If your career has reached a crossroads and you don’t know where to turn, a coach could help you find your way…
By Margaret Nicholls
Most of us feel stuck at some point in our working life. Perhaps promotion has passed you by, redundancy might have struck or maybe you’re just not enjoying your job any more.
If that sounds like you right now, coach and mentor Susan Grossman says that you can find a way forward much more quickly with the help of a coach than if you try to muddle through by yourself.
‘People need support,’ says Susan. ‘It can be very difficult to make decisions on your own and you can go round in circles getting nowhere.
‘Sometimes just two or three sessions can progress your thinking. With somebody else helping you, then something that might take two or three months or even a year to do on your own can be achieved much more quickly.’
Susan is a qualified Institute of Learning and Management coach, specialising in career progression, leadership and work-life issues. She bases the sessions on her client’s own agenda and says the goal is to help them think more clearly.
‘I never tell them what to do but I listen, pick out the issues that need exploring and then help them configure the options,’ she says.
‘If someone is feeling stuck in their career, I usually ask them what they did the last time they changed jobs and how they went about it.
‘Then we look at those avenues and see how they worked, or we explore how to think differently about them. After that we evaluate what the actual moving forward would be like. Usually by the third session my client is already making progress.’
The crucial role of a coach is to give you support so that you can move forward with confidence.
Susan explains: ‘If you were preparing to run a marathon, you’d buy a pair of shoes to ensure you that had the best possible chance of winning. You’d have a stopwatch and you’d look at how quickly you were progressing each week. I see coaching in a similar vein.’
If you’re made redundant, don’t hide away
Finding a new job after redundancy can be daunting. You may have lost confidence and it can be tempting to hide yourself away. But it’s important to remember that you possess the skills that enabled you to reach the position you were in before you were made redundant.
‘It’s so hard, when you’re made redundant, not to feel despondent and scared,’ Susan Grossman says. ‘But every move is a step forward. And in that situation it’s important to use as many things as you can to get yourself out of the state of mind that you’re in.’
A key way to move forward is to think of all the contacts you may have, from potential employers to ex-colleagues.
‘Make a list of all the people you know who are working in different places,’ Susan advises. ‘Then slowly start meeting people for coffee, follow them on Facebook, use social media to see what else is going on. Build up a presence so that you’re not hidden away from people because you’re feeling so down.’
Clever ways to job hunt
Hunting for a job through traditional methods may not be the best strategy. More people are chasing every vacancy advertised, according to recent figures released by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. Competition is fierce. And applying for job after job can be soul-destroying.
Susan explains: ‘Very many people do not get their jobs through application forms but through friends, people they know and social media.
‘My advice is to be pro-active, don’t just wait for vacancies to come up. Think about where you might like to be, what sort of environment you want to work in, and then call the HR department and ask if there are any vacancies.
‘You might see an opening in a new start-up. You could consider switching sectors.’
Susan’s advice is to think about what your passions are, your hobbies, the things that get you fired up.
‘Doing something you’re passionate about will make you more attractive to potential employers,’ she says.
How to stand out at interviews
It’s natural to be nervous about interviews. Especially if you really want the job. But Susan stresses that it’s not all about your skills.
‘Coming across well at an interview is a difficult thing to do,’ she says. ‘To give yourself an edge, you need to get the person who’s interviewing you to remember you.
‘A young man in his early 20s came to me for interview skills recently and said: “Why should I get the job? There are hundreds of people like me.”
‘I asked him about his interests and suddenly his face lit up. He told me he was a skateboarder and one of the only people who could do this particular jump.
‘“Why don’t you bring it up at your interview, if you find the chance?” I said.
‘“They wouldn’t be interested in that!” he replied.
‘A week later, he came back and said: ‘I got the job.’ In the interview, all they’d talked about was his skateboarding, because the chap that interviewed him was also interested.
‘Later, he told me there had been 500 people starting in this particular company. At the induction the managing director had stood at the front and said to everybody: “Well done, everyone, you did really well. Who’s the skateboarder?”
Obviously we can’t all be skateboarding champions, but the point is that his passion for his hobby allowed his real character to shine through. And that combination of enthusiasm and authenticity is very appealing.
‘You need to be able to communicate who you really are and in so doing, you will stand out,’ says Susan.
‘Coaching is a way of helping you move fast. And it’s through your own exploration of what really fulfils you that you will find the move that’s right for you.’