07 April 2023

Do you really need career coaching? Insights from our Chief Administrative Officer

During the last few months, there has been a surge in the number of career consulting businesses. While some people seek advice about their next career step or a new job, others explore a side business for themselves, promoting their coaching or mentoring programs. This has caught the attention of Elena Krutova, our chief administrative officer. And in today's post, she shares what problems people should avoid when dealing with career consultants and what alternatives they should consider to have a true impact on their career journey.

It is fascinating how many career consulting options have become available on the market over the past few years. A whole new industry — from one-time sessions to monthly or even annual subscriptions — has started to emerge.

The platforms where you can find such services differ as well: from professional coaches with stylish landing pages to Instagram self-made HRs, where nice business-like pictures usually prevail over meaningful content. You may be guided through the whole recruitment process, starting from the creation of a “selling CV” to preparing for the job interviews. Or you may increase your awareness about your strengths and development areas with a variety of instruments, such as psychometric tests, personality inventories, or others. Or you will just be trained to create and maintain an image of a hardworking employee who deserves a promotion.

So what’s the problem?

What are some of the drawbacks of the most affordable career advisory services that are quite popular now?

1. There are no C-level executives of top companies who are promoting their career advisory services on Instagram. They are working! They do not have time for photo sessions with expensive furniture in the background. They know that a guarantee to a successful career is to focus on your work, skills, reading books, and improving your own mental and physical  health. And when they have some free time, they usually don’t spend it on Instagram.

2. We all have only one chance to make a first impression. And if you are taught the principle “fake it till you make it”, well, many smart people will have an opinion about you immediately. Reading a summary of any book is not the same as reading the whole book. Constantly sending “thank you” letters to your boss may help you till the day when someone else offers a better or more creative idea. Use your chance to make an impression as a professional, not a careerist.

3. Many career advisory services are yet another business model. The image-makers helped to create pictures of “successful success” for the people selling services. And the better the pictures, the higher the price. It does not mean that the more you pay for a session, the better career you will have. Most likely, the opposite is fair: you may remain confused and frustrated with yourself, seeing a gap between what is sold to you versus if it can really work for you.

4. The most sustainable careers are built for a purpose. They are built not to earn x2 more money or become a boss of your boss. Someone wants to create a world where children do not suffer from diseases, another one may want to build an ethical and honest business, being a role model for others. Yet, I have never seen an ad promoting the service of building a meaningful career. Probably, because the services provided are not about that at all.

But what to do instead?

The main question to ask

Although all of us need a piece of career advice during some periods in our life, the problem of choosing the path is much more complex than career consultants may present to their target audience. Their selling point is usually about opportunities to earn more money, get a promotion, or, more often, do less work for better pay. However, the main question which almost all of them ignore is WHY do you need to build or boost your career?

This question is the most complex in relation to many choices during our lives. We choose why we want to stay with our life partner or go; we decide why we should or should not relocate to another country. Or we even think of the “why” of existence—at least, to heal the boiling anxiety about the world's imperfection.

So why may you want to build a career? Probably get better pay? Or possess more power? Or gain freedom? And I would ask the question in a different way: how much are you ready to pay for a career that you believe will make you happy? And will it?"

Determine the real price

According to many pieces of research about work-life balance (or “work-life integration,” a more popular concept now), building a career has a very high price. Unfortunately, the price is not usually written in any promotional letters, and no career consultant tells you the truth about the hard work behind any promotion. 

For example, some careers require frequent travel. And although it sounds exciting to see the world, in reality, you will see it from your hotel or office room, or taxi windows. A managerial career is usually associated with freedom and autonomy. However, it is the opposite: the higher you are on the career ladder, the less autonomy you have. You are told what email to send, what presentation to deliver, or even what dress to choose for a business dinner.

And, of course, building a career is always about effort, the size of which is usually hard to estimate. New tasks will require new skills, which most likely you have to gain during your free time. And new subordinates most likely will not accept you, easily consuming all the mental energy you wanted to save for yourself. So it's better to think about it in advance and be prepared to deal with it in the process.

Be careful when choosing

When it comes to our career paths, there are times when we may really require an external perspective to help us identify new opportunities and possibilities that we may overlook while we are busy, well, building our careers and engrossed in our day-to-day work.

If you opt for career coaching, take the time to research and select a coach who is experienced and qualified. Although self-made HRs on Instagram may be appealing, it is best to avoid them and seek out coaches with established credentials and reputations.

In case you choose to look for a coach on Instagram, scrutinize the coach's profile and credentials to ensure they are legitimate and have a proven track record of success. It's essential to find a coach who can truly help you with pushing into that “why” question and other useful things, rather than just relying on popular coaches who may not be the right fit for you.

Journey to fulfillment 

Finding out your “why” and looking clearly at a possible price can be hard, of course. And it takes courage. But I believe it will lead one day to an unexpectedly pleasant surprise on your career journey.

I am not arguing that building a career is bad. Well, the opposite: I have been doing it my whole life, and the reasons are clear to me. I like working, I like doing things and making projects happen. I like seeing organizations change when I make an effort and tear through the obstacles and resistance. My “why” is simple—it's because I cannot do things differently. And I have never passed courses like “How to build a successful career working 30 minutes a day” or so.

If one day I will get old and retire, I want to give a bit of career advice to other people. I would tell them to find a job that makes them feel good every day, a job where they see how you impact other people in a positive way.

A job where you want to wake up every morning as if something interesting is waiting for you. A job where you have to cure your inner workaholic and stop yourself from going to bed with your laptop every evening. A job when you regret that you have closed your laptop and go home at the end of the working day."

And then, I believe you will never have a question if your career is good enough for you or if you need career advice.

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