I was always a personal trainer skeptic.
I’d go to the gym, lift weights and try to figure out what the machines did. And it showed: the results were underwhelming.
When I moved back to Ohio after years in NYC, I went from walking ten miles each day to ten miles per month. I tried to eat healthy. I tried to hit the gym on my own. Pretty quickly, however, I had to figure out something else as my waistline expanded– and I didn’t have the tools or knowledge to turn it around.
So, I hired a personal trainer.
I’ve never thought of myself as the type of person who hires a personal trainer and I figured I’d need to start shopping at Lululemon (or wherever men buy expensive active wear) and put kale and whey protein on everything.
Instead, I worked bi-weekly with an expert who not only passed along his incredibly valuable knowledge and helped me get results, but also kept me motivated. When another set of squats felt impossible, he was there to talk me through it and how to work on my technique. When I wanted to cancel because I was still sore from yesterday’s workout, he held me accountable and gave me pointers on food intake. His expertise, guidance and motivation helped immensely.
During our few months of working together, I’d learned more about fitness than I had throughout the rest of my life. I could hold a plank longer, lift more, bike farther and felt amazing.
I thought about how my gym lessons could be applied to my personal and professional life and an idea began to formulate. I’d worked for a top creative staffing agency in NYC and over the past few years I’d very accidentally started mentoring entry-level job seekers based on a few Reddit and Twitter posts I’d written.
As more and more people started to reach out and I spent time working with a personal trainer, the worlds merged:
Why don’t I help people with their job hunt in the ways my trainer helps me with my fitness?
I’d had some very successful, short job hunts. I applied what I know about sales and marketing to the job search. I’d been an active part of dozens of clients and candidates exploring the hiring process while working in staffing. I knew what hiring managers loved, hated and wished candidates would do. And this information didn’t seem to be reaching university classrooms.
(For all the time we spent learning about the Pythagorean Theorum and Shakespeare you’d think they could’ve mentioned how to look for work, right?)
A career coach is a personal trainer for your career
Both a career coach and a personal trainer offer their time, knowledge, strategies and motivation to achieve goals.
You know how there’s that ONE interview question you always bomb and hope they won’t ask– but they always do? A career coach will role play that exact question with you, finding the best way to answer truthfully and strategically.
You know how your aunt told you it just takes showing up in a suit and applying in person to get a job? A career coach encourages you to find methods that really work in 2017.
You know that thing you really don’t enjoy doing when looking for a job? A career coach encourages you to do it anyway if it’s effective, plus helps find a few ways to make it suck less.
And just like a personal trainer, working together through repetition, practice and strategy makes you stronger– and builds skills you can use longterm.
As I watched the folks I’d worked with go on to receive job offers and internship opportunities, it solidified the idea that there just might be something to this career coaching thing.
The more clients I worked with on their job searches, the more I began to realize a few important aspects of why career coaching should be more of “a thing”.
Employment is changing
As employment transitions into what experts call “the gig economy”— short-term, project-based and freelance employment not tied to one main employer– it will be increasingly vital to know how to get work quickly and predictably. While the idea of having to look for a job frequently may sound overwhelming, these skills can be learned and taught by a career coach.
In the world of freelance it’s already known that those who make the most money aren’t necessarily those who are the best at what they do– but rather those who can close the deal and get the work.
I spent four years in high-pressure sales roles. I found very quickly that what I’d learned in sales training had direct applications to job hunting. In both instances you’re trying to help your client navigate a need or issue– and you need them to choose you, often in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars. Persistence, positioning and strategy come into play in both areas and the lessons I learned in sales training (and on the job) I pass along to my clients.
Job hunting skills are rarely taught
For the majority of clients I’ve worked with, job hunting wasn’t covered in their K-12 or university coursework. If it was, the lessons were basic and outdated. There’s so much more to know than just putting together a spell-check résumé and hoping it lands on exactly the right hiring manager’s desk– but that’s all most of us are ever taught, if that at all.
I was lucky to have a few great professors at Kent State who did spend time helping us with interview etiquette and résumé writing– but there’s no replacement for one-on-one coaching, role playing and being tuned into amazing technology available to job seekers.
Unfortunately universities are happy to turn out well-educated, informed students– but often fall short in the step of giving them the skills to actually win the job offer.
Looking for work has evolved in the past 5, 15 and 50 years– immensely
Because I primarily work with younger, entry-level job seekers, I run into advice given to them by professors and parents. Some of it is wonderful guidance, given from years of experience and wisdom mixed with up-to-date knowledge. Sometimes, it is advice that should’ve been left behind during the Carter presidency.
And it’s no fault or bad intentions of these parents or professors, however, the job market has shifted greatly– and along with it, so has technology, techniques and etiquette. It simply doesn’t make sense to type out a cover letter for a UX role at a cool startup, drop off the application in person and then show up to the interview in a suit and tie. Nor does it make sense to only rely on job posting boards when half of all job openings aren’t even advertised.
It’s a career coach’s job to stay up to date with new technology, new platforms and new ideas. I stay in touch with multiple recruiters, listen to their feedback and candidate stories to see what’s fresh. I read blogs, follow folks on Twitter and strategize new ways and methods of helping my clients. It’s my job to dispel myths and help job seekers use what’s current for 2017 to nail that interview or negotiate their salary.
Changing jobs is inherently stressful
There’s a reason why the top 43 most stressful life events on the Holmes-Rahe Stress scale are littered with events surrounding work and employment. Even if the job search is warranted and wanted, uncertainty around change can be difficult to manage. If the job search is unexpected or unwanted it’s even more difficult as our finances– and ego– take a hit.
I worked with a client recently who’d been unemployed for months. He’d applied to dozens of jobs in the past few days. He felt he was doing everything he could to market his valuable skills– and yet he rarely received an interview. Understandably he felt depressed and hopeless.
From our hour long call, we discussed new strategies for attacking his job hunt more effectively, but I also spent time boosting his confidence about his qualifications and how his perseverance will pay off. Job hunting can be lonely– but it doesn’t have to be.
Work– and the time we spend at work– is important
Assuming we work full-time from ages 22 to 65, we’re spending 43 years of our lives working.
If we’re working 49 weeks of those 43 years at an average of 47 hours per week, we’re spending 99,029 hours doing something we should enjoy or, at the very least, find acceptable. It’s no wonder that as Millenials take up more and more of the labor market we’re asking for better work/life balance and work that matters.
If you’ve just graduated college, are navigating your first jobs after graduation or are looking to transition from your current role, I’d love to set up a time for us to chat. If you don’t know where to start on your job search, this is the perfect jumping off point, starting with an always 100% free consultation to understand where you are and where you want to go.
Photo credit to Marc Mueller.