It’s no secret that it’s still a pretty tough job market out there—both for people who are completely without work and those who have jobs but certainly not the dream careers that they desire.
For some perspective, according to the latest unemployment data, some 11.8 million people are out of work in the U.S. And although there are no real stats to measure these folks, there are likely millions more who have gigs that they’d very much like to leave. Yes, that kind of tough.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of professionals out there who can help make your search a bit easier—people like Donna Sweidan, a certified career coach with over 15 years of experience in the field and the founder of careerfolk.com.
LearnVest sat down with Sweidan to uncover the art and science of career counseling—as well as to better understand how a career coach can help prep you to compete against those millions of fellow job-seekers.
LearnVest: First off, what exactly is career coaching?
Donna Sweidan: In my work, I approach it as a discipline comprised of two similar but distinct tracks: coaching and counseling. The goal is to support people in making informed decisions about their career development and trajectory, as well as offer various tools that they can use—résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles—to meet those goals.
Although not all career coaches have clinical training, as I do, definitions of the field—and the work—may still vary among more conventionally trained coaches. In general, “coaching” tends to be a solution-oriented approach, which involves working with clients to see what concrete steps they can take to achieve career objectives. “Counseling,” however, is more process driven—you look at whether there are any behavioral, emotional or psychological issues that could be impeding a person’s desired career ambitions.
But the core virtue of career coaching is to help people assess their professional situations with a greater degree of honesty, curiosity, empathy and compassion.
What are the most common misconceptions about career coaching?
My top three? That a well-done résumé is all you need to conduct an effective job search—and that career coaches will actually find you a job. There’s also the popular notion that you only have to attend a single career-coaching session … and your job challenges will be resolved. It actually takes about eight to 10 hours of counseling for the typical client to begin internalizing the key benefits of coaching.
What can the average person expect to get from working with a career coach?
By and large, clients can reasonably expect to gain career confidence, insight, encouragement and inspiration. They should also feel as if the coaching relationship grants them some permission to relax a bit. The job search can create a fair amount of anxiety, fear and vulnerability in people, and I often work with clients to unwrap those emotions so they can better understand how these factors may be keeping them stuck in their careers.