I Don’t Want a Coach. I Just Want a Job.

shutterstock_424911079 (hands)

My daughter is nine. Lately, she wants to be an actress. She saw a casting call for Descendants 3, and she is ready to head to Vancouver (we live in Connecticut) to audition, if I will just say yes.

As we read through the requirements, among other things, you must submit a resume that lists your acting experience. My daughter has been in a few local shows at her school and the community center. It is “real” acting, but not necessarily the type that is valued by casting directors. I watch her scour the internet for information and other opportunities, quite devoted and pumped up (as only someone who is just reaching double digits in age can be).

An acting coach’s website pops up in one of her searches about whether a certain agency is a scam. “Oh, a coach could be helpful,” I tell her. “She could let you know how to prepare for your big break. What to learn, where to look for opportunities…”

My daughter turns to me, scoffs and delivers a classic line. “I don’t want a coach, Mom. I just want a job.” Other than the addition of my maternal moniker, she sounds like a few of my clients, if they would just be honest with themselves and me.

Yesterday a prospect pointedly asked me how fast my clients get jobs, as if that were a true measure of my success as a career coach. I gave her the honest answer, which is that “it depends.” I know there are some coaches who make promises – an interview in X weeks or a job in Y months. The truth is that I have clients who get an interview the same week we start working together, and I have others who struggle for some time after that. As I said to the prospect, there are three factors at play: (1) does the person have clarity on what he/she wants, (2) does he/she have skills that the marketplace needs and (3) is he/she ready to go?

Coaching is not a job placement service, but I do have prospective clients who contact me all the time wanting me to “find them a job” rather than help them do the tough but satisfying professional development to prepare themselves for their job search and interview process. They want a magic shot or shock to their system that will make the pain go away (pain of unemployment, pain of a toxic or numbing job, pain of not advancing, etc.) rather than being open to learning a better approach that will serve them in the short term and long term. By contrast, my clients who have the most success are the ones that have or can acquire the three points below.

Clarity. To be successful in a job search, you need clarity on what you are seeking and what roles will actually be a good match for you at the present moment. Notice I did not say “to find a job” you need clarity, but rather to be successful in your search. There are many people who are quite good at finding new jobs, only to be continually disappointed with the results, because they do not ask themselves what they really want to achieve in the short term and long term. There are others who struggle for months to find something, only to realize after starting a new role that it is not what they expected. In both cases, you are better able to find a match for your interests, talents and values if you have invested the time and energy (with or without a coach) to understand what those are.

Skills. What are the hard and soft skills, from strategic thinking to asset-backed financing or from stakeholder engagement to Hadoop – or, as in my daughter’s case, the ability to act, sing and dance – that are required by the targeted roles? Can you demonstrate that you have what it takes or are able to quickly get up to speed, closing the gap? In some fields and roles, in which skills are easier to acquire and there is a huge demand for each open position, you will almost always need to demonstrate your accomplishments in advance. In other cases, and with forward-thinking hiring managers, what you need to demonstrate is an understanding of how the role contributes to the organization, the ability to solve problems and an immediate aptitude and readiness to acquire the needed skills to make that happen.

ReadinessLet’s return again to that last point, readiness. I sometimes describe it as having the “light turned on,” like a cab that is free to pick up passengers. The single most important indicator to job search success, which I notice every day among my clients, is an ability to stand ready for the opportunities that life presents. In fact, cultivating readiness is often a central element to the coaching process – whether we discuss, for example, how to prioritize networking opportunities or present one’s value proposition to the specific audience at hand – and it can be the one that yields the greatest results. Readiness includes openness, self-confidence, responsiveness and an ability to (leave one’s baggage at the curb and) live/work/be in the moment.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. 

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Image above: Shutterstock.