The word “coach” is derived from the village of Kocs, Hungary, where horse-drawn coaches were invented and first used. Literally, a coach is a mechanism designed to move you from where you are to where you want to go. Career coaching works the same way; it is a tool to help move you forward on your professional journey in the most efficient, and hopefully comfortable and interesting fashion. Some people reading this article are at the start of their voyage – the often-dreaded job search. For those who are gainfully employed, it doesn’t mean you’ve reached your destination. Professional sustainability requires ongoing career maintenance and management.
Athletes, performers and public speakers have long used coaching as a strategy to improve their performance. Not because the coaches teach them something new they don’t yet know, but because coaches help them tap into the potential that already exists. Continuing with our “road trip” metaphor, career coaches don’t lead you on your journey, they keep you company on the ride, remind you to look out the window and enjoy the view, help you refuel your tank and will even support you when it is time to veer from the prepared path to explore a different opportunity.
Wherever you are on your professional voyage, it helps to have a road map. For this map to be useful in navigating your best direction, even more important than knowing your destination, you need to clearly understand your starting point. This is more than just your current location and circumstance, but also your ATTITUDE about where you are in your career and your life.your opportunities.
The feelings you have about the job search, and work in general, become the filter through which all opportunities and obstacles pass. Does the prospect of working for a living excite you? Do you see employment as a chance to learn and grow, meet new people, contribute to society and express who you are? Or do you see your job as something you must do so you can afford to enjoy the more meaningful areas of your life? Some people feel their biggest reward at work is their paycheck, and they are fine with that. They get their sense of self and purpose from other areas of life, like friends, family or recreation. Others feel their jobs offer personal rewards such as intellectual stimulation or a sense of community that extends beyond their 9-5 job responsibilities.
One answer is no better than another; you just need to know in which category you fall, because your attitude impacts your behavior and the results your actions will reap. If your goal is to get a good paying job with regular hours because your real passion lies with your family or on the golf course, than your map will look different from someone whose priority is to be part of a creative team or to rise to the heights of CEO doing business on an international landscape. To this end, you must identify and prioritize your values because they serve as the keys to your map.
In my twelve years as a life and career coach, I have found, that if people are unsatisfied in their personal and professional lives it is because they are not honoring their true values. In fact, many people expend a lot of energy to fulfill perceived values that have been established for them by society, employers, family, peers and even themselves. This can lead to the unconscious reinforcement of expectations and patterns that offer familiarity and a sense of security. For some of us, this stability is a significant value. But we must make sure we don’t become trapped in this “comfort zone” which can limit expression, creativity and growth.
The following is a list of values. My suggestion is to go through the list three times. First rate them as high (1), medium (2) or low (3) priorities. Second, rate the level that they are being met in your current work (and/or life) environment. Third, select two or three values that are high priority but low in reality, and come up with strategies to raise their presence in your life. For example: Contribution might be a high priority in my life but at work I feel like a paper pusher. I can volunteer to take on a new project, suggest improvements for my company’s website or start a recycling program. Or if the potential for making a difference at work seems to be slim, I can volunteer for a local charity or clean out my house and donate clothes and books to Goodwill.
How will this help you find the perfect job you might ask? Well, as you maneuver through the job market you will approach your objective with the attitude of a creative, useful and valuable contributor and not as a tired and frustrated paper pusher. Once we understand our values we will be better positioned to apply our aptitude and maximize our opportunities.
As you move towards your destination, remember to enjoy the journey.