A Coach's Pain

by: Joanne Meehl

Despite all its joys, sometimes this profession is a painful one. If I can presume to speak for others in the career choice and job search coaching field, I would say we can't help but feel pain for our clients and also absorb some of their pain. In fact, there are professional seminars that help coaches "take care of ourselves", and these are well-attended.

Yet the worst pain is when we see clients making their searches harder than they need to be. There are many varieties of this, sad to say, but the biggest one is that people can't -- or won't -- change.

The engineer who won't see that his field is shrinking and salaries are dropping, and holds out for one of the few remaining jobs, against fierce competition that always seems to get there before him. The sales manager who won't shorten her resume and declines to add her field's current key words. The tech support manager who pursues the corporate ladder his father climbed instead of the lattice that it is today which sometimes means lateral moves in order to grow.

Now we are not therapists, but qualified career coaches do have enough training that we can see when there are deeper issues at work. So I ask clients questions they don't expect: "Do you want to find a job/better job?", because maybe they really don't. And, "What's in it for you to use this method that isn't working? What does it give you?", because maybe there are benefits in their approach that I'm not seeing.

This is a pivotal point for such a client: They will either see the need to change or they will dig in harder. Most decide to "try something new", however small. And that little step of change opens them up to other steps, and success comes more quickly.

But sometimes the person just can't do it, just can't try a change. Despite their pain they cling to what used to work even if it clearly is not working now. Their search stalls, and their overall job search stagnates. They are running in place but won't stop. That's where the pain for me really comes in: with only so much time in the day, I have to shift away from someone who needs me yet who won't do what's necessary for today's job market. When a career coach is working harder than a client, it's time to divert priceless energy to the many clients who will change and try new things and succeed.

Change is the only constant. The pain of making the necessary changes is only temporary, like the shot you get before the dentist does tough dental work on you. In the same way, that transitory pain hurts far less than the pain of not changing one's search approach, which is persistent and draining.

Now if I could only put that analogy in a pill, I'd give it to every job seeker I could find. It would take away their pain, and mine.


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