Make 2022 The Year You Invest In A Career Coach

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov
If you haven’t quit your job this year, chances are you've thought about it. Reports vary but the general consensus is that around half of the UK workforce has considered changing jobs in 2021. An influx of people rethinking work means the career coaching industry is booming. Google searches for 'career coaches' in the UK hit a 20-year high in April and a LinkedIn search lists 370,000 coaching professionals in the UK.
But what do you actually get for your money when you see a career or business coach? And does the (often expensive) advice actually impact meaningful change?
Like many fresh graduates, 25-year-old Chandni from Nottingham didn’t know what she wanted to do career-wise. "After studying psychology, I went into insurance and then car sales and just kind of pottered around for about a year and a half," she says. "And then I recognised that that wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. It was just by chance that I came across a support worker role." After succeeding in the role – which focused on learning disabilities – she moved into an area more suited to her, which centred around homelessness, drug abuse and mental health.
That’s where she met Judy Bullimore, a career coach and expert. "Honestly, I bang on about career coaching to all of my friends," Chandni explains. "You don’t know what you want to do until you recognise what your strengths are and what you’re good at. And through that you kind of learn what you’re passionate about, and then you’ll know what to do. I think it’s so easy now to just job hunt on Indeed and apply to any job possible but you’re not going to get anywhere from that. And you’re not going to find the fulfilment you get when you find your dream career." In April this year, Chandni achieved just that – even admitting that she misses being at work when she’s not there. And she’s tripled her salary in the process.
"It was a bit of an awkward one. Once she spoke to me about what I was worth and how I could develop myself further, I left that job," she recalls. "And then it was almost like knowing that I wanted to make an investment in myself. So I started working with Judy as soon as I left." 

It's so easy now just to job hunt and apply to any job possible but you're not going to get anywhere from that. And you're not going to find the fulfilment you get when you find your dream career.

chandni, 25
Pre-pandemic, Chandni invested in a coaching session that "was specifically based on interview preparation and confidence building". The programme, which cost around £300-600, has proved to be instrumental throughout the past two years. "The initial few sessions were about building my understanding of what my skills were, and building my confidence around that," she explains. "We worked on a kind of mind map of what I thought I was good at, and what she thought I was good at, and understanding the compliments that I’ve received from other people about my work. And then once we moved past that part of things, it was more about presentations, interview preparation and how to tackle interviews. She has a great theory about how to talk about yourself and different situations during an interview."

It worked. During 2020 Chandni became the youngest manager across the East Midlands tackling trafficking and modern slavery. Earlier this year, she once again used the skills from her sessions to land her current role, managing a housing and outreach project. She started in April and was promoted in June. Now she’s planning on going back for more coaching sessions. "I still want to develop. So I’ve thought about going back to Judy, maybe in a year or so, after I’ve really settled into my current position and I’m ready to move on, when I’ve got the skills to develop a little bit more to understand where I want to go from here." 
Wondering about our next career move will continue to be a common dilemma into 2022. According to a new survey from the recruitment firm Randstad UK, almost a quarter of workers are planning on changing employers over the next few months.
But with all the recent reporting that job vacancies are at a 20-year high and the labour market appears to be recovering from the pandemic, it feels like the many people in the UK who remain unemployed get overlooked. There were approximately 1.42 million unemployed people in the UK in the three months to October 2021. What if you're unemployed and don't just walk into another job? Desperation leaves room for exploitation. Earlier this year it was reported that career coaches, particularly the online variety, were taking advantage of mass unemployment caused by the changing economic landscape of the pandemic. People keen to get back on the career ladder looked to career coaches for advice and were left disappointed by shoddy and disorganised sessions.
Here's the crux: the coaching industry is currently unregulated and therefore anyone can become a coach without a qualification. As the sector continues to expand, it’s something to be aware of before investing your hard-earned money. The US not-for-profit International Coaching Federation (there’s a UK equivalent, too) advises that an entry-level coach will have undertaken 100 hours of coaching practice, plus 60 hours of training. It’s actively promoting better ethics and standards. As a rule of thumb, it’s wise to conduct thorough research into a coach’s qualifications and look for authentic testimonials. Earlier this year the CPD Standards Office, an accreditation service for training and learning, reported an increase in "dubious accreditation services and scams", many of which filter through via Instagram. 

You need to make sure that you connect with the person in the first or second session. You should feel like they're going to be able to support you and their energy matches yours.

Patri Delahunty, 25 and currently living in Kilkenny, took this into account before enrolling on a course to become a career coach. "I made sure I went to the open night for the course," she explains. "They seemed absolutely brilliant. But of course I did a background check as well, so I went on LinkedIn and wrote to people who had completed the course." Having previously worked in HR, Patri was inspired to make the move after seeing a coach herself. It all came about after seeking help for anorexia nervosa. "I was ill during the pandemic. But it’s okay – it’s made me who I am. Basically, I overcame anorexia. So it was actually a blessing for me because it meant I was able to go to a psychiatric hospital. I didn’t want to see anyone during that time while I was trying to heal." Part of the healing process involved going to Mexico by herself. "Over there, it sort of pushed me to get out of my comfort zone after my illness. I just wanted to be free," she says. It inspired her to seek out a coach and plan her next move. 
Patri found the process of finding the right coach for her similar to sourcing a therapist. Originally she had a female coach but it wasn’t the right connection. Eight months ago she found a good fit, and started seeing her coach once a month. "I was able to organise my mind and see what I actually wanted. It gave me clarity on removing all of the challenges that I’d put in front of myself," she explains. "And then just being like, okay, I want to take this step this week. And asking myself, what am I doing every day that will develop my business plan? And what am I doing every day to step up? Instead of being stuck and thinking that to yourself, because you only think that you’re stuck." 
With a bachelor's degree and two master’s degrees to her name, Patri admits: "If I’m honest, I’ve never known what I wanted to do." She’s found the step-by-step format of coaching instrumental in helping her to carve out the kind of career – and freedom – she now wants. "I’m going to start my business, and I'm in the process."

After completing her career coaching training course, Patri – who has already started practising her sessions with her sisters – believes a good connection with a client is key. It’s a point she stresses for anyone thinking of seeing a career coach. "You need to make sure that you do connect with the person in the first or second session," she advises. "Otherwise, there’s no point in paying that amount of money if you’re not really sure that it’s going to be for you. You should feel like they’re going to be able to support you and their energy matches yours."

Like Patri, Chandni believes her sessions have been invaluable. "I’ve used it through three interviews … It’s just the price versus benefit." It definitely seems to be a consensus between the two women, as Chandni proclaims: "It’s almost a cliché​ thing to say but it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself." So seeing a career coach can be a great thing. Just make sure you do your research first.

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