What are the easiest ways to spot an ineffective career coach who won’t be helpful in moving you forward?

This week I heard from a lovely woman in another state who shared with me a story about a career coach she hired this year. This coach, in the end, was of no help at all. I have to say, if I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it one hundred times.

The coach had her take a battery of expensive assessment tests, and the results showed that she was in the perfect job for herself. The problem is, she’s very unhappy in this profession of 30 years, and wants out (for a variety of well-founded reasons). He also told her that due to her age (she’s in late midlife), she’ll have a hard time reinventing and finding a new job. Wow, thanks a lot for the motivation and inspiration, sir! While it’s certainly true that reinventing in midlife has it deep challenges (I should know), where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I experienced a similar thing 10 years ago with a career counselor I hired. At 40 years old, I felt sick, miserable, and depressed at my current line of work and job, which was marketing and product management for a leading membership services organization. I had been in membership services for years, and lost all interest in it. I deeply longed for a new career direction, but couldn’t figure out what to do.

After hundreds of dollars, several meetings, and a series of standardized assessment tests, the career counselor said, “Well, looks like your current job is perfect for you and meets all your needs.”

Are you kidding??? If it met all my needs, why do I want to poke my eye out with a stick! Why do I hate it so much, and why am I “breaking down” from the stress, exhaustion, crushing competition, and lack of connection to my work?

The reason he arrived at the conclusion that my job was right for me involved his constricted perspective – an inability to think expansively about his client’s potential and capabilities. He was looking only at the person I projected at that moment, and taking into account my outwardly-stated needs, skills, and priorities, without looking at my potential. It’s understandable that I -- the client -- would have a limited perspective. After all, it’s natural to feel limited and blocked when we’re stuck in a negative situation. But for the career coach to be stuck with me in this limited view? That’s just bad coaching.

What I needed was a breakthrough – a “paradigm shift” that would allow me to see how much more I was capable of than my current views and experiences allowed.

How did the coaching process go wrong?

The career coach and assessment tests I took identified my professional needs and talents as:

- Wanting flexibility, family time, high pay
- Avoiding extensive travel
- Utilizing my well-honed marketing skills
- Writing, copywriting, editing
- Generating ideas and implementing new marketing strategies
- Being creative – developing new products and enhancements
- Leading/managing others successfully
- Managing projects and budgets
- Building client relationships
- Nurturing ideas to fruition
- Re-engineering and streamlining processes for greater efficacy

The thing he missed was that, while I was indeed tapping into various talents and skills I possess, I was pointing them in the wrong direction! The work I was focused on felt absolutely meaningless to me – or worse – harmful to the community and world. To me, what we were selling lacked any contributive value. The sole point of my job was to sell membership services and to make money – regardless of whether these services were truly needed or beneficial in people’s lives.

My career coach missed the most important aspect of what I wanted in my working life – to feel good about what I’m doing!

This coach also missed exploring three vital dimensions to a joyful and successful life and career:

- Standards of integrity – HOW you want to live and work – the process of living, not just the content of it (check out Maria Nemeth’s book The Energy of Money for more about this!)

- Life intentions – WHAT you want to create and give in my life, when all is said and done

- Life purpose – THE UNIQUE PURPOSE of your life on this planet at this time

Career coaches who don’t touch on the above aren’t going to be successful for you. They disregard the most important dimensions of your career.

My view is this – we did not come here on this planet at this time SIMPLY to pay the mortgage. Yes, we must pay our bills, and handle our finances responsibly and accountably, but each of us is much more than a bank account. We have talents, needs, perspectives, experiences, longings and gifts that coalesce into a special amalgam – the essence of you and what you want to give through your professional identity and endeavors.

So the next time you are looking for a career coach, please do me a favor…check out exactly what he/she will be helping you achieve – is it a new job that fits outwardly but leaves you feeling cold and depressed? Or is it a career/job that you can sink your teeth into, that brings you passion, power, and purpose, and lets you connect with the most expansive version of yourself, each and every day?

And don’t let a career coach work on your resume and social media profiles WITHOUT knowing who you really are on the inside, and what you care to give and be in the world. If you create a new resume and direction without understanding and honoring the essence of you, you’ll waste precious time and money. Trust me on this one!

Share your stories!
I’d LOVE to hear from you about this issue. Have you also had disappointing experiences with career coaches? If so, what did they miss or how did they steer you wrong? And on the contrary, have you had great experiences with a career coach? Please comment here about what you’ve learned, so others can benefit from your experiences! Thanks SO much for your feedback.

Here’s to a breakthrough this summer that brings you to the professional life you long for!

Author's Bio: 

About the Author:
Kathy Caprino, M.A., is a nationally-recognized women’s career and executive coach, speaker, and author of Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose. Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. -- a career and work-life coaching company dedicated to helping women achieve breakthrough to create life and work as they truly want it, Caprino is a trained psychotherapist, seasoned career coach, and sought-after writer and speaker on women’s issues. She is a popular blogger on women’s career topics and trends, and as a top media source, she has appeared in more than 100 leading newspapers and magazines and on national radio and television. Her current national research study focuses on Women Succeeding Abundantly, and explores the key actions, beliefs, and choices made by women of all ages who are creating tremendous success and fulfillment in their lives and careers, thriving and living joyfully on their own terms.

For more information, visit www.elliacommunications.com or write to Kathy at Kathy@elliacommunications.com.