12 Career Lessons From A Professional Coach
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Find The Right Resources To Help You
Prep, Push, Pivot is a career coaching guide for minority women in the workplace. I’m a career coach, but I recognise that most people just don’t have access to the one-to-one support coaching provides. So, I wanted to create a resource that can support you whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to position yourself for a promotion, figuring out how to make a career pivot, or trying to balance achieving your career goals as a working parent. Building your career can be lonely and figuring out how to get unstuck is hard to do on your own.
Prepare For The Struggle
As a Black woman, when I was growing up I was told by my family that I’d have to work twice as hard if I wanted to get ahead. I accepted that, but it takes much more than hard work to be successful in the workplace. Studies after studies show that minority women remain the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline. We are hired at lower rates, we are promoted at lower rates, we are paid at lower rates. As a result of this, what it takes to cover out a career is often debilitating and exhausting. When the road is this long, and this steep, we need all the support we can get. Breaking barriers is painful. And, it can be equally painful on the other side once you do.
Know That Change Is Possible At Any Age
As a career coach, my work is about helping others overcome career challenges and I work with professionals who range in age from their 20s to their late 50s. No one is immune from facing challenges at work, even professionals who are perceived as highfliers will have periods where they need support. The past two years have been so hard, so recognise what you’ve accomplished just by navigating such a tumultuous time with so much change. Next, spend some time thinking about what you what to experience as you look ahead. Write a list and circle what matters to you most. Then come up with a few ideas of how you can make adjustments, or what you may need to make positive changes. When you start making shifts towards what you want, or need, you will start to feel better.
Ask Yourself Questions To Get Unstuck
For many of us, there comes a moment when we feel like we’ve hit a wall. Feeling stuck isn’t fun, especially if your role feels like it’s demanding for all the wrong reasons. In my book, there’s an exercise that can help you identify what you need, and how to move forward. It’s a set of 15 questions that help you uncover what matters most to you at work. Some of those questions are “What makes me feel excited and inspired about my work?” and “What’s on my must-have list when it comes to the work I do next?” Doing this self-reflection allows you to get clear on what you want. Then you can assess whether your current situation provides opportunities for you to do that, or move closer towards what you want.
Remember The Four Cs
Career pivots can be large or small, and while changing direction to try something new can be exciting, but also terrifying at the same time. Whether you’re looking to make a shift or a seismic change, I believe there’s four things you need – creative thinking, confidence, connections and commitment. Get creative, start filtering your ideas and asking deeper questions about how you could explore moving closer to what you want. To make a career leap you need to make a decision, act on the decision, and find an employer who believes in you. Self-confidence will be your secret weapon. No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Start talking to others about your goals because you never know what connections, recommendations or referrals may come your way. Stay committed, this means being persistent but also patient. But most of all, be ambitious. Keep working towards what you really want.
Get ‘In The Zone’ For Job Interviews
Give yourself time to get “into the zone” before the interview begins. If you’re feeling nervous, work on your breathing and focus your mind on the times when you’ve performed well at work. Review your list of accomplishments and practice saying your responses to standard interview questions out loud. That way when the time comes you’ll feel more confident. Be positive and enthusiastic but remember to pace yourself. You don’t need to state all your key achievements in response to the first question. Remember, you wouldn’t be called to interview if you couldn’t do the role.
Build A Three-Month Plan When You Start A New Job
Starting a new job can be one of life’s most stressful experiences. Not only do you want to hit the ground running and make a great impression, but you will also be navigating a new corporate culture, getting to know new colleagues and getting up to speed on new systems and responsibilities. It’s a lot to handle. I always recommend new hires create a three-month plan that aligns with what they want to accomplish and become familiar with. Taking the initiative to create a clear plan of action for your first three months will demonstrate you are motivated and productive. Also, a proactive plan will put you on the path to secure some early accomplishments that will make you stand out.
Ask For What You’ve Earned
Working hard and waiting for your boss to notice isn’t enough. If there’s something you want, you need to ask. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want. But laying the foundation is key. Make sure you know what success looks like for your manager and your organisation. Share your accomplishments on a regular basis, don’t wait until your performance review rolls around. Make the most of one-on-meetings with your manager to discuss your role and where you’re adding value. Talk to your manager about the path to promotion, or a pay rise, before the final decisions are made. And continually invest time in building relationships with other people at your company who could be advocates for your advancement.
Don’t Let ‘No’ Stop You
Rejection is always hard, but if you asked for a promotion, and didn’t get it, don’t let a “no” stop you. Use the feedback or insights to fuel your next steps and continue to aim for what you want. When you have a clear insight into what you need to move forward, and you take action towards that, you are taking steps to reach for what you want, whether that’s with your current employer or elsewhere. Be patient but persistent.
Deal With Loss The Right Way
Losing your job, whatever the circumstances, is traumatic. Dealing with the impact on your finances, self-esteem and circumstances can feel like an avalanche. You are not your job, but how we earn our money matters, and our work is a crucial part of our identity. It’s hard to have perspective in the moment, but I have so often witnessed how losing your job can be a launching pad to so much more. Bouncing back may not happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen at all. If you feel like everything is spinning out of control, the one thing you can hold on to is this – you ultimately have total control of your next steps. Everything you experience during your career, good and bad, makes you stronger. Business is business, jobs come and go, but your career is entirely yours.
Always Set Goals
Most of us panic if we’re asked about our goals but I believe there are three questions you can ask yourself when it comes to professional goal setting:
- What do you want to experience in the next phase of your career?
- What’s the next step that’s just out of reach?
- What’s the next step that feels like a giant leap?
Some of your goals might be big, some might be smaller, there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to what you decide on. But be mindful of what’s in your comfort zone, and what will truly stretch you. Also, celebrate every step you take towards your goal, in addition to however you decide to celebrate achieving your goal. Creating mini celebrations along the way matters, because it’s those steps that will get you where you want to be.
Silence The Imposter Syndrome
Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome at some point. But being aware of this doesn’t necessarily make the feelings go away. My advice is to acknowledge the feeling but do your best not to let it hold you back. Get some support, talk it out with someone you trust. Release the pressure valve and alleviate the pursuit of perfection. This doesn’t mean you should stop striving to do your best. Instead, you need to focus your mind on setting yourself up for success. Remember what you do well and what you’ve achieved in the past. Track and review your accomplishments on a regular basis. Do it weekly, and then at the end of the month review everything and pick out your biggest achievement, highlight it and celebrate it. At the end of the quarter look back on the past few months. If you do this, I guarantee that by the end of the year you’ll have a long, long list of achievements you would have forgotten about, or discounted, if you didn’t take the time to write them down, save them, reflect on them, and celebrate them.
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