||The Brazen Careerist
Career coach can help sharpen
A good way to insulate yourself
from a bad economy is to deal with your weaknesses so your employer
doesn't have to. This advice applies to everyone -- from those hoping
for a big promotion to those just hoping to interview for a job.
Weaknesses are hard to beat, so
if you're really serious about making a personal change, I recommend
a career coach. But be careful, because a good coach is hard to
find. I learned to find good coaches by enduring bad ones. I also
learned that when you find a good one, you can change in ways that
will surprise you.
The first career coach I ever hired
was someone who my boss recommended. He gave me the guy's phone
number and I called.
The coach's voicemail message closed
with, "Have a wonderful and life-changing day!"
I told my boss I could not work
with someone who was so positive about change that he was a psycho.
My boss said, "This guy is renowned for working
with famous businesswomen." (My boss dropped the name of a woman
who worked with this coach. I am not going to tell you this woman's
name because you know her, and to this day I still question her judgment.)
But the name-dropping worked. I wanted to be famous. So I agreed to
meet with the guy.
He told me that most women he worked
with needed to learn to be more assertive. He said, "I can
tell you would be responsive to that sort of training, because you're
wearing a skirt." Then he winked at me. So for my first lesson
in assertiveness, I fired him.
My second coach was someone my
boss read about in a newsletter. This coach told me I needed to
appear grounded and stable as a leader. Her vision hit a nerve:
I had catapulted up the corporate ladder, and some days I wondered
what I was doing there. I thought I was wondering privately, but
the coach showed me how my demeanor gave it away.
"You walk like you're on air," she told
me. "Your bounce belies giddiness and your swinging arms look
She showed me how to walk so that I looked grounded
and stable. The most interesting thing she taught me was that if
I could change how I walk, I would change how I felt. I wouldn't
have believed that until someone forced me to try it.
Later I saw a coach speaking at an entrepreneur's
conference. I hired her to help me handle board meetings. I learned
not to smile so much. She pointed out that women smile a lot and
men don't, and it makes men nervous. To soften the blow, she smiled
at me. She told me my sweater was cut a little low, which made me
happy since I never thought of myself as a woman with cleavage.
But for the most part, her thing was public speaking, and I am definitely
better at keeping an audience's attention because of her coaching.
So here's my advice on choosing a coach: Interview
a few, because each coach has a different approach, and not all
will be right for you. To get a sense of the coach, ask, "What
are you best at doing with your clients?" If you like the answer,
do a short trial session. If you ask someone what he or she is best
at and you don't get a straight answer, it's because he or she is
not good at anything, so hang up.
Recommendations from a respected friend or co-worker
are a good bet. But, as you can see from my experience, a recommendation
isn't foolproof. I have had good luck going to a bookstore and perusing
the careers section for books by coaches. If you like a book, you
will probably like the coach who wrote it.
Many coaches speak at conferences, so go listen
to a few if you're on the prowl. If you absolutely cannot get up
off your sofa, then get a recommendation from the career coach hotline:
Enlisting the help of a coach may seem like
a high-risk move -- after all, a bad coach is really bad. But you
also take a risk by not getting help to address your weaknesses.
-- Posted: Oct. 20, 2003