Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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Exploring career mentoring and coaching

2 What can coaching do?

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Figure 2 Case studies

Listen to what Dr Julia Yates has to say about the typical issues that people see a career coach about.

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Clients come to see career coaches for a wide range of reasons. One of the most common is that they just don't know what they want to do. Sometimes they can have quite good levels of self-awareness, so they know what strengths they've got, and they know what their values are. And maybe they even know what they want to get out of a job. But they can't quite translate that into a job title. So there's quite a lot of work that we do around getting people to identify specifically what it is they want. Sometimes we have clients who know exactly what they want. They just don't know how to get there. So maybe they know what the job is. They just don't know what it's called. Maybe they know what the job is, what it's called. They just don't know how to go about the process of trying to secure the opportunity that they're after. We also get clients who can't work out how to square their career demands and aspirations with the rest of their lives. So how can I be the person that I want to be at work alongside the person I want to be in the rest of my life? We also often see clients who for one reason or another don't quite feel ready for the next stage. But they know they need to do something. So this might be people who are facing redundancy at work or perhaps people who are coming to the end of school or university or a course. And they know that they need to do something, but somewhere inside they didn't feel quite ready to make the leap.
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One of the most powerful ways to learn what coaching can do is to hear from others who have already experienced it.

1. John and his self-doubt

John was already a successful manager, progressing up the career ladder through a range of increasingly complex roles. He reached a point where he started to doubt his capability and realised that a coach could help him. His goal was to gain more self-confidence and the coach helped him to do that, offering useful techniques and tips. Over the course of a year he used her as a sounding board for his plans and ideas, and hearing her reflect them back to him gradually convinced him that he was competent and effective in his role.

John’s advice for others considering coaching: Do it now!

2. Ginny and her need for change

Ginny was feeling stuck in her job. She knew she needed to change something but felt overwhelmed when she tried to look for answers. Her goal was to feel good at her job again so she had the confidence to explore what the future might hold. Her coach helped her with practical productivity tools and challenged her assumption that she was no good at her job. Over a period of six months she was gradually reassured, and her confidence grew. This enabled her to re-set her expectations about what work could or should be. Shortly afterwards, she made the positive decision to leave her job to set up her own values-based business.

Ginny’s advice for others considering coaching: Don’t do it if you think coaching is the answer – coaching is just the beginning of the answer.

3. Paul and his organisational crisis

Paul was struggling to keep up with both operational and strategic matters. This was especially difficult as he was also managing and restructuring a large team and dealing with crisis management. He had professional supervision and was benefitting from co-coaching with peers but needed to focus on his organisational skills. His coach introduced him to a system he could use to compartmentalise and monitor each distinct area of his work, for example, email, project planning etc. Paul implemented this methodology and it made a huge difference. Now, he can confidently pinpoint the material he needs and plan key tasks regularly and realistically.

Paul’s advice for others considering coaching: Be clear on what you need to achieve and focus on that goal.

4. Rachel and her aspirations

Rachel was in her mid-20s when she first worked with a coach. She had reached a point in her job where she needed new challenges and was starting to wonder whether to stay or go elsewhere. Her coach asked challenging questions about her aspirations and whether they were possible in her current context. Her coach listened and shared observations and that allowed Rachel to see herself differently. It became clear that what she needed was a new job in another organisation and Rachel now felt confident that this was the right decision.

Rachel’s advice for others considering coaching: When approaching a coach, ensure there is rapport, connection and trust. If you don’t get on, get another coach; a lack of fit doesn’t mean coaching doesn’t work.

You can see from these examples that coaching can be beneficial for people at any stage in their career. It can help with specific operational tasks or broader confidence issues, as well as career transitions.

Activity 2 Common themes

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Now that you’ve read the four brief case studies, can you see any common themes in the ways that the various coaches helped their clients? Note your ideas in the box below.

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Self-confidence is a recurring theme. John, Ginny and Rachel all needed to find the confidence to progress, and Paul’s self-confidence had been affected by his struggle to keep on top of everything.

Listening and challenging were key to the coach’s role in most of the cases – the exception being Paul where a more solution-orientated coaching style was adopted.

It isn’t always easy to distinguish between executive coaching and career coaching in the workplace, as the issues are often interconnected. Dr Julia Yates explains in the following video.

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Executive coaching typically covers a wide range of issues, and some of these are performance-based. So if he were new to a leadership role in an organisation, your managers might suggest or you might think it would be a good idea to arrange a coach to help you work out how to be a better leader. There might be some specific issue that you want to address with your coach like your time management skills, and your coach could work with you to help identify what's going on and how can you solve that behavioural performance issue? But very often, executive coaching sessions do cover issues about career. Career issues are ongoing. It's not the case that people make their career choices when they're 16, 18, or 21, and then stick with that for the rest of their careers. These are decisions that people make on an ongoing basis about which projects to take on, which skills to develop, which courses to have. And then, yes, the choice about staying in an organisation or leaving and going somewhere else. So executive coaching will often encompass issues about career coaching, but career coaching has its place quite separately and independently in the workplace because the workplace is where careers happen and where they unfold. So it makes a lot of sense to have a process that focuses specifically on that as people's careers go on.
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There are numerous stories to tell about how coaching has helped and inspired individuals to make changes and improvements to their life and work. But what makes coaching so effective? In the next section, you’ll start to explore why coaching works.


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