Tag Archives: Career coach. job advice

Do You Want a Job or the Right Job?



As a career coach, I talk mostly with two kinds of people: employed or in transition to another job. Sadly, people in both groups have one thing in common: most of them are unhappy. For those in transition, the unhappiness is self-explanatory, but why such a high level of unhappiness for those who are lucky to have an employer?

Several recent articles cover this subject. People who still work spend longer hours at it, and they face higher levels of stress. There’s no question that employee satisfaction is at an all-time low and that it has an impact on people’s health as well as relationships with family and friends.

A 2010 study found that in the United States, 55% of employees were not satisfied with their jobs! This is the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded, and the trend toward such dissatisfaction has strengthened steadily in the past 25 years. That means that unhappiness in the workplace is not directly related to the current economic downturn.

Unhappiness at work is not isolated. Unfortunately, it affects not only the unhappy people themselves but also those surrounding them. A recent Swedish study found a direct link between one’s relationship with one’s manager and the impact that that relationship has on one’s health: men who had toxic supervisors increased their risk of heart attack by 50%. A different study revealed that people of average height who felt unhappy at work added as much as five pounds to their weight.

A different, long-term study dealing with the impact of unhappiness at work confirmed that there is a strong correlation between one’s job satisfaction and one’s life satisfaction. Clearly, our thoughts, our emotions, and our performance on the job affect our behaviors away from the job and thus are affecting our loved ones.

What a job seeker can learn from all this is that it is of utmost importance to find out about a company’s culture, about the work conditions there, and as much as possible about the person one will report to before accepting the job. The sad—but practical—part is that even if one gets a great job at a great company with a great boss, in today’s economy things change so fast, and many of those changes are totally out of the control of the employee. So, what does one need so that work life harmonizes relationships and doesn’t destroy them? Luck—lots of it.

Is Fear a Part of Your Professional Life?

free_2777276During my work with job seekers or those contemplating a job/career change, I evaluate the amount of fear that drives—or paralyzes—my clients. To some extent, all of them exhibit fear originated by some threat—or so they perceive. For a person out of a job, that feeling is not only a perception but also, unfortunately, a reality. The normal human body has a built-in mechanism to protect itself from such an emotion by either confronting it or running away from it. It’s also known as the fight-or-flight response. In more-extreme situations, such fear leads to anxiety, but I’ll let a mental-health professional explain that one.

Conversely, a few clients indeed become energized by fear resulting from lack of employment. Their adrenaline levels rise sharply, and they’re ready to attack. They see opportunities coming out of this employment change, and nothing stops them from getting to their next assignment. They exhibit a go-getter mentality and thrive on even small incremental successes. However, the majority of those I see react to their unknown futures by clamming up and thus thinking they’re protecting themselves during this vulnerable stage of their life. I vividly remember my own situation during a transition. My entire attitude could have been described as, “The answer is no, so what’s your question?” It’s a shame that our emotions and our logic are not always congruent.

In working with people who at times seem paralyzed due to their new, jobless reality, I try to clearly understand what’s behind the obvious fact that they don’t have jobs. That understanding is typically complex and intertwined with other, tangled elements. For example, embarrassment vis-à-vis family and friends, or self-humiliation as a parent unable to financially support a child who wants and deserves a college education, or, perhaps, aggravation of an already bad spousal relationship due to the inability to contribute to basic family finances for an extended period. And the list can go on and on.

In such a situation, my solution is to attempt to provide clients with (1) job search tools, (2) exposure to and familiarity with the job search process, (3) ample amounts of mock interviewing that increase clients’ knowledge and experience, and above all, (4) listening as they talk about their pain, and (5) an understanding of all they’re going through. Another tactic that’s proved successful is helping clients learn to divert their attention to something positive. For example, clients can learn to network effectively in order to establish new relationships with people who may be able to help them and whom in turn they can help. Clients can also learn to discuss volunteering opportunities that not only could lead to a job but in the interim could help job seekers mingle with other people. And, more often than not, volunteers could hear again the words “Thanks for a job well done”—a sentiment that for a while has probably been absent from their lives.

How to Choose a Career Coach

success failureI am a practicing career coach, and at every year-end, I summarize my annual accomplishments as measured by how many people I helped and what percentage of them landed. In practicing Six Sigma principles in my career coaching, one of the ones I especially take to heart is CIP, which stands for Continuous Improvement Process. That means, I keep asking myself what I could do better for my clients in the future.

Another of the principles is measurement of performance, and in this case, my own personal performance. While doing that I’m checking out my competition to see whether my fees are aligned with those of others in the same field. This is always an amazing exercise that constantly keeps me wondering. Basically, I, too, do what many people do when searching for help with their careers: seek assistance from a coach (1) to improve a résumé, (2) to acquire the skills needed for interview preparation, or (3) to get general career guidance. I simply Google some terms such as career coaching and add a state or city. Such searches typically result in several similar service providers.

And now the real fun—and frustration—start. If I were a job seeker who landed on a career coach’s Web site, naturally I would like to get some basic impressions and information. After all, how else could I make a judgment? The problem is that most Web sites are inferior and lacking. Many of them use stock photos of, say, a handshake or some attractive young people. I would rather see a picture of the person I may want to hire and work with.

Another major problem I see is that many if not most of the Web sites are overwhelming: the landing page is confusing and uninviting because it has way too much information and offers way too many options. Job seekers want simplicity, order, and guidance, yet typically, they encounter inordinate amounts of information. I think this is a classic case where simplicity is attractive and where less is more. Career coaches help job seekers communicate eloquently and concisely, But the evidence via most of such Web sites proves the contrary. I speak with many of my counterparts and business friends. Most of them admit that their Web sites are not producing as they expected.

So what should a job seeker look for when searching for a career coach? Above all, nothing beats personal recommendations. So, testimonials and LinkedIn recommendations are essential. But of course, career coaches would not post less-than-spectacular testimonials. Next, the Web site should be clear, not confusing, and easy to get answers from regarding the services provided, the ways the services would benefit a job seeker, how to contact the service provider directly by phone, where the service provider is operating from, and the fees for each type of service. Are there any contracts to be signed? any up-front fees to be paid? any short- or long-term commitments to be signed. These are some of the basic and elementary pieces of information a job seeker needs before making a decision.

For those of you who are job seekers or are contemplating making a job change, I suggest you gather as much competitive information as you can, definitely talk with your potential career coach before making your first appointment in order to make sure there’s good chemistry between the two of you. Make sure you’ll be getting what you need and that the fees are competitive. Don’t go by price alone, because then you may end up with the proverbial “You get what you pay for.” Don’t be too impressed with academic degrees, courses, and certificates. I myself once used a coach who had two master’s degrees, had taken many relevant courses, and displayed wallpaper-like posts of certificates. Regrettably, the individual’s services turned out to be worthless yet very costly! Do your homework. Make your decision. And make sure you feel good about it.