The prospect of becoming self-employed, changing careers or upskilling can be daunting especially against the uncertainty Brexit brings. The days of job security are long gone and with us living longer and retiring later, comes the probability that workers might have two, maybe more careers during their working lives. Whether we arrive there by choice or due to external forces, a career leap can be a rewarding and successful decision.
Undertaking such a big move isn’t easy and it is often difficult to know where to start. Do you set up on your own doing what you know best? How do you decide which sector to go for? Where can you get advice? Will you need to retrain? How will you fund it? What if the gamble doesn’t pay off? These are all standard worries to have when starting out. Whatever the circumstances that have driven you to reconsider your professional future, your decision ultimately needs to be made on what motivates you the most. Workers want to take more control of their working conditions and as a recent survey conducted by PeoplePerHour shows, they want to do something they feel passionate about while securing a better work/life balance.
This might go some way to explaining why executive coaching as a profession is experiencing a surge of interest. It offers career development opportunities for individuals and is increasingly being used by businesses too, as the 6th Ridler Report identified that “72% of organisations expect to increase their spending on coaching in the next two years, for both external and internal coaching.”
Companies turn to coaching because they want change and executive coaching is seen as a strategic sat nav system for moving a business forward. Coaching does not tell business leaders what to do but is focused on motivating and helping workers overcome the challenges and dilemmas they face. Coaches are contracted to help managers maximise their potential, thereby transferring their learnings into operational actions and increasing business results and performance.
The Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC) says it sees a diverse mix of professionals coming to it who are actively looking at upskilling or becoming their own boss. Their contemplation of retraining to become an executive coach might be triggered by a career break, sabbatical, redundancy or because they are disillusioned with their current role, but their motivation is consistent. They choose this field because it allows them to do something that they perceive as being more meaningful.
A career as an executive coach can be all these things, but it is not without its challenges. The sage advice to those looking to make the switch is to do their research first and find a certified course to get them started. Accreditation is central to the sector and the number one concern expressed by coaching practitioners in ICF’s recent Global Coaching Study, was ‘untrained individuals who call themselves coaches’.
Gina Lodge, AoEC CEO commented: “It’s not a concern, but an expectation that coaches be certified by one of the industry’s professional bodies. Anyone starting out needs to scrutinise the training providers out there. Are they validated by the coaching bodies? Do they offer end-to end-learning? How are their training programmes delivered - do they use practice and theory? What career aftercare do they provide post-graduation? This is a growth market and clients rightly expect their professional suppliers to be certified. Those thinking about entering the profession must be prepared to invest in their development if they want to succeed.”
Aspiring to be an executive coach is one thing but building a practice from the ground up takes time and dedication. Coaching is automatically a good fit for anyone who has had a background in HR, consultancy, training or who has led a team in a corporate environment, but a smattering of entrepreneurial savviness and good networking go a long way too.
Asked what advice she would have given herself when starting her own journey, Ascentia MD and AoEC Alumni Sandra Henson said: “The first thing that springs to mind is to really work those contacts, I didn’t pay enough attention to my existing network. It would have also helped to have more confidence – I’m not an unconfident person, so this reflects that stage of my development – but it would have been better to stand up and have my voice heard more, to share the thinking more. It’s also important to follow your interests and use that to create something distinctive in your practice.”
So, if 2019 is to be the year you reinvent yourself, find ways of testing out ideas that mean you don’t need to leave your day job before you have figured out what you really want to do. Do your research, face your fears and embrace change. The stakes will be high but could be even higher if you don’t do anything about it.