(Original publication: December 17, 2007)
For many middle-aged workers, the desire or the need to change jobs is commonplace. Whether brought about by downsizing or a growing dissatisfaction with the trajectory of their careers or industries, many baby boomers have made a job switch or want to.
That has led to a boom in the number of career and life coaches, whose mission is to help those unsure of their next career step examine their aptitudes and get back on a career track.
But not all of them possess all the skills to be effective.
Intimate-apparel executive Nancy Fox hired a career coach after she left the bra business nearly 10 years ago. After meeting with her coach and taking some training courses herself, Fox decided to start her own home-based coaching business, Fox Coaching Associates in Mamaroneck.
After some early struggles, Fox learned she had a talent for bringing people together, introducing her clients and colleagues to one another.
“I found a way that makes it enjoyable and painless,” says Fox, who works with attorneys, accountants and other professional-service providers who, she says, don’t like to sell. “They hate it, and so do I,” Fox says.
Accountant Barbara Lane, a partner at the White Plains office of Citrin Cooperman & Co., says one way Fox has helped her is in presenting herself to potential clients.
Rather than simply telling them that she’s a tax accountant, Lane may, for example, explain how she recently helped a client.
That can help spur a deeper and more robust conversation, whereas simply telling someone that you’re a tax accountant can be a conversation killer, she says.
“It kind of turns them off,” Lane says. “It’s like telling somebody you work for the IRS.”
As a Citrin Cooperman partner, Lane pays Fox about $500 a month for her coaching services.
“But it was very useful,” Lane says.
Coaches in the United States earn an average of $52,478 a year and account for slightly more than half the $1.5 billion in revenue generated worldwide by coaching, according to the International Coach Federation, a trade organization.
The ICF has about 7,000 members in the United States and more than 13,000 worldwide. Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates there are 30,000 coaches worldwide.
Typically, coaching is a second or third career for many people, ICF says. Workers may have been an executive, consultant, trainer or teacher, or in counseling or a health-related field, with the majority, 53 percent, holding a master’s degree.
One critic of career coaches says they often miss the mark when it comes to providing realistic career-transition services.
“In other words, they’re very pie in the sky,” says Barry Miller, manager of alumni career programs and services at Pace University, which has campuses in Manhattan, Pleasantville and White Plains.
“You have to translate it into people’s financial needs; what is available in the marketplace; and how accessible that marketplace is to that transition,” says Miller, who is also a private career consultant.
He says many coaches go into coaching because they have expertise in a given field.
But that doesn’t always mean that they are aware of all the resources available to jobseekers or those professionals looking to build their business or careers.
One example, Miller notes, was one female information-technology professional who began coaching IT clients but wasn’t aware that there was an organization known as Women in Technology International.
A good coach needs more than empathy, Miller says.
Though not as critical as Miller, Fox knows that some coaches don’t have all the requisite skills necessary to be effective.
That’s one reason, she says, there’s been a “huge shakeout” within the industry.
“A good coach knows not only what’s going to assist a client in terms of what they are looking for,” Fox says, “but also put them on the right path to find structures to help them fulfill their goals.”