What it takes to be successfully coached through a career transition


Did you notice that I said career transition and not career change? Most people use these words interchangeably but there is a core difference between both. I used career transition specifically here because it brings specific complexities and the coaching approach is uniquely suited to help clients overcome them. A change is more concrete and linear and therefore it can often be more efficiently managed through standard consultative methods.


Change is a specific event, an external factor that happens at a specific point in time whereas a transition implies a longer transformational process including internal shifts. This quote by William Bridges (from his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes) clearly illustrates the difference between a change and a transition: ''In other words, change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life.''


Thus, a career transition is an internal process that can be facilitated through coaching although there are a variety components that come into play when it comes to the success of such a coaching relationship. Trust and rapport between the client and the coach are two fundamental pillars of this success but the client's mindset when beginning their coaching journey particularly is also an essential component that will influence the outcome of this coaching partnership.

As far as I am concerned, there are six core attributes that a client must have to ensure a positive outcome if they decide to be supported by a coach throughout their career transition.


Have a strong willingness to change


Before hiring a coach to help you with your career transition, you need to feel prepared to make a change to your current situation, whatever that change might be and however big or small. There are three questions specifically that you should ask yourself before working with a career coach or signing up to a career transition programme.


1- What area of your career would you like to change?

Most of us have something in our career that we want to improve. We might not know exactly what it is or how to go about it but we know that a specific area of our career isn't making us as happy as it could. Before committing to working with a coach, you need to ensure that you really want to make a change to current situation.

2- Is this change going to benefit you directly?

When thinking about the change that you want to make, it is important to check what the benefits will be for us once the change happened. Once again, we don't need to know how it will happen however visualising what our career and life would be like after it is a good way to ensure that we are targeting the right area. In order to visualise your career when it is how. you would like it to be you can ask yourself: how will it make me feel? What will be happening? What new opportunities will become accessible to me? How will my network and relationships evolve?

Checking the benefits of change is a good way to ensure that we are not inadvertently pursuing somebody else's goal. For instance, often people are pursuing one of their parent's goal or what their managers want for them. Our minds tend to appropriate these goals and make them our own but our ability to achieve the goals that are not intrinsically ours is surprisingly low.

3- Do you believe that you can change?


This is not to say that if you have any doubts then career coaching isn't for you. It is of course okay not to be 100% confident that you can change and reach the ideal situation that you have in mind. However, you should strongly believe that the coaching process will facilitate this change and create possibilities that you may not be seeing or considering at this point in time. There is an element of openness to change that should exist as a foundation to begin your coaching journey.



Be committed to taking action


Part of what differentiates Coaching from Therapy or Counselling is that it is action orientated. Indeed, the intent of coaching isn't to solve your challenges or improve your situation through a conversation (although the coaching conversation often opens up the path towards it) but instead, Coaching aims to give you clarity on the steps you can take (big or small) to get closer to your make your ambitions a reality. These steps are identified by you through the coach's skilled questioning technique.


The benefits of having these steps or actions come from within as opposed to being suggested by your coach is that it creates an intrinsic motivation to achieve your goals which you would not get if the actions were suggested by your coach. If you are looking for advice, then a consultant or a mentor might be a better option as they will provide suggestions and guidance in their area of expertise. However, the role of a career coach isn't to give you advice on what you should do next in your career. This is because you are the most qualified expert when it comes to yourself and identifying what you want and the best way to get it. The role of your career coach is to tease it out by leading you to uncover insights and surface the answers that already exist within you but might be kept at subconscious level.





When it comes to your commitment to taking actions, one of the benefits of coaching is that the coach will follow a process to ensure that you feel good, confident and committed about the actions you have identified and most importantly you will leave the session with a list of resources and strengths that you can leverage in order to be successful with your action plan.


Hiring a career coach also provides a sense of accountability when it comes to implementing your action plan to move your career forward. Your coach will likely check in at every session on the progress that you have made and what you learned along the way. This is a often a good opportunity to adjust your goal or the way to achieve it.



Be open to possibilities


It is very natural to limit ourselves when thinking about the options or the routes that we could take to get to where we want to be in our careers. This is because change is scary and our brains are wired to make us believe that we are not capable of it. Being open to possibilities means accepting to break the emotional and irrational barriers that we often put in our own way.


Here are three questions to ask yourself if you want to start thinking beyond the options you have already considered:

1/ What could I do that is unlike me?

2/ What could I do that would surprise people who know me well?

3/ What would {somebody you admire} do?


In order to begin seeing what is possible, it is essential to think about possibilities as non-committing ideas: you can think about them and it doesn't mean that you will necessarily act on them. When brainstorming ideas, make a conscious effort to switch off your rational voice inside whose job is to figure out whether or not an idea is a realistic one. You don't need this voice for that part of the process. This is a good way to reframe your thinking to respond positively to new ideas and clear your mind for creativity.



Embrace humbling and powerful moments of self-honesty⠀

''Honesty is telling the truth to ourselves and other. Integrity is living that truth''. Kenneth H Blanchard


The need to be honest with others is a principle that has, in most cases, been ingrained in us from a very young age...the need to be honest with ourselves however, is a lot less talked about...despite being just as important.


Self-honesty is about seeing ourselves genuinely for who we really are (we need to see the good in us and not just fall into the common trap of focusing on the ''bad'') and acknowledging the reality of our career. Doing this objectively can be hard as our emotional brain often brings unwelcome bias to the table.





During any coaching conversation, self-honesty is crucial. This doesn't mean that you need to share absolutely everything with your coach (you should share whatever you are comfortable sharing) but inside, you need to be fully transparent with yourself. Below are a few examples of self-dishonesty:


- Numbing your feelings: ''I am okay, I can continue working 75 hours a week for a few more weeks'' when in reality you are not okay.

- Playing the blaming game: ''This problem that I am facing is somebody else's fault. I have got nothing to do with it.''

- Sitting in the passenger seat: ''I am not happy at work but I can't really do anything about it, I don't really have any options in my control.''


- Negative self-talk: ''I am not good enough to get promoted.''


Prepare to delve deep


Coaching uses powerful tools and techniques to access your ''operating system''. The one that controls your beliefs, your assumptions, your reasoning, your habits, etc. By doing so, a coach is able to uncover the hidden issues that may prevent you from moving (faster) towards your goal and unlocking your potential.


Going beyond a surface-level conversation brings an opportunity to reset your mind in order to create a sense of calm, control and fulfillment. Delving deep increases impact.



Accept that change is constant


Change constantly forces us to step outside of our comfort zone and adapt to new, unfamiliar situations. Change is not an easy business but it is what makes us grow and develop personally.

The coaching process facilitate taking a step out of familiar territory to put us on a path to change so that we can achieve our goals and dreams.





Your career transition will not start and stop with coaching (we go through a progressive transformation every day) but a career coach will help create building blocks to accelerate how fast you get to a stage where you feel happier and more fulfilled.