[ A few thoughts on putting your best foot forward vis-à-vis career coaching, executive coaching, resume writing + professional development ]
Embrace the burden, then shed it
Like the busy bee weighed down with pollen, you too are burdened.
You don't need anyone to list the challenges in your day-to-day existence. You are all too familiar with them.
If you don't experience daily burdens, congratulations (you need not keep reading).
Perhaps you lament, complain, and kvetch online, or you tell a few close souls, or you keep the burdens selfishly all to yourself, bottling up the rich and toxic sludge of immature or downright unethical boss behavior or crappy coworkers and meaningless projects and unrealistic deadlines and personal doubts and imposter syndrome and "achievement dysmorphia" (a term I borrowed from Jaime Ellis, ACC) or disrespectful clients and miserable leaders... oh, dang, I thought I was going to spare you the list.
How much of that extra weight is thrown upon you unfairly by external forces, but how much of it do you automatically (maybe absent-mindedly?) pick up and carry just to please others, or because you're a workaholic, or because you were never (ever) shown a healthy + viable alternative, or because you simply don't allow yourself some time to explore it?
It's impossible to avoid all burdens in life--that much we can agree on.
Some burdens make you stronger.
Some actually do make you weaker--at least physically.
Some shared burdens will allow you to connect with people and even inspire countless others, both loved ones close to home, and strangers many mountains and seas away.
"Shared sorrow is half sorrow, shared joy is double joy"--I discovered this phrase online years ago and it keeps coming back into my life at just the right moments.
When it comes to work, perhaps some of your burdens are educational and constructive for a time, a reason, a season. They propel and motivate you--to a point. Until they don't.
How many of your professional burdens have you carried now for far too long, to the point that it's become tragic... or comical?
Netflix recently released a show called Human Playground, taking some of these often self-induced burdens to their extreme (I didn't say it couldn't be beautiful). If you haven't seen it, Idris Elba's narration alone is worth experiencing.
What burdens are you carrying at work that no longer serve you?
Great news: You don't need to answer.
After all, a life examined can be scary, fraught with more questions than answers.
But, as some say, the unexamined life is not worth living...
What is coaching, in a nutshell?
The world's best career coach is not the one who gives you the answers, but the one who helps you realize that the answers are already within you, hidden under layers of dust or rust.
The world's best executive coach is not the one who "trains" you on how to communicate or lead more effectively, but the one who unearths your existing leadership skills and strengths, helps you explore and experiment, and empowers you and you alone to leverage your innate resilience and resourcefulness to find creative solutions to some of the most challenging problems in the modern-day workplace.
Why Working With a Career Coach May Not Be For You
[Text as originally appeared on bklynresumestudio.com]
There is a coach for everything these days, not just sports. Business coach. Relationship coach. Money coach. Happiness coach. Parenting coach. Crystal healing coach. A coach for coaches. How did our ancestors ever survive without coaches? Well, they often relied on stronger familial or community ties, but that’s a story for another day.
WHAT IS A COACH?
First, let’s quickly define coaching by what it’s not.
However, if you have never worked with a coach before, there are some potential pitfalls and warning signs to consider before shelling out your hard-earned cash. Here are some key things to consider before you partner with a coach.
WHAT DO I DO AS A COACH?
As a coach, I work both with under-performers (to get them back on track) and Type A over-achievers (to optimize and elevate their careers or businesses, and sometimes to get them to unwind and breathe).
Working with mid-level and senior-level professionals across industries all over the US and abroad, I am rarely the expert in my client’s field. But I have the tools and training to successfully coach clients across many different career backgrounds.
Together, we work on building up the client’s confidence and self-esteem. We practice things like communication skills, interviewing, salary negotiation, cross-functional and cross-cultural collaboration skills, management and feedback-giving, and much more. We’ll work on self-identity and branding, helping clients craft their elevator pitch and confidently share it with the world. And we explore thought leadership, getting clients to write, publish, or speak more often and more intentionally. Sometimes we work on prioritization and accountability.
DO YOUR RESEARCH: DOES THE COACH DELIVER RESULTS?
It may seem fun and trendy these days to hire a coach for your next pain point or career stumbling block, but are you going to get the ROI you expect? Is the coach someone who genuinely supports and transforms people’s lives, or are they a get-rich-quick-guru-wannabe who loves to hear themselves talk?
DO THE RESEARCH. ASK AROUND. REACH OUT TO OTHER CLIENTS.
Find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about their coaching experience. Check out Yelp reviews, Google reviews, and LinkedIn recommendations if available. Obviously, anything online can be faked and forged, but do your due diligence, and have some faith (if you feel hopeless and jaded, that might be part of the problem, and a great coach can help restore some of that long-lost faith, too).
VALUES & PERSONALITY MATTER. IS IT A GOOD FIT FOR YOU?
The magic of a coaching relationship happens when you feel safe and supported by the coach, enough so that you can be vulnerable and honest about your insecurities, fears and flaws (breaking news: we all have them). If you force yourself to work with a coach that’s just not a good fit for you, you won’t be as engaged, you might not do the necessary work required for growth, and you’ll end up resenting the coach (and yourself) for even trying. What a waste of money, energy and time that would be.
When looking for a coach, don’t necessarily seek out someone who shares your personality or even sociocultural background. A fresh perspective is part of the benefit. Maybe you’re a subject matter expert deeply embedded in your industry, or you struggle to see the forest for the trees. Your coach doesn’t have to be an expert in your field. In fact, their objectivity can be a major asset in getting you to view things through a new and unexpected lens, which may help you unlock the key to overcoming that next career or life obstacle.
In looking for a coach, consider their values and whether they align with yours. This may not seem important to you, but given my experience of having coached hundreds of clients across various industries, when our values are aligned, the work becomes deeper, more transformative, and more sustainable.
As a coach, I refuse to work with those who are close-minded and arrogant from the get-go, unless they’re genuinely ready to admit that their arrogance is something that they want to work on.
Perhaps the best way to answer the question of ‘fit’ is to request a complimentary 10-minute consultation. If you don’t like the coach’s vibe in the first few minutes, you probably won’t enjoy working with them for weeks, months or even years—depending on how deep or ambitious your goals are.
CREDENTIALS DON’T TELL THE FULL STORY.
Coaching certifications can be helpful, but do you really care what school, ashram, or online course your coach completed? If you come across a coach who is constantly toting their certifications, chances are they are recent graduates of a certain program, or they don’t have enough of a client base to garner word-of-mouth referrals. And that’s fine—we all had to start somewhere. But don’t let the coach rest on their paper laurels.
To be sure, I have several credentials related to coaching, resume writing, training, management, and psychology, but the individual certifications aren’t so important to me (and clients almost never ask about those). It’s the totality of all of my life experience, my career, and the fact that I’m constantly learning that might be more important to my clients.
As a coach, I make it a point to read industry magazines, attend webinars, and connect with industry leaders. I’m always learning, and a single piece of paper can’t fully capture my value as a coach. What is more important than my credentials are my attitudes, values, and the results I help deliver. As I mentioned earlier, do your research. Talk to former clients. Get a broad picture of the coach’s style and effectiveness.
CONSIDER THE INVESTMENT IN TERMS OF ROI.
Coaching rates vary greatly by market and individual. Whether you spend $100 or $10,000 on a coach, if the experience leads to you landing a job that pays $50K more than you made at your last job, might it not have been worth it?
If you spend a lot on a coach but you’re able to move through life with more purpose, less anxiety, and more confidence, would that not be worth it? Some results are priceless in that a monetary value cannot be attached to it. If you work with a coach and they help you become a better speaker, thought leader, manager, executive, or anything else —can you even begin to quantify the positive impact that could have on your life? Think about it.
Most executive coaches charge hundreds of dollars an hour, and they’re worth every dime. If a coach is charging, say, $40 a session in a high-cost of living city (HCOL) and they claim to be a top-tier executive coach, I would be suspicious about their level of experience and expertise. Do more digging. Why is the coach charging so little? Is the coach themselves not valuing their own time? That could negatively reflect on how you see yourself.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of paying for a coach. I volunteer often and not all of my clients are wealthy executives. But I know that some people fall on hard times. I have so much confidence in my abilities as a coach (I say that assertively, but not arrogantly) to enable growth and success in other people, that I will occasionally take on clients for free (pro bono) when they can’t immediately pay, but when they land their next high-paying job, you can bet that they pay me handsomely, not just with kind words and smiles.
ASK YOURSELF WHY – AND WHETHER YOU’RE READY TO WORK WITH A COACH.
There is no shame in admitting that you need a bit of focused support and guidance. We all excel at some things and not other areas. Be sure that you’re seeking coaching for a healthy reason, and not just because your boss, spouse, or ex suggested it.
Are you ready to keep an open mind in the coaching relationships? Are you ready to learn about yourself, and pick up new (healthier, more productive) habits around your career or life journey? If you’re not sure you’re ready, you’re probably not ready. But you can always request a free consultation and see what transpires. Who knows? The coach might surprise you and open your eyes to a new way of seeing the world—and yourself.
COACHING TAKES WORK – BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE RESULTS.
If you’ve tried 20 times to quit smoking, and have failed each time, can you reasonably expect that this time will be any different? If so, why?
Are you willing to put in the often hard work, time and energy to improve yourself? If you can’t allocate an hour or two a week for your own professional growth and development, perhaps now is not the time to get a coach. Wait until your priorities and commitments are more focused and clear. Then again, some coaches help you figure that out, too. Sometimes it’s about taking a leap of faith, and being open minded to the possibilities of coaching.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer, a therapist, a writer, a social worker, an advertising and branding executive, a PR and communications guy, and an astronaut chef—I’m grateful to announce that in my job as a coach, I’m able to do almost all of these things (in some way), except the astronaut part. I tell myself it’s because I have poor eyesight—but maybe I just need a NASA coach to help open my eyes to the possibilities.
It's all about ROI. Whatever the price, the resume writing service can be either a wasted expense or a wise investment.
The internet is like the wild, wild west. You can find cheap resume services for $99 or engage high-end, white-glove resume writers for thousands of dollars a pop. It's not unheard of for a busy senior-level executive (think Fortune 500 C-Suite) to shell out $2K-$3K for a professionally crafted resume. Then again, most of us aren't CEOs. So, for the mid-level professionals among us, is shelling out $1,000 or even $500 for a one-to-two-page resume really worth the investment?
If you are currently earning $120K a year, and you pay $900 for a service that jazzes up your resume and now, armed with a shiny new document, you land a job that pays $170K, was it worth it? You invest just under $1K and you essentially get a $50K raise. The ROI is well over 50x. Not too shabby, right? That's a pretty great investment.
Of course, if you are currently unemployed, barely making ends meet, and struggling to put food on the table, spending $1000 or even $300 on a resume service may be inappropriate, and certainly feels excessive.
I never recommend that anyone dig themselves more deeply into debt. Being in debt is not fun, and it can cause incredible stress and compromise your decision making abilities, especially around your job search (e.g. you might take a job well below your target salary). More importantly, how else will you dig yourself out of this life predicament? What are you doing to upskill yourself? Are you investing in any online classes or certificates that are valuable in your target industry? Are you networking as if your life depends on it?
If money is tight, and you need a better-paying job, ask yourself the following:
Are you perhaps still spending money on other non-essentials (e.g. entertainment, random thingamajigs on Amazon, clothes that you'll rarely wear), and is that money working for you? Or can you allocate a portion of your income toward self-development?
Note that sometimes you can find resume writing, career counseling and skill development services for free or at a low/affordable cost in your local neighborhood (do the research). Their quality may vary from decent to crappy (I've seen resumes with dated formats that scream 1995 -- not a great look). Of course, many of the highest-quality services are not at all free -- some cost a lot of money, but again, they may be worth every dollar spent. Use your judgment. Conduct the research.
At the end of the day, only you can decide what is most important for you.
While most of my clients are mid- and senior-level professionals, I do occasionally have low-earning clients who have historically made, say, $40K a year, and they view a polished resume as a worthwhile investment in their own professional development. Sometimes, the new resume helps them land higher-paying gigs. Other times, they just want a pretty resume for bragging rights, or to use for extracurricular purposes (e.g. conferences, industry associations, Board of Directors membership). And, on occasion, they just hate rewriting their own resume so much that they really don't care about the price -- they'll happily outsource it to a professional, the same way we outsource so many of our tasks and life decisions to other people.
If you do decide to invest your hard-earned money on a resume rewrite, make sure to spend it wisely. Do your due diligence. Research the writer / company.
The onus is on you to find a good fit. You don't just need a strong writer who can create a pretty and grammatically correct document -- you need someone who understands your target industry and your job function, and who can highlight the most relevant or transferable skills on the resume. You need a good storyteller who pens a strong and compelling narrative about your career arc (especially if your career is all over the place). You need someone who is aware of resume best practices, modern formats, and keyword optimization (ATS-friendly resumes are all the rage these days). Most of the resume writers who fit the bill and can deliver all of that (and more), well, they charge a pretty penny.
You often get what you pay for.
I have had numerous occasions where clients have come to me complaining of a botched-up resume from a cheap $150 service. A bad resume writing experience can be a massive headache and can dramatically slow down your job search. You might feel deflated. You might lose out on great job opportunities. There is clearly a risk in hiring an un-proven resume writer, no matter how low the price.
On rare occasion, you might get an exceptional resume writer who is under-charging for their services (i.e. their rates are well below the industry average), but most resume writers should know their worth. They should be experts at confidence and self-worth -- after all, they're promoting and "selling" you on paper. The resume is absolutely a branding and promotional tool, and if the resume writer isn't great at selling themselves, chances are they won't be great at selling you, either.
I repeat: always do your research.
Yes, it helps if your resume writer is formally certified, but resume writing credentials alone aren't the best predictor of great work or success. There are plenty of wonderful writers out there who don't have formal certificates, but are still incredible in their resume writing craft, and their clients land plenty of job interviews.
Review testimonials and inquire about results.
Look through reviews, not just on their website, but on LinkedIn and Yelp (provided the person has a Yelp company page). Ask to speak with folks who have used their services in the past. Inquire about samples. You know the drill.
Other scenarios where high-end services may be useful:
If you are switching careers, or feel deflated and without direction in your career, working with a top-tier resume writer can make a real difference in your job search. It can give you clarity, can help jumpstart or recalibrate your mindset, can get you excited about the road ahead, and get you moving forward. armed with your brand spankin' new resume -- applying for jobs, networking, etc.
Much of resume writing lead generation is done through word-of-mouth referrals.
Many of my clients are friends, relatives, or colleagues of former clients. I make it my mission to take great care of every client. I write strong, modern, and compelling resumes that help folks find better-paying, more meaningful jobs. In numerous cases, clients have increased their salary more dramatically than they otherwise would have expected. Or they tell me they're convinced they landed a job interview in a much shorter timespan than they would have if they went it alone. Because their old resume was not getting any responses.
I have been blessed with the world's best clients.
As a resume writer, I have been blessed with amazing clients. Often, these are high achievers, intelligent professionals, leaders in their respective fields -- folks who simply can't be bothered to write their own resumes. Just like many of us can't be bothered to dry clean our own business suits. Or cut our own hair. The resume is an important reflection of your professional brand. Make sure it's fresh, clean and compelling. If you outsource it, do it right.
Poly-creative and complex human who fills up his days as a career coach, executive coach, resume writer, and personal brand / communications specialist. Conqueror of excuses and doubts. Bakes a mean éclair and snaps thought-provoking photos, but is best known for helping clients achieve personal + professional growth and fulfillment.