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(Not) Career Coaching

First: I am not in the business of career coaching. Now, there have been many times when I examined my career, and many more when I have been with others through that journey. I have enjoyed the process, as have the people with whom I have shared the experience. We have produced the intended results. In every case, as I see it, the career that will be most satisfying will be one that occurs as a natural self-expression. And yet, for many people, the inquiry into what they really want to be doing has been a long and fruitless one.

I have worked through the following process with at least two dozen people and we have found it valuable. Ultimately, what we are looking for has two parts: first, find that thing that you so can’t help but do that sometimes your friends wish you could; and second, figure out who wants to pay you well for doing that.

A valuable frame of reference is that there are many job searches that are not career searches, and it is good to know the difference. If someone needs a job, then they need a job.  A job pays bills and supports life. Sometimes, looking for the perfect career is not the wise move. Sometimes one simply needs a job. Now, it won’t hurt a person to go through this process even if all they need is a job. Getting a job doesn’t mean that pursuing a career cannot be done, it is just that a job is often something needed with urgency, and this process is not that. A career choice can take time and it seems it is best done when urgency is not a factor.

There are two primary inquiries here. The first is the following greatness and passion exercise. The second is described below that and involves looking at the job market.

  • The inquiry into yourself
    • Make a list of everything you are great at. Include what you do naturally, what you’ve always been good at, love to get better at. People around you know that you are good at these things.
    • Make a list of everything you are passionate about.  Everything, no limits, what do you care about, you are excited by the thought of, you can’t help but doing.  Get to the core of things. Yes, even put down if it is the case, “I love to go skydiving,” or, “I like extreme snowboarding,” but look to the common thread as well: “I am passionate about dramatic, exciting, dangerous activities”.  Perhaps you are passionate about security, peace, making money.  Write it all down.
  • Getting feedback
    • Take your lists to at least three people who know you well. Give them clear instructions like this:  I am in an inquiry about the things I do naturally, the things I excel at, and what I care most about.  I want your assistance.  I am going to read to you two lists. One is everything I think I am great at and the other is everything I am passionate about.  After I read the lists to you I’d like you to answer two questions:  Do you have anything to add to either list?  And, Do you have anything else to say?
    • Then READ them both lists, one at a time.
    • Ask the questions and add whatever they want you to add. Do not subtract anything and do not second-guess the people you are asking.  IF they say you are great at something, write it down.
  • Review
    • Take all of this information and look for the common ground between what you are passionate about and what you are great at.
    • Highlight anything that shows up.

Next, and again, it is not next chronologically, these are to happen simultaneously; we look at the market.

  • Identify the best sources of help wanted ads in your market place.
    • Make your search as broad as possible.  Do not stick to one profession or area of expertise.  Look across as many disciplines and areas as possible.  View at least 300 help wanted ads per week for 2 weeks.
    • Pull any ads that interest you for any reason.  If they are in the newspaper cut them out and paste each one to a sheet of paper.  If they are online, copy and paste them each ad on one page of a word document or the equivalent
      • Do not let anything prevent you from pulling any ad that interests you. In this exercise, qualifications, salary, et al, are not an issue.
    • Each week, go through every pulled ad and highlight anything about that ad that interests you at all.
      • Again, they ought to be across a wide variety of fields, not just the ones you have worked in before
      • Going through all of the ads and highlighting every one with what interests you will illuminate common threads, such as:
        • Potential for advancement
        • Leadership opportunities
        • Work from home
        • Work with kids/elderly/special needs
        • Teaching or learning opportunities
        • Flexible schedule
        • Partnership opportunities
      • Review all of these highlighted ads and compile a list of all of the things that excited you or interested you about them.
      • Make this list for things that matter most to least on a 1-5 scale.  You may have 50 items, but you can only mark them for importance 1-5 so you will have many ones, many twos, etc.
  • Review
    • It is now time to review this list by yourself and then with the same people you read the greatness and passion lists to in the above exercise.
    • Ask them to sit and listen and to let you know anything that they think of as you read.  Tell them to interrupt at will.
    • Take notes.

Now if you have gone through all of this and have not learned something about yourself and your career choice, I invite you to look again, rewrite the lists, look at your conclusions. Talk to people who know you and ask for their feedback again.

Many people who have gone through this have by this time found some new level of clarity. At that point there is often work to do. Sometimes further inquiry is needed. If you have done this and are not yet entirely clear and in action, please send me an e-mail and we will set up a call. I promise, in one call we will get you moving forward with velocity. There will be no charge for that call.

Edited by Robert Walker

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