Hoi - I'm Hannah Ray - an ICF career, business and life coach at my practice, TAKE Coaching Amsterdam. I hold space for people to explore + create their own version of success, facilitating you to be more you in the process. Here are my top 26 benefits of career coaching. (I was going to do 25 but I think 26 is a nicer number!).
Many people think ‘I need a career coach!’ when things have become a little too rubbish, when they have suffered burnout, or when they want to make a full career change or career transition.
These are some of the first things you might think of when you wonder what a career coach can help with.
There are many other benefits of career coaching though - some that are a little more subtle sounding, but can have significant impact on how your working life and career FEELS.
My approach to career coaching is a blend of being very hands on and practical, and bringing a more intuitive and integrative approach. This is because, what your career LOOKS like, is often just the surface; the tip of the iceberg.
Clients often come to me with a specific goal about something tangible they want to make happen. Of course, we can create systems, plans, processes, and play with various tools, exercises and experiments to make it happen. We can create many things to DO.
However, when we start to dig a little deeper, I ask ‘what is holding you back?’ or ‘what is stopping you from following through with the actions or behaviours?’. We end up exploring the beliefs you have about yourself, the expectations or pressures you feel from your company or industry. We start to realise that change needs to come from a deeper place.
These changes are not always visible things, like a new job, a promotion, or making more money.
Often, they are non-visible, like a renewed sense of energy, a different perspective on the role their career plays in their life, or greater acceptance of and belief in themselves.
Obvious, subtle, and everything in between, here is a list of 26 benefits of career coaching. Which ones resonate with you?
1. Make a career change or transition
Let’s start with the most obvious! What better reason to look for a career coach? Because you want to make a career change or career transition. Perhaps you have been thinking about it for a long time or perhaps it’s a new idea. Either way, there is a lot of exploring, deciding and planning that needs to happen and a career coach can a) facilitate you making the steps that are right for you, and b) keep you on track and accountable.
2. Take control of what you actually want from your career, rather than it just happening to you
Do you ever feel like your career has just happened to you? That you took your first job and then everything has just happened since then? When did you make the conscious decision to be where you are? Do you even like your job? Does the kind of praise and success you get feel satisfying or, dare I say it!, fulfilling?
We rarely stop to think about what we actually want for ourselves in our careers. Maybe it feels ridiculous, or selfish, or unrealistic? It’s not. Working with a career coach is an opportunity and safe space to do this thinking for yourself.
3. Open your mind to what opportunities exist
What is out there for you? What can you see beyond your current role in your current company and your current industry? Most people don’t realise how many transferable skills they have because they are used to only using them in a certain place or certain way. Even if they do kind of know they have transferable skills, they play them down or believe that they’re only really useful in the current industry they’re in.
In career coaching, we zoom out of your world, knock down the walls that keep you in place, and imagine all the other worlds and possibilities that could exist. Then we zoom back in and start to put steps and actions in place that can start to make those other opportunities feel real and possible.
4. Nurture your relationship with creativity
It comes, it goes, it blocks, it flows. Creativity is a slippery fish to catch and keep hold of. It is vital for having inspiration and problem solving abilities in your career. When you can’t connect to your creativity (a creativity block), it can be incredibly frustrating and demotivating to the point that it really brings you down. A career coach can help you develop a healthier relationship with creativity. They can help you understand what turns it up and down, give you tools to manage what happens when you cannot access it, and share exercises to keep it flowing.
5. Find productivity processes and systems that work for you
Our relationship with productivity can be infuriating. We tell ourselves we need the discipline to stick to a routine or way of working, but then it just doesn’t feel like it works. Or perhaps it does on one day, but not another. There are many ideas out there of how to improve your productivity, but the unknown secret is that it is different for different people on different days and different moments. Remember, we are humans, not computers, so it is no wonder that our relationship with productivity shifts and changes. A career coach can work with you to identify the various states that you experience in your work flow and develop a range of responses to them. These processes can range all the way from super disciplined to floaty and flexible, depending on you and your needs. There is no one size fits all, and a good career coach will enable you to create your own unique toolkit.
6. Support, without agenda or pressure
There are plenty of brilliant managers, colleagues and workplace friends who you can lean on for support. They have lots of excellent experience and advice to offer. However, this usually comes with (what we call in coaching) a fingerprint. This means they offer support to you via their own lens. This support will often have a layer of (mostly, well intended!) bias or non-objectivity. They will likely already have an idea of who you are and what they would expect for you in your career - therefore, their support will be influenced by that. A career coach offers objective, non-judgemental, unbiased space for you. A coach’s job is to put their own conditioning, ideas and values aside, so that you can have a clean and safe space to explore what YOU think, what YOU want, and what advice you give to yourself. It is what we are specially trained to do, and a good coach will make sure you feel supported exactly as you are so that you can create your own version of career success.
7. Better manage stress
Stress is a normal part of life. At its best, it serves to maintain and increase our capacity for things and to grow. However, in many people’s careers, it can become overwhelming and unmanageable. There are an abundance of coaching tools that a career coach can introduce you to to help you manage stress levels. This includes self-regulation methods like mindfulness, meditation and breathing, as well as more preventative things like boundary setting, prioritisation methods, and exercises to help with avoidance or procrastination.
8. Recover from, and, ideally, prevent burnout
The next stage of stress is when our stress response becomes overloaded for too long and we suffer burnout. It’s important to note that burnout is not sudden, but a final symptom from the body after a series of cries for help that have gone untended to. Career coaching is an opportunity to take stock of all the influences and behaviours that may have led you to burnout, and explore and experiment with new behaviours, setups or scenarios that can prevent it happening again. I have written a blog post on burnout coaching if you would like to explore the topic of burnout more. Your health is the most important thing in your life - a great career coach will help you remember and honour that.
9. Manage anxiety that is related to your work or career
Another element of work-related stress is anxiety. If you have not explored your anxiety before or you are suffering regular panic attacks or other symptoms, then it could be a good idea to first see a therapist who can offer career counselling or therapy. This will help you understand the root of your anxiety and offer deeper mental health support. Coaching, however, is amazing for people who have an understanding of their anxiety already and would like to find new ways to manage it. Coaching works on the basis that you are whole and resourceful exactly as you are - you have everything that you need already inside of you - it is a case of getting familiar with it and bringing it to the forefront. A coach can give you tools and exercises tailored to your working habits or workplace that make you feel more in charge of your anxiety and make it manageable when it strikes.
10. Hold your own in *those* difficult conversations
We all know those tricky conversations. The awkward ones that make you cringe. The scary conversation with your manager about a pay rise or something you want to change. The fear of giving feedback. The boundary setting or opinion sharing with your close colleagues. A career coach can facilitate your confidence to have easier conversations by equipping you with communication tools. We can look at what the key message you want to share is, what might stop you from communicating it the way you want to, and build your confidence in being able to communicate in the way that feels good for you.
11. Manage office or industry politics
What would an office be without politics? At worst, they are toxic and disruptive. At best, they can be light and playful. Either way, they exist. The challenge is to navigate them without getting lost in the drama they create. According to Karpman’s Drama Triangle, every less-than-functional social interaction has 3 stories: victim, baddie and rescuer. Do you always feel taken advantage of? Do you get angry at the way your colleague treats people? Do you feel everyone is always blaming you? A career coach can help you identify what people or situations trigger you in to certain stories or roles, become more aware of which ones are playing out in your career and how you can approach it differently in order to get where you want to be.
12. Greater self belief, self trust, and self worth
One of the best outcomes of coaching in general, is the more compassionate and trusting relationship you develop with yourself. Because coaching is based on the belief that the person in front of you is whole, competent and resourceful exactly as they are, you will do work that connects you to your innate sense of belief, trust and worth. Having access to this triple threat can unlock a lot of nourishing and exciting things for a person - not just in your career but multiple areas of your life.
13. Improve your leadership skills
Did you know there are 6 common leadership styles? (Goleman 2000 / Watts & Morgan 2015).
Coercive (lots of telling people what to do and directing)
Visionary (mobilising people towards a long term direction)
Affiliative (focused on creating and building positive relationships)
Democratic (building commitment and consensus through inclusion and participation)
Pacesetting (leads by example and sets performance standards)
Coaching (gives people the tools to grow and develop for the future)
We will all have our own tendencies to lean towards one or another. The real skill of leadership is to be able to use the appropriate style to deal with specific people in specific situations. Working with a career coach on these things can help you hone your own style, learn others and develop the agility to flex between styles when you need to.
14. Become a better manager
The majority of people in managerial positions are never actually trained to manage. You face all these pressures of looking successful, looking senior, and showing that you can get a team to perform well, create a supportive dynamic and deliver results. It’s a big ask when you have not been given the tools to know how to do this. Hiring professional coaches or career coaches is a great way to a) help you figure out and nurture your management style and b) find the best ways for you to manage other people so that your team, the individuals in it, and yourself can all thrive and can perform at their best.
15. Learn to manage - upwards and earlier
Whilst many people think coaching is just for the senior leaders, it is also hugely beneficial to people in their earlier years or in the middle layer of the team. Most people in managerial positions are not actually trained to manage people, so you get a whole layer of people who feel confused and frustrated by unhelpful feedback, micromanaging, and being made to feel like they are not good enough at their job by their senior managers. This is made even worse when you add hierarchy culture to the mix. What we forget, however, is that management works both ways. What I wish someone had given me when I was a junior in a company, were the skills to create clarity when I was briefed, communicate what I needed from my manager to do a task well, and feel confident about also feeding back to them what I felt worked and didn’t work so that we could build and improve our working relationship. Career coaching is gold for people with managers as it helps them a) understand workplace dynamics better, and b) develop management skills much earlier on in their career.
16. Understand the connection between work and your identity
Are you defined by your job? It’s one of the first questions people ask when they meet someone new: “What do you do?” Work is so tied to our identity, which makes sense considering many of us spend most of our week doing it. But we often underestimate the power that it has over us - especially when we want to make a career transition, promotion or complete change. The work of Herminia Ibarra looks at how career changes are really about identity changes. A career coach can work with you to look at how you see yourself, what parts of your work or career are the building blocks of that, and things you can do to move yourself and your identity towards the career you want.
17. Overcome stereotypes holding you back
Norms and cultures are created in industries and companies in order to make things flow and make things work. Having shared ideas of how things should be is an important factor in glueing a team together. However, what happens when these norms, cultures or ideas hold back or damage people? It can be frustrating, confusing, and harmful when stereotypes become a blocker to someone believing in themselves, showing up as themselves, and being able to thrive at work. My article about what a successful female entrepreneur is is a good example of how stereotypes affect women in business. A career coach can help you shine a light on what the norms or stereotypes affecting you are, unpick them, and decide what you want to do with them.
18. Get good and comfortable with setting boundaries
Do you have a problem saying no? Do you feel bad about letting everyone down? Are you often the one working late? Are you known as the reliable one in the team? First up, these are wonderful qualities - being a helpful person is a great thing. Until it is regularly at the expense of your own wellbeing, stress levels, or happiness. Boundaries are designed to maintain your energy and sense of self, so that you create healthier relationships with others and your work. They can be slightly nerve-wracking to start setting though, and can also be a readjustment for the people around you who may be used to treating you a certain way. A career coach helps you explore what boundaries you need and want to set for yourself, and support you as you experiment and learn how to set and use them in your work and life.
19. Give yourself your own performance appraisal
One of the most interesting things I’ve read about annual appraisals is this piece by advertising strategist, Jim Carroll. He talks about how, for the first 10 years of his career, he received the same unchanging positive and negative feedback about his performance. He would get hung up on the negative feedback, but never really be able to change that about himself. The thing about performance appraisals, is that people are being asked to make up positive and negative things about you, because that’s just what happens when you do an appraisal. The truth is, you will always be you, and it is better to focus on what YOU are great at, what YOU want to achieve for yourself and your work, and what YOU feel excited about developing. When you work from the inside out, your career will follow. So, a career coach could work with you to give yourself your OWN appraisal so that you start building in the direction that excites you and will see you grow - rather than striving towards someone else’s idea (that they probably wouldn’t have even mentioned if noone had asked them!).
20. Increased awareness of the role work plays in your life
It can become very normal for work to become your entire world. For it to become the thing you drop all other things for. For it to cancel your plans with your loved ones, make you pull out of the gig you were so excited to go to, or miss your kid’s bedtime.
This is a reminder that your universe contains many planets. Work is just one of them. It’s more than okay if you want your work to be the main planet that soaks up all the sunshine and that everything else orbits around - as long as it’s a conscious decision.
Many of my clients realise that work doesn’t have to be their everything though, and start to work on becoming ok with it just being one part of their life.
Working with a career coach can help you figure out what role work plays in your life, what it gives you, what it needs from you, and what you want it to be.
21. Better work life balance
On a similar note, a career coach holds space for you to figure out what a better work life balance looks like for you. Work life balance is not necessarily about keeping everything in perfect balance, but about finding harmony between the various demands and desires that come up in your life and work at any given time. A career coach can work with you to shift your perspective on how the various parts work together - creating space for you to find flow and self-awareness so that you can flex your energy and attention as and when needed.
22. Increasing confidence in what your strengths are + using them
Here’s an exercise. Draw a Venn diagram with 4 overlapping circles. Title them: What I love doing, What I’m great at, What I’m paid for, What the world needs. Now fill in each one with all things you can think of. Once you’ve done that, observe the patterns and the overlaps. These patterns are your superpowers. These are your gifts. A career coach can ask you how you can bring these gifts in to your work. Perhaps it is a new approach, perhaps it is bringing more of your personality to work, perhaps it is a career change, perhaps it is starting a side business. Once you start to play on and bring your gifts to your career, you will start to notice the positive benefits.
23. Widening your perspective on what a career is
There are many widely accepted and traditional ideas of what a successful career is. We forget that, actually, there are many options available to us. We forget that a person can have multiple careers in a lifetime, or have multiple projects at a time that make up a career. A good career coach will open your mind to what a career can be, help you unstick from any ideas that are holding you back, and facilitate you creating your own version of it. I highly recommend checking out the Squiggly Careers podcast - a podcast that challenges the traditional ideas of what a ‘successful’ career is and helps you take control of your career development.
24. Getting better connected to your motivation
What is your why? Why do you do what you do? What energises you? What drains you? What excites you about what your career gives you, or who it means you get to be? Many people reach a point in their career where they feel disconnected from themselves and what they are doing there. They may be making the greatest impact but if it is not tied to their internal, personal values, goals and motivations, then it can be a struggle to bring your zestiest self to work every day. A career coach will work with you on a deeper level to really unpick what gets you going and how you can weave that in to your career.
25. Setting a career vision
We often think of careers as linear paths to ultimate success. You start at the bottom and work your way to the top. Suddenly, you arrive somewhere you had thought you wanted to be, but at the same time, you wonder how it fits with you and your life. Feel familiar? Setting a career vision takes a more integrated approach to, not just what your career looks like, but also things like how you want to FEEL at work, what parts of yourself you will get to bring to your work, how your work creates space for other things in your life. It is a greater sense of something that you can consciously move towards - rather than just chasing that next pay rise, title or project.
26. Understanding what success means to YOU
Last but not least, a huge benefit of career coaching is the bringing it back to YOU. Who told you what success looks like? Do you feel connected to the kind of success your career brings you? What does success really mean to you? What does it really look like? Who do you get to be?
If any of the above resonates with you, or you would like to book a free taster session with me, feel free to get in touch.