Former National Hockey League player Sean Pronger had many coaches during his 11-year professional career. But when he decided to hang up his skates seven years ago, he turned to career coach Alan Kearns to help him figure out what to do next.
Aptitude tests revealed an affinity for numbers. Working with Alan Kearns — who is the owner of a national career coaching company, CareerJoy — he decided to look for something in the financial services industry.
Stuart Kampen was director of operations for ComputerTalk in Richmond Hill three years ago when he realized he was at a career crossroads. A colleague who was a part-time career coach put him in touch with Toronto-based leadership coach Bonnie Flatt.
At the time Kampen was looking for another role within the company. But as a result of his coaching experience he came to realize he was passionate about solving problems for customers. When Microsoft recruited him for a job as a technical account manager, he knew it was a great fit.
“Six months earlier I would have turned them down because I didn’t think it was the type of job for me,” he says.
These examples illustrate how career coaches can help people discover what they really want to do and develop a strategy to achieve it. Eileen Chadnick, owner of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto, says that a coaching engagement can include:
• Preliminary aptitude and personality tests.
• Exploring a client’s strengths, gifts, challenges and core values.
• Brainstorming new options.
• Designing an action plan.
• Creating support systems.
But coaches do not typically prescribe solutions. “I help clients understand who they are when they are at their best and what the ideal looks like,” says Flatt, who trained as a lawyer and compiled more than 25 years of experience as a senior human resources professional before being certified as an International Coach Federation career coach.
Coaching programs are individually tailored, so the length and cost varies. Flatt says it can take four to six months to get clarity on a career shift and she usually meets with coaching clients in person or by telephone every two weeks.
She offers packages costing $ 3,000 to $ 5,000. The cost depends on the different assessment tools and tests she administers as part of the program. Also, it is more expensive if the client wants to engage in more frequent intensive coaching sessions to reach their objective.
Less expensive community resources with a coaching component are available in some areas. For example the YMCA offers young people, ages 16 to 24, the opportunity to work directly with a coach to assess their skills and build a solid career path. Colleges and universities all have student career counselling centres.
One novel program is the Career Coach operating in Peel and Halton regions that is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The mobile unit travels to various malls, community centres and libraries providing career counselling. This resource specializes in services for both adult and youth newcomers and is open to the public.
Pronger paid Kearns $ 3,500 for telephone sessions twice a week for about three months before he launched his new career. He says it was a big expense but it was worth it. “I really got a lot out of it. I’d certainly recommend it to people who are thinking of switching careers or are not sure what they want to do.”
Coaching is a growing profession. The International Coach Federation is a global industry association which provides independent certification for career coaches. In November 2012, the ICF had almost 20,000 members (2,089 Canadians), in 109 countries. Membership was up 30 per cent from five years earlier.
While Pronger and Kampen personally retained and paid for coaches, companies frequently use coaches to help move their employees to the next level. Whether a company offers employees coaching depends less on the size of the organization and more on the kind of company.
“Coaching used to be reserved for senior executives and maybe one or two levels down. Now it’s increasingly being adopted throughout organizations,” Flatt says.
Career coaching is unregulated. However, the ICF has offered an independent credentialing program for more than a decade.
There are other groups in Canada and the U.S that certify career coaches after courses of varying duration.
Here are some ways you can find a coach:
• Word of mouth, or personal referral is often the best way.
• The ICF has a searchable directory of its credited coaches http://www.coachfederation.org/clients/crs/.
• Some university alumni groups have partnered with coaching companies to offer graduates individual or group coaching services. For example, CareerJoy has a working relationship with Queen’s, Bishops and OCAD.
• You can search “career coaches” online or on LinkedIn and look for ratings and recommendations.
Academic qualifications, coach certification and experience are all important, but Kampen says “chemistry” is the key element in a successful coaching relationship. “You have to be very comfortable, open and honest through the process. If you don’t feel completely comfortable with your coach you won’t get what you should out of the experience.”
Sheryl Smolkin is a lawyer and writer. She blogs on Moneyville at Eye on Benefits
Tips for hiring a career coach:
• Educate yourself about coaching. The ICF Research Portal offers articles, case studies and journals.
• Know your objectives for working with a coach.
• Interview three coaches before you decide on one. Ask each about his or her experience, qualifications and skills, and request at least two references.
• Coaching is an important relationship, so good chemistry is a key. You should feel a connection with your coach.
Questions to ask a prospective coach:
• What is your coaching experience (number of individuals coached, years of experience, types of coaching situations)?
• What is your coach-specific training (enrolled in an ICF-approved training program, other coach-specific training)?
• What is your coaching specialty or areas in which you most often work?
• What specialized skill or experience do you bring to your coaching?
• What is your philosophy about coaching?
• What is your specific process for coaching (how sessions are conducted and frequency of them)?
SOURCE: International Coach Federation