If only someone had done this kind of work with me when I was eighteen!
Many of my coaching clients are professionals in mid-career, who find themselves unhappy, unfulfilled or frustrated in their current roles. The process usually involves working together to clear away the distractions created by job titles and degrees, and getting to the heart of what makes each person tick professionally. After a good coaching process, whether it resulted in a decision to make a dramatic career change or to remain in the same field with meaningful adjustments, I often hear this refrain. If only someone had done this kind of work with me when I was eighteen!
When you finally have a clear vision of where you would like to go professionally, it is natural that feelings of regret for lost time will come up as well. However I’m not sure those feelings are always justified. Because when you are just starting out, the work a good career coach will do with you will be very different than the process you would go through mid-career. By the same token, when you have spent decades in a rewarding career but now find yourself professionally unfulfilled, the process will again be different.
When you are just embarking on your professional journey, professional direction and coaching can help, but the style of that coaching and the outcome ought to be qualitatively different than the process at a later life stage. Because when you are starting out, the best way to really find out what you love to do, what makes you feel most alive, and what you are really good at, is to try.
Try lots of different things, challenge yourself to learn things that are out of your comfort zone, experience people and opportunities that are as varied as they are fascinating. This is the time to stretch yourself, and notice how you feel and respond in different professional situations. You will probably be surprised at what you find. And a career coach can help to clarify and define what you are learning about yourself as a professional.
For people who seek out career guidance with a fulfilling and meaningful career history under their belt, the process will again be different. Sometimes the focus at this stage will be on finding outlets and development for areas of personality and talent that were sidetracked during a busy (and rewarding) professional career. It can be a process of finding a new balance, discovering opportunities for creative expression, or ways to share the wisdom and vision that you have gained over the years. A good career coach will work on uncovering the unexpressed or undeveloped areas, and help to create a new and revitalizing professional balance.
Every stage in life has its own professional challenges, and a coaching process that is just right at one stage is not going to feel just right at a different one. Because life is a process of continual growth, learning and change, and our professional experiences are part of that process. Our complexity and our evolving personalities continually challenge us, but they are also our greatest blessing.