Many times, when people begin coaching, it’s because they’re secretly longing for a transformation. Or for someone to notice that what they’ve been doing for so long just isn’t working anymore.
In coaching jargon, this is called an “opening” – when the client is ready for some sort of change in their life, and seeks the perspective and support of a coach to help them figure their way through that change.
In my career coaching work, it’s probably not a surprise that my clients usually show up with a desire to be coached toward a different career, or a different way of integrating their career in their broader life goals.
So it follows that during the course of coaching, many of my clients who are unhappy decide to quit their jobs – often without the next job lined up. It may be more surprising that other clients decide not to quit.
What happens in our coaching work that helps them process what can be a scary decision?
First, we work to sort through their feelings, their wants and desires, their needs, and their realities:
- Assessing what they really LOVE to do – and whether their current role or career path has room for that.
- Looking at where, and how, they may have gotten stuck within the organization’s hierarchy – and whether there are options to get around that.
- Understanding how they’d like to grow, and whether there are opportunities for that in their current company.
- Digging into the politics, the dysfunctional team, the way their boss might not support them, or the way they’re not really set up for success – whether those are solvable problems, or dealbreakers.
- Checking in on their overall priorities in life (including how those may have shifted since they jumped on this career path), and how their current job is (or is not) supporting those priorities.
- Noticing their stress level about work, as well as their level of ambition, and their willingness to put up with the hard stuff.
I help them see what I see, noticing the patterns, what’s normal and abnormal in work settings, and what I hear beneath what they’re sharing.
And, I withhold my own advice about the “right” decision. Because each person’s path, and each person’s realities are different. My job is to support them through the decision that they make – and on to the other side of creating a strategy to get them where they want to go.
What do my clients decide?
Through our work, some of my clients come to terms with how unhappy they’ve been for a long time, and reach a breaking point where they just have to quit.
Other clients realize the career path they’ve been on was the default, safe option, rather than one they had intentionally pursued around their strengths and interests. And then, mid-way into their career, they find themselves, for the first time, thinking about how they would really like to be spending their work time.
Some clients need a kick in the pants to be stronger self-advocates for a promotion or a different opportunity within their current company, to see the value that they bring (and get comfortable talking about their contributions).
And still others find that what they really want is to maintain their current job, so they can pursue some more meaningful things on the side, whether just for now, or long-term. This can be a great option for those who want to see their career through to some milestone, or for those who have financial commitments they need to meet.
When we work to get clarity on what’s most important to you, and train a spotlight on your current situation, that can make the decision of whether to quit more straightforward. And then, we can build a roadmap to the future, where you can start to see a different possibility, a realistic goal to work toward.
It’s no longer a nebulous, scary, dark future where you didn’t see any possibilities beyond your current situation (since our imaginations are often the first thing compromised under stress!).
And when the future looks brighter, and the roadmap not actually that long – well, that can make it feel safer to quit – or recommit to a sometimes challenging situation. Because you’re not actually that far away from taking some meaningful action on your career.
My hope is that through coaching, each of my clients can get the clarity they need, and find confidence in whatever decision is right for them, right now.