Career Coaching – A Subtle but Subversive Yes-But To Be Aware Of

When coaching clients through career change, we can encounter a lot of different yes-but’s from clients, such as, “I don’t have enough time, confidence, money, support, etc. to make a career change.”

Here’s another “yes but” that may be more subtle: identity.

The topic of identity can range from feeling insecure to not wanting to upset the status quo to struggling with pride. One of these statements may capture how your clients are feeling:

  • I just don’t have the confidence to move ahead. I can’t imagine myself doing something new–I’ve been a _____ [fill in the blank] my whole life.
  • I’m just not sure I can be really good at this!
  • I have feelings of unworthiness–I just don’t deserve to pursue this new direction. People will likely think I’m being presumptuous and wonder, “Who is she to think she can do that!”
  • I am being pressured by parents, family, or colleagues to pursue a career course that just doesn’t fit with who I am.
  • I am being pressured by parents, family, or colleagues to NOT change . . . it’s as if I’ll upset their status quo if I change!
  • I’ll inconvenience my _____________ (spouse, children, family, friends, colleagues) if I pursue that course of action.

Ideas that you might explore in career coaching:

Perpetual Progress: As members of the human race, we are meant to grow throughout our lives, not just during school and college years! (Fun neuro-nugget: Our brain size stops growing once into our twenties, but the development of new neural connections can happen into our eighties, nineties, one-hundreds.)

  • Ask: So you’re in your 40’s now. What did you not think was possible in your 30’s that has become possible today? How about in your 20’s? Teens? What opens up for you from that trajectory viewpoint?

Themes, Not Titles: When our identity is rooted in the significance of being a purposeful human being and not based solely on what we do for a living (the lie of “I’m valuable because I’m an attorney/manager/engineer”), we can make greater progress.

  • Ask: “Absent the typical titles, who are you at your core, essence, being? How does that ‘you’ show up in some of the career directions you’re considering? How does that bring value to the people who would benefit from that part of you?”


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