Career Coaching–It’s All About the Questions (mostly)

This week I spoke with a few people about coaching and how problems get solved in career coaching.  People asked how I work or what I would do as a coach if faced with this situation or that.  One wanted to know in detail about my processes.

It’s always great when people have these questions because it forces me to get clear again for myself as well as them about the process of coaching.  It’s also a great chance to overcome misconceptions people can so easily have about career coaching, if they’ve never experienced it.

The people I spoke with this week all got it that coaching isn’t therapy of any sort and knew that it was a tool to help people help themselves get out of ruts, get a vision, make a plan, do the plan.  What I did find myself talking about was how a lot of coaching isn’t me answering questions (though some of it is) but asking them.

After all it’s only by questions that the coach can even know what’s going on for the person in terms of their passions and interests and challengs and difficulties.  It’s also a way to help clients look at things from different perspectives.  My favorite is when someone says something like,

“I like construction except not full time so I’m thinking about some carpentry work which is pretty good.  Of course I’d love to have my own catering business, but that’s not going to happen so maybe what I need to do is…

And I just back them up and ask, “Why isn’t that going to happen?” In other words, I start uncovering the reasoning and feelings and assumptions that led to that resigned conclusion about something they’ve identified as a prime passion.  Usually, they have obstacles, but what they really love to do turns out to be very practical and possible.

Or sometimes it’s not–they aren’t going to play quarterback for the Packers at age 49 (unless their name is Favre and they keep making comebacks maybe), but I can ask more questions about what they love about catering, for instance, and find out that it’s about being involved with creating delightful things for people.  We can then go through questions and discussions to figure out what that might mean besides catering.

It’s really quite fun and engaging for the clients as well as for me of course.

Of course, there’s a lot more to coaching than questions.  It may include examples and models, can include advice, and in my case certainly includes many kinds of creative problem solving processes and activities.

But it’s imposible to do coaching without the question, and the bottom line question people are really asking me when they ask about coaching is this:


Can this really help me truly solve my career challenge?  Or is this likely to lead me to my ideal lifework or career?

To answer yes, the coach has to have a very pragmatic orientation, even when talking first about career dreams, as I like to do.   But it’s not possible for the coach to answer yes unless the client also says yes–meaning they have to be willing to commit to solving their problems, and to take the time to do the homework (I give lots of homework so clients move quickly on their own as much as possible). and be open to new ideas for their careers or job searches.

Check out a related career coaching post–I’m Smart, Competent–Why Would I Need  a Career Life Coach?




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