How do you know when it’s time to bring in a career coach?

About 95% of our clients have never worked with a professional career coach before. With that many people climbing their own learning curve when it comes to coaching, it’s understandable that many of the people I talk to who are considering coaching are unsure if they’ve come to the right place or are considering the right kind of help at the right time.

So, I’ve put together a pretty seriously thorough list to help you assess whether coaching is the right fit right now.

  1. You feel STUCK. Stuck is the most common word that I hear when talking to potential clients. You know that your current situation isn’t for you and you believe you can do better; you’re looking for a career change, not just the same role at a different company. You have an appetite for a bigger change, but you don’t know just what that looks like or how to figure out what other careers might lead to your spectacular.
  2. Your work and career are important to you, and you want to take a good or fine career into one that is spectacular. For some of our clients, they feel like they’re not living up to their potential; or they want to do more and make a bigger impact but are unsure of what “more” looks like; or they believe that that there is a job out there that is more in line with their interests, values, and talents. (*Both situations #1 & #2 can be especially hard because you don’t know what’s out there and what’s possible. The good news is our coaches are excellent at helping clients sift through what’s out there to develop confidence and clarity on what will be the right fit for you.)
  3. You’ve recently been promoted. You really want to knock it out of the park without getting stuck in the messy transition period for too long as you learn the ropes of your new role. Our clients are often looking for more support than their manager or company can provide, and they also want a place to go where it is okay to not know the answer.
  4. Your boss. The most common reason that people quit their jobs is because of their boss, but it’s also true that most people who don’t completely dig their boss still want to stick it out and make it better. Maybe your boss is just too busy to give you the support and development you need. Maybe you just don’t connect with your boss because their goals and motivations around work are different than yours. Maybe your boss is more focused on managing their own career than they are managing you or the work or even getting great stuff done. Your coach can provide the support and motivation that you might want from your boss that can give you what you need to stay in a job that you want to be in, despite a less than ideal situation.
  5. You’re a recent graduate, and despite being very motivated, you aren’t completely sure how to launch a successful career or what a successful career means to you. For a lot of our younger clients, the lack of context or professional experience to draw from makes it hard to know just what you want or even what might be possible for you. It can be very difficult to sift through all the opportunities out there. We sometimes see recent grads who know where they want to be eventually. They have long-term goals (either lifestyle or professional), but the path to get there isn’t as clear; some of our clients don’t know what those first small steps are along the way to get to that big goal.
  6. Perhaps the most common recent grad coaching scenario we see is that you want to work in a different field than your major, but you realized it late enough that you did not want to change majors and extend your time in college. Don’t worry; all hope is not lost! The stats vary, but it is more common for people to work in a field that was not their major than to work in a job directly related to their major, and I promise you that no matter how much it feels like it, your time in any major does not have to be wasted.
  7. You’re happy where you are right now, but you know that you don’t have enough runway to keep growing. Or maybe you aren’t happy, but you’re not unhappy You know that you don’t want to get to the point where you are burnt out by a lot of the exact same kind of work, but you might be starting to see the signs. This is an important juncture and is one we really encourage our potential clients to take seriously. It is easier to make a transition before you’re really unhappy. And it can be easy to stay where you are because things are manageable now, but the question many of our clients don’t know how to answer is, how do you take those next steps to make yourself and your career soar?
  8. You know that you want to do more, and you need that extra point of view to see what’s next. It can be very easy to feel like you have run out of ideas or to realize that your thinking about your job and career have become narrow or static. Our clients in these situations also tend to realize that they have stopped learning in their current role, and that is a danger sign we help you take more seriously (and do something about).
  9. There are also the one-off career coaching situations, like working with a coach just for one or two sessions to feel prepared and confident for your next interview, negotiation, a big presentation, or performance review conversation (both as the reviewer and the one being reviewed).

A career coach can obviously serve a number of different needs, depending on your situation. But regardless of your goals, your coach is your sounding board to help your sort and sift through all the different ideas you’re struggling to navigate on your own.

A career coach is someone who can help you figure out what you want and why you want it, helping you to ground your decision in your (potentially newly discovered) knowledge of what’s important to you so you can feel confident in your decision, all while broadening and adding an outside perspective.

With all of the situations above, it can still be tough to know exactly when to consider coaching, especially if you’re struggling to identify how you’re feeling and how much your feelings are affected by work. Feeling overwhelmed by work that shouldn’t overwhelm you, or like you have few if any options are signs that you might not be in a very good situation. Feeling bored or like you don’t have your usual energy because it is all taken up by work are also signs. All of this makes it harder to dream, ideate, plan, and execute the right next step in your career.

We are always saying to our clients and potential clients that even if you start to think you’re headed down that road, DON’T wait. Do something about it sooner rather than later. And if you’re still not sure, fill out our contact form on this page and we can help you determine if now is the right time for coaching.

Nora Philbin

Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).