Debate: Do you really need a career coach?

14 November 2017 -

Debate StandsCareer coaches seem to be all the rage these days, but are they all they’re cracked up to? Two experts weigh up the pros and cons

Yes, manage your career progression

Central to coaching is the belief that clients don’t need ‘fixing’ or ‘improving’; they are functioning perfectly, yet they can still make alternative choices or develop even better strategies.

An individual may be clear that their next step is a promotion. The coach’s role is to help the client mobilise the energy to refresh their CV, investigate the market and ramp up their networking.

Some people find it difficult to clarify their next step. A good coach isn’t there to advise that individual what to do, but rather to help them identify what values any role must support if they are to be happy.

When did they feel most energised and alive at work? What was it that inspired them? How and where can they replicate this?

Sometimes people feel overlooked and managers stifle their career opportunities. Where people are equally skilled, image and profile determine their chances of promotion. In this situation, a coach can provide a confidential thinking space to help explore strategies for raising the client’s profile with key stakeholders besides their manager.

Sometimes individuals with a history of promotions signal that they must or should continue to chase promotion. Yet their personal circumstances may mean doing nothing is their best option for now.

There are many stages within a career life cycle when a coach will be required.

In my view, a coach provides a practical solution to help individuals determine what’s in their control and ultimately what’s best for them, their families and their career.

Angela Sabin FCMI FCIPD FInstLM, principal coach of Executive Life Coaching, is one of only a few UK executive coaches to achieve Master Practitioner accreditation via the European Mentoring and Coaching Council’s European Quality Award.

No, stand firm and resist the self-improvement craze

Coaching and therapy have become ubiquitous development tools in our accelerating culture. A coach is supposed to help you find the answers within yourself and realise your full potential.

Similarly, modern managers are no longer remote authoritarians concerned solely with hiring, firing and administration, but listening, introspective therapists who, in performance and development reviews or coaching sessions, strive to develop the personal skills of their staff.

When we go to work, the self goes with us – so we need to develop it in marketable directions.

Above all else, it is imperative that we see ourselves as material for skills-enhancement projects. In this context, coaching is a key tool with which to discover, rank and optimise our skills.

If you’re in a rut, exhausted, down or running on empty, coaching is advocated as the panacea.

The problem is, of course, that the exhaustion and emptiness may have been caused by the requirement for constant self-development and improvement.

‘Constant Never-ending Improvement’ might be a useful slogan for successful athletes, but, as a formula for happiness for ordinary people, it’s a bit more dubious. The danger of coaching is that you will never be allowed to stand still.

The message is that everything is possible if you believe in it enough and want it enough. If things don’t work out, it’s because you haven’t mobilised enough will and motivation.

The consequence of this is that you automatically criticise yourself when something is problematic: you internalise external social critique and transform it into inner self-criticism.

Simply being aware of this and similar traditions will better prepare you for life in the accelerating culture. You will derive comfort from the fact that there is an alternative to the pursuit of eternal positivity, self-development and authenticity – an alternative that stresses that the finest things about human beings are our sense of duty, peace of mind and dignity.

Svend Brinkmann is author of Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-improvement Craze (Polity Press, £12.99), from which this is an extract.

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