Sinead Steenson - Generation Women

In the past 4 years I have directly coached approximately 350 women. I could have worked with more if I’d had less scruples but sometimes its just not the right fit. I have had some difficult conversations with potential clients when it’s been ME who has been the one to point out that I wasn’t the right career coach for them…because they aren’t ready, they need a different type of coach, or because I know that I can’t help them. It doesn’t work for ither of us to work together if that’s the case.

There are a variety of reasons why people approach a career coach. Feeling stagnated in their career, lacking confidence at work, lacking direction or wanting help to get to the next level amongst others. It can be a life changing first step to reach out and have the initial conversation with someone like myself. But what are the key things that YOU should be asking any career coach to ensure that they are the right coach for you?

What measurable change can you help me achieve?

Let’s face it if you can’t measure success it’s all potentially just ‘hot air’. Ask your coach how many clients have got the result you’re looking for. Whether they’ve secured promotions, negotiated a pay rise, changed career or made it into the leadership team. Be clear on what you want and ask what track record they have. If all a coach has to say to you is “My clients are really confident now” then stay clear. If they are good at what they do they will be able to give you examples and figures of how (and how many) people they have helped succeed.

What qualifies you to coach me?

The reality is anyone can set themselves up to be a coach, do you want someone who did a £29 course off the internet or someone who has invested in quality training with accredited organisations? Do not be afraid to ask your potential coach about their accreditations and qualifications. They are asking for your hard-earned money, they should be at the top of their game. You should look for International Coaching Federation or Association of Coaching accredited coaches. Ask them what they do to maintain their coaching standards, do they have coaching supervision, and how many coaching hours have they recorded. These are all questions a good coach will know the answers to.

How will you push me out of my comfort zone?

A good coach will help you confront the issues that are holding you back. It isn’t about sitting you down and telling you aren’t any good and that you need to change. It’s about asking the right questions and teasing that information out of you and agreeing on actions that will start to make a difference. Personally I’m not bothered by asking difficult questions, it’s the cornerstone of what I do, but if your prospective coach tells you that the process will be easy and you wont have to answer any challenging questions then run a mile. Why pay someone to help you stay in your comfort zone?!

Have you worked with similar people to me?

This is a good question to unpick the level of experience that they might have. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if they haven’t worked with anyone in the same industry as you but it can certainly help. Similarly your age, race, gender, and personal circumstances all play a role in whether you have found the right coach. There are nuances and biases that a career coach can help you to navigate, as long as they have the right experience. A middle aged white man will be less likely to identify the challenges encounter by a woman of colour in the workplace.

What format are the coaching sessions?

It’s important to find what works with for you. A good career coach can recognise almost immediately what type of session (121, group coaching) would be best for you. Also, it may be that face to face is a necessity for you or a zoom call may suffice. It should be YOUR situation that should determine this and not the coaches diary. There is a place for each type of coaching and they should be equipped to explain the benefits and potential drawbacks of each.

How much will it cost?

It is true that you get what you pay for. A well-qualified coach with >1,000 hours coaching experience will charge a lot. But they also get great results. When it comes to career coaching you are investing in your future career, you will continue to get value from what you learned in your coaching for years. I’ve had clients go on to achieve multiple promotions very quickly which they admit would never have happened if they hadn’t worked with me.

The location of a coach can have a huge impact. Is a coach in London twice as good as me or any other coach in Belfast because they charge twice as much? Nope. They just can charge more because of their location. Simple.

Do you have a coach?

This for me is a key question. A coach who thinks they know it all I can guarantee you that they don’t. If they think they don’t need to question themselves then they don’t really have the right to question anyone else. If a career coach isn’t willing to invest in their own development, why should they expect you to?

One of the key things to look out for isn’t actually a question at all. And it’s hard to define. It’s chemistry. I pride myself on having a strong bond with all of my clients. This means that I invest in them, share in their successes, and get upset about their failures. Within my group coaching programme this has been applicable to the whole group, with women supporting and having each others backs on a scale which has a huge impact. That’s the main reason why I do group coaching. It can be a powerful and effective contribution to everybody’s success.

If you would like to have a chat about what I can offer in terms of coaching get in touch. And don’t be afraid to ask all of these questions. I will have plenty to ask you too and if we aren’t the right fit I wont be afraid to tell you!

Originally published at https://genwomen.global on July 7, 2020.

I've been working with leaders to develop their strategies for over a decade. I'm passionate about helping women succeed.