Why We Need a Career Coach?

Our careers/work lives are important, they give us a sense of identity, of purpose and keep us motivated. They also provide us with psychological, material, and social rewards.

My deepest, most firmly held conviction is that we need to manage our careers/ work lives and talents proactively; just as carefully as we manage our health, savings, and relationships. And it needs to be done most objectively and deliberately.

Why? The short answer:

  • Our careers are OUR top priority, would any single employer care as much?
  • Is there always perfect alignment between our goals and those of an organisation? Have all organisations graduated to treating their employees as ‘engines of growth rather than ‘cogs in the wheel’?
  • Life-long, multi-decade careers, and clearly defined career paths are over. We need to be able to craft our very own story, our personal journey, something that is tailored to our singular needs and personality.
  • Jobs and job expectations are changing; as are the skills required to do these jobs. We need clear thinking and a very clear response to change bends in the road and other surprises. We need to be able to respond!
  • We are living longer, healthier lives and need to be engaged for longer with various jobs/ activities. As a result, we need a better sense of our long-term purpose, motivations, drive, and careers that will do it for us. Do we recognise this? Do we have a plan?
  • ‘Today, however, most work is knowledge work, and knowledge workers are not ‘finished’ after 40 years on the job, they are merely bored’, aptly captured by Peter F. Drucker.
  • Lastly, have HR and L&D departments finally figured out their mandates and are available to play a supportive role in our lives?

Do we agree? Is it now evident why we need to manage our careers much more proactively? We deserve to live up to our potential after all... find fulfillment in the work we do. And if it helps, why not call in the experts? Let’s call in the career coaches… and prepare for a richer life.

Why? The long answer:

It is evident that careers can no longer be managed by the way, on-the-fly, or by casual sorcery.  

Developing long-term, sustainable careers and well-curated personal narratives will take vision, focus, concerted effort, and rigorous planning. Be it a lateral or vertical move, change of department, change of job, or a complete transition, it does not just happen on its own.

Our own aspirations, growing ambition, multiple goals, and evolution in business and technology make it a complex playing field.

Dynamic shifts, speed, and a state of flux

At a very basic level, the business realities, customer expectations, and delivery mechanisms are changing. Organisations are being forced to reinvent themselves, their operating models, and customer experience and serve global clients on an ‘always on’ basis. This has a direct impact on business practices, job content, and skillsets.

‘The future of work, defined by the use of more automation and technology, was always coming. COVID-19 has hastened the pace. Employees across all functions, for example, have learned how to complete tasks remotely, using digital communication and collaboration tools. In operations, changes will go further, with an accelerated decline in manual and repetitive tasks and a rise in the need for analytical and technical support, says this paper by McKinsey.

Are we sufficiently aware and prepared for these changes? Are we ready to take this on? Do we have all the answers? Can we leave it for someone else to manage it for us? My suspicion is NO. It is upon us to assume ownership, enlist a career coach and Go for the gold (read… goals).

HR departments are typically unavailable or largely missing the point about career progression and development. L&D departments offer piecemeal services and incomplete services; upskilling and talent management leave a lot to be desired.

Yes, some companies are treating talent with a lot more respect, creating opportunities and encouraging the intrapreneurial spirit within the organisation; but how many are there, and what is the probability that it will happen to us?

‘Career Ladders’ and other tall tales

Not so long ago, careers meant a life-long relationship with a company; growth and appreciation, long term value creation for both parties involved. We could easily have spent a few decades at a single organisation, and received well-deserved recognition, promotions, challenging work; also healthcare, and pensions. The new normal does not include this reality. Slowly but surely, we are moving towards flatter, matrixed organisations that offer project-based work to temporary, contract, part-time or freelance roles alongside a few cores, permanent positions.

Managing multiple career moves and transitions means we need to know what we’re stepping into, and how to prepare and make a success of it. And we know that success is not always easy or delivered gift wrapped in pink ribbon!

Opportunity to craft your personal story, build a personal brand

Not just organisations, more of us would like to take more ownership and build mobile, experimental and versatile careers that balance well with other aspects of our existence.

More of us want to engage constructively with ‘what more can I do with my talents?’ and create multi-stage careers. Even for those who have reached the peak of their careers, they may only be bored, not done! Having engaged with the same kind of work for several years, they may be good at it but they may not be sufficiently challenged or learning anything new. This may mean a search for a multistage career path and the need for a coach to facilitate this transition.

Multistage lives have been well captured by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott in this article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, ’longevity in developed countries during the 20th century led to the emergence of two stages that had not been previously recognized: the teenage years and retirement. It follows that longevity gains may lead to the development of further additional stages. Rather than a three-stage life, we expect to see a multistage life, along with a larger number of transitions.’

Today, people do not want to follow the script but would like to build a new life after their first career stint is over. ‘In response to the pressures resulting from longer working lives, individuals are starting to experiment with new stages of life and creating different career structures. The pressures are having particularly significant effects on three age groups: people approaching retirement age, those currently in their 40s, and those just entering the workforce, as per this article.

With this new need for people to take more responsibility and become more flexible in preparing for and adapting to career changes, career management has become even more important. Career success will depend not on one big decision, but on ceaselessly learning and doing new things.

Self-mastery for success

Navigating complexity and designing successful career paths means we need a certain level of persistence, discipline, and self-mastery.

However, we are creatures of habit (sometimes ‘bad’ habits), biases, invisible creative blocks, self-limiting beliefs, and sometimes even self-sabotage. We also get distracted, confused, and demotivated... all of which can severely limit us.

Engaging with a strong coach can help us see more of ourselves, visualise more clearly, work on our beliefs, and biases, and respond to life changes more appropriately. It can also help us make fewer mistakes and better manage workplace relationships. Be it managing the quirks of your boss, navigating severally layered and fragmented organisational hierarchy, peer group dynamics, or treacherously competitive colleagues, there is nothing simple about today’s workplace.

We need self-mastery, strong intuitive capabilities, and self-awareness; especially when the winds are unfriendly and the future inconspicuous, how far can we go without making a fatal wrong move.

What to expect from a career coach?

A career coach can help us with a whole host of things, amongst them:

  • Provide an unbiased, neutral perspective on our current position, knowledge, and skillsets.
  • Make us more self-aware and assess our talents and strengths; overcome unhelpful attitudes, beliefs, and personality traits.
  • Help us crystallise our talents, strengths, and untapped potential and allow us to present our best selves to the world.  
  • Find us career choices and opportunities best matched to our talents, personality, and values; help identify alternate career paths.
  • Unlock potential and transform outcomes for us.
  • Help us make improved, more informed decisions about career paths and provide us with other tools to strengthen our personal brand and social media presence.
  • Find the workplace that best embodies our values and aligns with our long-term goals.
  • Help us develop a realistic roadmap and define short/long-term goals and actions.
  • Help us better manage the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with new age, multi-stage work lives.

Anu Maakan

Executive Coach

Profile: Career Strategist, Coach, and Change Manager with 20+ years of experience in Investment Banking, Wealth Management, Payments, and Fintech in the UK and India

Expertise: Talent Acquisition, Career Transitions & Coaching, Personal Branding, CV & LinkedIn Optimisation

Education: MBA, Certified NLP Practitioner 

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