Since graduating with my certification in Career Coaching, Certified Resume Strategist, and more recently, Purpose Life Coaching, I have had a lot of people asking me questions about Career Coaching. What is it? Who benefits from it? How can it help people? Why would someone want a career coach? So I wanted to take a moment to explain a little bit about career coaching, and in particular, how I use it for my individual clients.
For me personally, the thing that I think is most important to recognize is that every coaching interaction is different, unique, and tailored to that specific person. I prefer to work with young adults, either those exploring what career and academic programs they wish to pursue after high school, or those currently in post-secondary studies trying to figure out what to do next after graduation. This is such a fun age group, but also one that has so many options; trying to determine what to do with the rest of your life at 15 can be overwhelming. To help ease that, career coaching helps individuals hone in on specific skills, experiences, interests and natural talents to set goals, fine tune skills, and help be more marketable. To quote Alan Kearns in a recent interview, "[Career Coaches] help people to rethink and re-imagine what options there might be for their career -- much like you would seek the services and guidance of a lawyer to understand the specifics of buying a house..."
As the world changes, academic programs and jobs become different every day. We are trying to prepare for an employment world where positions will look incredibly different because of our innovation, rapidly changing technology, and needs of our citizens. Furthermore, there are so many opportunities out there that no one ever knows exist until they perhaps stumble into it or talk to someone else in it. That is certainly how I started as an educator in a post-secondary environment, because at the time I was planning to pursue Teacher's College, I didn't even know that you could support and teach students outside of a formal classroom. Career Coaching helps students better understand what other options may be out there that are still aligned with their passions and interest (in my case, being a teacher), and better understand the various paths to get there.
I have also found myself having a lot of conversations lately with students about being a consultant themselves. I find it really fascinating that one of the most common comments I hear from students when I ask them what is most important to them is lifestyle. Many of the clients I work with want to set their own hours, work from home, make decisions themselves and not have an employer. On one hand, that is not really all that realistic, however, on the other, that is the way a lot of institutions and organizations are moving. So while I absolutely understand their interest in this, sometimes the hard part is reinforcing for them that in order to be a consultant as a full-time position, you need the education, expertise and network to get you there. Sometimes I see a lot of 'ah-ha' moments when students realize that there is quite a bit of work that must be done before becoming a full-time consultant is an option. I will admit though that I love that conversation, because then we can dig into the path that helps them understand what they might even want to consult on one day, and we can start to determine a roadmap to help get there. These different, challenge, but incredibly rewarding conversations are what I enjoy most about this field.
If you know of anyone who is trying to figure out where to go in their career, which programs would be a fit for their end goal, or even someone with a career hoping to explore next steps, I would highly recommend finding an experienced coach to help with the journey.
As you may know, over the past year and a half, I have been very focused on growing my consulting business, specifically as it relates to purposeful life coaching. I have recently completed several advanced trainings related to purpose, goal setting, and career aspirations, which have continued to help me support young adults in exploring career opportunities that align with their own values, purpose and talents. It has also made me realize that so many people are relying on discovering a personal 'passion' to help them decide where they want to go next or what they want to do with their life. Between my own experience and the training I have received from Dr. Rivera and the Transformation Academy, it has become very apparent to me that encouraging people to follow their passion is not actually all that helpful.
So why am I trying to resist the urge to tell people they should find a passion and follow it? In one word, I would say 'flawed'. Is it actually realistic for us to think that our passions are hidden and waiting for us to find them. How long might it take someone in their career to discover this mystic 'passion' that may change their life and the direction of their career? For some people, I'm sure it takes their whole life and they still don't find fulfillment. Instead, I like to think about it like this: You do not find your passion, you develop it over time. Passion is cultivated from hard work, fun, and skill development. Too many people judge themselves and become anxious that they don't have a "thing" or a niche that stands out to make them unique. Not only is that approach inauthentic and may not bring the person true fulfilment in their work, I don't think it is realistic because we are living in a world where jobs are constantly changing, as are trends. Jobs that were necessary 50 years ago, may not be in another 10 years, and in 30 years there will be jobs that we haven't even considered yet.
If we truly want to think about passion in a productive and meaningful way that can be cultivated, I think we need to consider it as a form of personal development. As with many personal development moments, passion can happen accidentally - an opportunity to do or try something that suddenly sparks intrigue and curiosity. It also takes encouragement and exposure because it is not just a one-time thing. Like with Kolb's cycle of experiential learning, a passion is often cultivated through multiple events or experiences that continue to trigger reflection, reinforcement and eventually an interest. Recognizing those opportunity for on-going reflection and growth can often be a catalyst to develop a passion and choose to pursue it. Notice I said 'choose'? That's because I believe that passion doesn't necessarily require a natural talent or skill, but that it is a willingness to choose to explore this topic for the sake of curiosity and learning.
Cultivating passion also takes practice and self-discipline, no different than trying to stick to a diet, or go to the gym every day (... can you tell I'm talking about how little self-discipline I have in these areas?). In order to reach levels of mastery or commitment to cultivating the passion, a lot of effort must be applied so knowledge is acquired and skills are constantly developing. This choice to be committed to improving often shows reward and results. It is these results, which could be anything from successfully completing a project to seeing growth in another person, that often spark that feeling of passion. When that passion starts to align with purpose, that feeling becomes stronger and helps guide our decision making.
With that said, it is also important to recognize that you need to let yourself off the hook if you haven't found your passion yet. Focusing so much time and energy on having a "thing" likely just makes you feel more overwhelmed and upset, especially if you are comparing yourself to others. It is very possible that your friends, siblings and/or colleagues have found a true passion, and that is great. But don't belittle yourself because you have yet to find yours; instead try to take opportunities that are presented to you to dabble in areas or topics that you feel align with your purpose (values and mission) and talents. See where it goes and continue to use reflection as a tool to determine if those opportunities are congruent with who you are as a person or not. When you find something that peaks your interest, continue to dedicate your time and effort into exploring that topic a little bit more. Instead of waiting for your passion to find you, make the choice to develop it yourself.
August is my favourite month of the year. The days finally feel like summer, the nights are cooler and more comfortable, and of course, it is almost my birthday. The past few months I have spent a lot of time (and I mean a lot) trying to decide what I want to do for next steps of my career. I have explored more graduate programs, I have completed more professional development courses, and I have even designed my own professional development curriculum. As I continue to reflect on what I had read, written, learned, and done, I continue to wonder "how can I do more?". Because as much as all of these experiences have helped me to become a better professional, they have had little to no impact on supporting others in their own developmental journeys. After all, when I think about what my true purpose is, I keep coming back to my desire to help others find their purpose and paths. It's really no wonder that I love education - I find a sense of personal and professional fulfillment in helping others explore their life and future career.
Over the past few years, I have been asked to attend various professional development opportunities on campuses, and present at various conferences, to share my knowledge in learning assessment and/or career advising. It has always been something that I have genuinely and thoroughly enjoyed. I really appreciate opportunities to help other folks in the field better understand their next steps, and continue to enhance themselves and their programs. More recently, I was contacted by an Ontario institution to come as a professional consultant to host a day-long workshop, which really got my gears turning. When I initially read the email, there was an overwhelming amount of excitement, nerves, anxiety, and thrill. As I have been designing and thinking about what the day will look like with their needs in mind, I've decided to formally dive head first into the world of professional consulting! I am thrilled to be announcing Sara M. Wills Consulting (SWC), offering consulting services on assessment and evaluation, curriculum development (academic and co-curricular), and career exploration.
I will do my best to continue to share via social media the opportunities I have and the reflections I have gained throughout this process. After all, the learning never stops, and one of my favourite parts of advising and consulting is that there is equally as much to learn from those you work with, as they will learn from you. Wish me luck!
A creative educator striving to enhance the holistic student experience and committed to exploring personal strengths and fulfillment.