Career coaches can help employees find direction

Michael Brooke didn’t know what he wanted to do – he just knew he needed a change. So the e-com specialist who wanted a job that got him out from behind his desk and interacting with people went to a career coach.

A career coach, he felt, could provide him with objective advice, whereas his friends and family could not.

So Brooke, who is based in Toronto, went to a career consulting firm, IQ Partners Inc., in hopes that talking to someone who wasn’t afraid to tell him about his strengths and weaknesses would help him figure out what he wanted to do next. The counsellor asked him a lot of questions about himself, such as what he wanted to be when he was in high school. The best part about the process, which he is still undergoing, he said, was that at the end of it he was given a written transcript of what he had said.

“If you sit and talk to your buddies, an hour later, you forget everything you said. Whereas if you have it written, you can read it and review it. It really, really helped me.”

Karen Schaffer, director of career management at IQ Partners in Toronto, agrees with Brooke that a career coach an provide objective advice that friends and family may not be able to give.

“When they love you, they might try to talk you out of something you might be afraid of. People in your life have too big a stake in what you decide,” Schaffer said.

After a few sessions, Brooke has decided that he wants to get into consulting. While he has no concerns with his current employer, Brooke said his job creating e-commerce Web sites has never given him satisfaction because he’s working in isolation.

“I never felt content,” he said. Consulting will allow him to step out from behind his desk and help people find solutions to their problems in a more hands-on way.

The process has helped in other ways too.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is more of a confidence in my own self.”

Brooke also worries less about outside factors as a result of his new-found confidence.

“I don’t feel like I’m at the whims of the economy,” Brooke said.

The next step is figuring out how to get where he wants to be.

Having someone to talk to and discuss his progress will help him stay motivated, he said. Having made business plans in the past, he knows that it’s easy to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. Having to sit down with someone and go over his strengths and weaknesses is a help, Brooke said. The coach also offered options he hadn’t considered, he said.

Career coaching is about holding a mirror up to those seeking direction or advice, Schaffer said. Sometimes people get so immersed in things, they can’t see clearly, she said.

“People put up with so much stuff in their life that they just don’t have to, and often it’s habit,” said Laurel Simmons, a career advancement coach at Ottawa-based Intraprise Coaching.

Career coaching can sometimes be as simple as telling people they don’t have to do something if they don’t like it, she said.

“People make the mistake of thinking if you’re good, you have to do it, and that’s not true,” Simmons said. “If you don’t like it, get out.”

While mentoring is about transferring skills and knowledge from one person to another, coaching is about helping people draw out and develop their skills, she said.