizing these truths helped me to build a thriving career coaching practice where my team and I are now able to help thousands of people. If you want to succeed in career coaching, or any other kind of role that involves coaching professionals, I encourage you to consider the lessons above. They’ll save you a lot of frustration and time.

J.T. O’Donnell is the founder and CEO of CareerHMO, which provides affordable career coaching in a supportive community to help you with life’s bigger career challenges. 

Want to become a career coach? J.T.’s new video course, “How To Become A Six-Figure Career Coach,” is now available on Udemy.com. Sign up through this link and save 33%!

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J.T. O'Donnell Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of Work It Daily. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.