Professional Development

Advice on how to be your own career coach


If you feel frustrated by a lack of progress in your career, you might consider using the services of a professional career coach. A good career coach helps clients take inventory of where they are, work-wise, and where they want to be (and how they want to get there). Many jobseekers find this kind of support invaluable when they are looking to make major professional changes but, especially for people who might be out of work, the cost of a career coach might be prohibitive. Don’t fret. You can be your own career coach, and take steps toward reaching your goals that won’t cost you a dime. We collected advice that will help you set goals and reach for them, with only minimal cost involved.

Zero in on your goals

The first step is to identify where you want to be heading in your career. Perhaps you are making plans for how to take your seat in the C-suite one day. Or, you may be looking to move out of one profession and into another.

While different, these two scenarios have one thing in common: planning. Whether you are plotting how you’ll get that big promotion, or are planning a lateral move into another industry, you’ll need to assess which critical skills you possess, and which you’ll need to cultivate to be successful. To ascertain this, you’ll need to study up.

Look at LinkedIn; in particular, the profiles of people who have the job you want. What skills and experience do they list that you are lacking? Next, look at job ads for positions that interest you. What are the skills and experience most commonly being listed for those roles? How can you meet those requirements?

In some instances, gathering valuable skills is fairly easy; in others, you may need to play the long game and go back to school. In either scenario, knowing what employers are looking for and figuring out how to acquire those skills is critical. Set your goals and a timeline to achieve them.

Keep a journal

Experts agree that journaling can help jobseekers stay on track when they’re acting as their own career coach. It can also help you see where you are (on a day-to-day basis with goal achievement) and how much traction you’ve made on your journey.
“Journaling helps create an outlet,” said Executive Therapeutic Life Coach Lisa Pepper-Satkin. “It also allows you to process through questions you may discover in your job search.”

Buy a journal or keep an online diary. Use it daily, weekly, or monthly to keep yourself on track. Without a coach helping you track progress, writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a valuable tool. Not only is your journal the place for writing down your goals, the steps to achieve them, and a timeline for achieving them, but during times of frustration, a journal can help you track how far you’ve come. This can be very helpful when you are tempted to throw in the towel, or, if you have doubts about just how much you’ve achieved.

Create accountability

Career coaches have tricks for keeping their clients motivated. But how can you keep yourself inspired? Pepper-Satkin suggests that asking a friend for support can help. Your goals don’t need to be the same as your friend’s goal for this to work – you just both must be dedicated to making a big change. “Ask a friend to play big,” Pepper-Satkin said. “Regardless of what you are each working on, this will allow you to share in one another’s visions.”

While support is a huge element, it’s really the accountability that will help propel you forward.

“Commit to not buying each other’s excuses,” she said. Set deadlines for yourselves and stick with them. Meet regularly, either in person or by phone to compare notes, check items off your list, and create new action items to be accomplished before your next meeting.

Don’t have a friend who is looking to make a big change? Search online for websites that offer tips on personal growth and professional development, or join an online coaching group, which will be more affordable than a private coach.
“We’ve never seen as many [career coaching] programs online as we currently see. So, it’s easy to have access to affordable coaching in a group online,” Pepper-Satkin said.

Give your resume a facelift

As you learn new skills, gather new experiences, or acquire new education, certification, or licensing, be sure that your resume reflects those achievements. Keeping an up-to-date resume will ensure that you are prepared for any new experiences that might come your way during this process.

Plus, since your resume is often your first introduction to a recruiter, looks count. An entry-level resume will look different than an executive resume in many cases, so be sure your document reflects the image you are hoping to convey. Take into account both your industry and your stature within the industry when choosing a resume format.

To make sure you hit the mark, consider putting a resume builder to use. Builders can provide resumes with both the look and the language needed to convey particular messages to potential employers.

Ask for feedback

If you’re working to hone a new skill, figure out your next career move, or make a major professional change, know that feedback is an utterly critical element. So, how can you get feedback without a career coach? The answer is right at your fingertips, according to Pepper-Satkin.

“Social media can be a valuable,” she said. Ask questions of your professional contacts either online or by arranging informational coffee dates with people whose advice you think will be valuable.

“Take risks with people by asking for honest feedback on what your next steps should be,” she said.

When it comes to feedback, asking for it from professionals whose work you admire might help you identify a mentor who could be willing to provide some free coaching.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals

Life is tricky, and its roads can be windy. This mean that you may find in this process that you are working towards a goal that doesn’t feel quite right. This isn’t a failure; it’s actually part of the beauty of becoming your own career coach. The introspection it demands to set a goal and work towards it is invaluable. You’ll learn both what works for you and what doesn’t work.

As you learn more about yourself and become more deliberate about the actions you’re taking, you may find yourself changing course slightly. That’s okay; it’s part of the point of these exercises. The goal is to move towards a role or a profession that feels personally satisfying to you. You may need to change your approach – or your end goal – during the course of your exploration to land in a place that feels right for you.

Revised LC Bio:

LiveCareer offers assistance to jobseekers at every step of the journey. Access free resume templates and resume examples, plus a cover letter builder and advice on how to answer interview questions of all stripes.

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