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Coaching is not just for sports

Published November 28. 2009 09:00AM

I get restless every six months or so. I start thinking if I'm on the right path, if there's more out there for me, or if I'm doing what I should really be doing with my life. This has been going on almost constantly since I graduated from college. Every so often I get the itch for a new challenge and to expand my horizons.

A few years ago, I was at a bit of a loss professionally. I didn't feel right in my job at the time, but didn't quite know what to do about it. I was taking classes and trying to better myself, so it seemed as if I was doing all the right things. But I still wasn't sure. After giving it some thought and doing some research, I decided to look into career counseling, also referred to as career coaching.

The idea behind career coaching is to help people find a more appropriate professional path. Some people have been working in one field for ten or more years. They may not love it, but they don't dislike it enough to make a drastic change. Perhaps they're still with their first employer out of high school or college, and it just hasn't occurred to them that their true professional path is still out there. Others are completely miserable and are trying desperately to find a different job or change careers entirely. Any of these folks could benefit from some career counseling.

Career counseling is a tiny bit misleading. Many folks who have had some type of "career" counseling say that they learn more about themselves, including skills they never realized they had, than careers, per se, though career awareness is definitely part of it. Through counseling or coaching, a person can become more aware of different opportunities available to them that might match their skills or interests a bit closer compared to their current job. Depending on the kind of career coaching you participate in, you might get further guidance on putting together a stronger cover letter and/or resume, and doing practice interviews so you feel more comfortable and confident for the real thing.

There are various types of career coaching available. Some folks register for an online course, while others are willing to pay an actual coach for one-on-one sessions to help them figure out just what they should be doing with their lives. Many colleges and universities provide this type of service to the community at low or no cost. Since I'm a cost-conscious kind of girl, I decided to look into the free sessions offered by a local college.

I registered for the next available session. There were a few of us in the room, along with a counselor. She spoke with us briefly and explained that we would be completing an online personality assessment that would help us identify our skills and interests. We were asked a fairly long list of questions, about 50 or so. Based on our answers, a list of careers that best fit our personalities and interest areas came up. We could click on any of the careers listed to learn more about them. When all was said and done, I learned that I a career in writing, journalism, or the creative arts best fit my personality and skills. I'm glad I didn't have to pay for that advice. I was the first one to leave the session, which the counselor noticed and pointed out to me. We spoke briefly as I was leaving. I explained that the assessment had just reaffirmed what I already knew.

My first and only experience with career counseling was fairly general. I believe I had the option of signing up for additional sessions for a minimal cost. Perhaps it would have helped me, but I already had a pretty clear idea of what I should be doing. The one-on-one coaching can be beneficial if you truly have no idea what to do next. I know folks who have signed up for individual sessions and learned a lot. Some of them went to the sessions because they've been laid off or displaced and their employer was paying for it, or they just decided to go on their own. A private coach can provide much more focused and individualized attention, depending on the person's needs. Although most career coaching is done through larger staffing or workforce firms, there are some consultants who run their own career coaching practices. A Google search or a quick trip through the phone book can give you a better idea of the options available locally.

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