Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
Career coaching, huh? You’ve read about it, maybe heard or read interviews about career coaches. Now you are a high school or college graduate with a disability and wondering, “Should I get one to help me get work?” It’s entirely possible that a career coach is just the thing you need to jumpstart your job search if you have a disability.
If you feel like your career has slowed like pouring molasses -- or failed to get started at all because you just graduated, a career coach can help you identify all the obstacles that may hamper your job search and help you brainstorm a game plan to overcome these obstacles. Or if you have a specific workplace issue such as wanting to move up in your company or change your focus in your career, a career coach benefits you by understanding all the layers of that workplace issue you’re facing and helps you to explore and/or try out potential solutions. If you have a specific career weakness, such as poor communication skills, difficulty negotiating, or you don’t do well with presentations, a career coach can guide you through steps to sharpen those areas quickly and effectively for your benefit.
A career coach can also be focused on helping you with a particular event, like an interview, career fair or salary negotiation discussion with the boss. A career coach can prepare you to manage these things with a confident strategy that has higher chances of a favorable outcome.
You might be wondering about all the different kinds of coaches: career coaches, business coaches and executive coaches. Basically, a career coach focuses on individuals at either early stages of their career such as a new graduate in the workforce, and helps you focus “growing” your job-readiness in the right direction. Or, maybe you are at a crossroads trying to manage a change, opportunity, or threat of job loss successfully.
A business coach tends to focus on helping small business owners grow their businesses (rather than their careers). If you have more of an entrepreneurial spirit and want to work from home or simply be your own boss, a business coach can lead you through the process of creating a business plan, marketing, connecting with the right business idea and customer base, plus more.
An executive coach generally works with individuals at high levels in Corporate America, such as a chief executive officer or vice president of a company. Even the higher-ups, who are sharp in many professional areas, can have weaknesses that need to be tweaked to impact a better job performance and their success as an effective leader.
Some personalities will do well using a career coach, others find it hard to invest in without a lot of carved-in-stone assurances. The expertise and ability of a career coach plays a big part in the success of your relationship and results, another consideration is whether or not you take well to a coaching alliance at all.
Think about it. Do you respond well to constructive criticism? Are you consistent and quick to respond when given advice or recommendations to improve? What about having someone else hold you accountable, or does it feel more like you are being nagged? Do you have the time to connect, commit and follow through on a career coach’s recommendations that are in your best interest? If not, it’s not worth the investment to hire a coach. Can you afford a coach? There are a wide range of career coaches that charge different fees; some are more flexible with your finances than others. If you can’t afford a coach, go to the library and check out some books on career advice first. Then, see where you are in your motivation and wallet.
When you have a disability and are having career issues, a couple things need to be taken into consideration. Primarily, ask yourself if the work issues you’re dealing with are specifically related to your disability or general work issues? Keep in mind that if the issue is that your employer is limiting your career options due to your disability, you may need an advocate rather than a career coach. However, if your disability is causing you to limit your career growth because you don’t feel good enough or able enough, then you may want to discuss this with a career coach specializing in people with disabilities – like myself.
Sometimes, it can be tough to find a disability career coach who’s just the right fit personality-wise for your needs, too. Since there are relatively few career coaches who focus on people with disabilities (although this number is growing around me as you read this), this may make it even more difficult to find just the right person to advise you. Still, do a search and find the right one that meets your needs.
What type of coaching do you need? Do you need in general “help me get my career in gear” help or something more targeted? Now, determine if you want to work with a coach who specializes in people with disabilities specifically, if that matters to you. Then, start contacting career coaching firms, disability-focused organizations (if the answer is ‘yes, it matters’) and interviewing potential coaches to get a feel for their coaching style. Are you looking for a cheerleader? Want someone that can be inspirational? What about someone who can dig into your gray cells and be more analytical?
Or, maybe you want someone to crack the whip and keep you on task with your action plan to getting that job or getting that promotion. Ask around among your friends, family, and professional network to see if they’ve ever worked with a career coach. Maybe they can make a recommendation that works for you. Or, maybe they’ve worked with a coach that wasn’t so great, then you know who to steer clear of.
A career coach is a wonderful storehouse of information and support as you begin to achieve specific career goals once you are clear on what your goals are. But first, do some serious personal exploring first to ensure you know what you want to get out of the experience in the end.