Why You Need to Work with a Career Coach Even When You’ve ‘Made it’
Analia Mendez is the founder of Signature Careers—a career and professional development company helping mid-career clients transition into new careers and improving business cultures through a strengths-based approach. Analia and her team have collectively over 40 years of career and workforce development experience and have helped thousands to date.
Ms Mendez has been a featured speaker at the US News STEM Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow (2017), Univision, and the National Association of Colleges and Employers. In addition, she has an entrepreneurial spirit. Ms Mendez is the San Diego Soar Evangelist for Soar.com—a Paul Allen company and founder of Ancestry.com.
What are the key benefits of working with a career coach?
Initially, clients don’t want to commit to working with an executive career coach because they want to transition on their own until they find themselves submitting hundreds of resumes online with zero results. Eventually, leaving them frustrated and stuck in their current job or career. However, there is a silver lining with the help of a career coach and three major benefits when it comes to being guided by a professional.
The first benefit is that it will save clients time. Think about it like this—if you have ever tried to learn something new on your own, you will quickly realise that it takes time to research, learn tools and techniques, and not to mention the best implementation methods. The research and learning part will rob clients of their limited time. So, why not go straight to a career coach who will hand-hold them through the entire career development process and show them a shortcut to finding their ideal career?
This leads to the second benefit of money savings. For career changers, there are bills to be paid and loved ones to take care of and if they postpone their career change, they will feel stuck and miserable in their situation. Many times, clients feel like their job is taking over every ounce of their precious energy, leaving nothing left at the end of the day to give to their loved ones or to find a new career path. At Signature Careers, we help clients understand and know their value, which equals better job matches and career satisfaction.
The third benefit is that clients will get to their career goals faster. I have coached many senior military career changers for a short period of one month and when we are done with coaching, they land ideal jobs within weeks. Now, that is unheard of since the average career changer will find a viable job in six months to a year.
There are many other benefits to working with a well-known career expert that gives clients the results they seek while saving time, money, and most importantly getting them the career results, they are desperately seeking.
We are living in a present time where everything is changing faster than we can put it into practice and executives must adapt and embrace life-long learning.
Why is it important to continue working on your potential, even when you’ve made it to the top?
We are living in a present time where everything is changing faster than we can put it into practice and executives must adapt and embrace life-long learning. I tell clients they should find ways in which they can absorb information and put it into practice daily. Therefore, speed of implementation is key. Keep in mind that we live in the information age, where we can learn virtually and access a wealth of information from TEDx Talks to online skill-building platforms like Coursera. So, why not make incremental improvements daily?
Another important factor to staying at the top as an executive is to work on well-being. We are dealing with unimaginable global events that are leaving executives tired, burnt-out, and feeling hopeless. To be a great leader of today, executives must perform at high peak levels and under extreme pressures. This means that executive leaders’ mental health, financial and physical well-being should take the front and centre if they want to have an edge over the competition.
Tell us more about your approach and methods?
Our executive career coaching approach is comprehensive, which includes four career development phases.
The first phase fully evaluates the client’s background, skill set, values, strengths, and introspection. During this phase, we take a deep dive into the client’s work history and through coaching, we unravel what the client’s Top 5 Strengths are by administering CliftonStrengths assessments.
The second phase is the career exploration phase, where we work diligently to find the client’s ideal career/job through a series of career methods and process of elimination techniques. This is where the client gets clarity and can identify a career path that they are interested in pursuing.
The third phase is the refining of tools, tricks, and techniques. This phase will help the client get their foot in the door for an interview. Our coaches will help with updating their LinkedIn, redesigning, and integrating search engine optimised keywords into their resume so that their resume can easily bypass the applicant tracking systems.
The last phase is guiding the client on how to land the job by practicing interviewing skills and refining their elevator pitch. This last step will also include strategies that are designed exclusively for the client to help negotiate salary and accept the best job offer that fits with their career goals.
What are the key areas you work on with your clients?
Initially clients contact me for a newly written resume, when in fact they need so much more. Sure, the resume is a tool that will help them land the interview, but it’s not their saving grace. The reality is that the process of making a smooth career change starts with the client’s deepest understanding of who they are and what they bring to the table when they court an employer. Let me clarify that a successful career transition begins with understanding why the client has decided to make a career change.
The why is important to address first before I can deliver a new resume. So, when clients first contact me, I wonder “what was bugging them so much that they felt a need to get career services?” “Is it that the client no longer wants to be in the industry they are in?” “Is it because they have a terrible boss and can’t stand working for them anymore?” “Are they ready to level up their career?” I can go on and on with the reasons clients initially say they need a resume, when in fact they need to understand what prompted them to contact me.
Through the coaching process, the client will get a clear understanding of the direction they want to proceed and of course with the help of the coach that will guide them every step of the way. This process will lead the client to get a clear understanding of their deepest desire to make the big career move and then do it.
The second big piece of advice is that career changers should be proactive in their career development. The process of learning, gaining new skills, and keeping their career up to date with the latest tools and techniques is necessary.
The other key area is their career portfolio, which includes a resume/CV, Linkedin, digital portfolios, and branding. Let me clarify that there is always more to work on when it comes to a career portfolio, but the resume/CV must be done correctly. Career changers of today are dealing with applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan resumes quickly and through a process of keyword matching and automation, applicants are being selected for the next step in the interview process or eliminated. Many times, clients say that they applied online and have received automated rejection notifications in their email inbox. Sadly, I listen and explain that the applicant tracking system has just eliminated them from the hiring process. This leaves clients feeling disappointed, frustrated, and upset. It’s understandable, but there is hope with the ATS Keyword Optimisation method that we use to help clients get their resumes chosen and not rejected. It is also important that their resumes are well designed and written. Please notice that I said designed and written and not just written. Yes, even that has changed over the years. The days of having a single-page chronological resume are over! Clients should put some thought into the design of the resume as much as the written portion. So, it’s not easy to be selected as a candidate for an executive-level position. It’s complicated to be a career changer of today! That’s why in my practice, I help clients every step of the way.
Let’s talk about personal and professional branding a bit because it’s become a showstopper for many clients. Their online presence matters as much as their resume now and I believe that online portfolios and platforms like Linkedin will eventually replace resumes and cover letters. It’s already happening. While the process of getting hired can be slow, it’s also happening in lighting speed if the client is well prepared and has everything needed to put their best foot forward. Clients’ professional branding, meaning who they are seen as through the eyes of recruiters or business partners’ matters. I always tell clients that their online activities, posted pictures and comments are like wearing permanent tattoos. So, I always advise clients to do an online presence sweep and delete any unfavourable tags, comments, and images. Especially in the C-Suite space. Next, I will work with a client to build their online presence and coach them on how to maintain it. In a sense, we have all become online marketers’ whether we want to admit it or not. Especially as we are conducting business online and virtually.
What are your top tips for people struggling with their career development?
Outside of seeking a professional executive career coach, clients must keep an open mind and think about all the possible ways in which they can pivot their careers. Careers and jobs are being eliminated by automation. This is happening as we speak, and career changers need to understand that they will only be as marketable as they are prepared for during the economic, political, and world event pivots.
I consider myself a futuristic person and a year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted us, I started training a team of coaches on how to coach virtually. We used Zoom and went through a series of training sessions and then took it a step further to have our employer partners come along for the ride. When the pandemic hit, we just flipped the switch to virtual coaching. It was a smooth and easy pivot where many in the coaching industry were struggling with how they were going to service clients virtually. This is what I mean when I say look into the future and foresee where your career is headed. Consider if there will be a career for you as you know it today or if there is going to be a big disruption like it has for so many millions around the globe the last two years.
The second big piece of advice is that career changers should be proactive in their career development. The process of learning, gaining new skills, and keeping their career up to date with the latest tools and techniques is necessary. They should not wait for a new budget year to seek professional development; especially these days where professional development is the first to come off the budget line when things are financially tight. Seeking professional development opportunities will set executives apart from the competition. I always ask my clients, “what sets you apart from everyone else who may have the same qualifications?” Many times, they don’t know how to answer this question. However, through the coaching process, I see their faces light up when they realise that they have many attributes and strengths that are unique to them. Therefore, I love using a Strengths-based approach because it allows clients to see and utilise their greatest strengths, which will get them to their career goal fast than if they were working on their weaknesses.