Saturday, May 17, 2008

How Long Will It Take?

One of the most frequent questions I get about career coaching is “How long will it take?” I’m tempted to respond with, “It will take however long it takes.” While true, this is not a helpful response to a sincere inquiry from a person needing information on how much longer they will have to deal with the pain or anxiety of whatever transition they are going through.

The reality is there is no way to say how long coaching will take. There are three reasons for this. First, if your issues or questions are simple and straightforward (for example, “I need to update my resume,” or “I need to practice for an upcoming interview.”), I might be able to accurately answer that it will take a session or two. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that even these direct questions can open up other areas of discussion (for example, “I keep getting stuck on the interview question, ‘What are my career goals.’”). If your questions and issues are more complex (“I’m unhappy at work and don’t know what to do about that,” or “I’m applying and interviewing for jobs I’m qualified for, but keep getting rejected.”), we may need to meet for several or more sessions and even then you may still have significant work to do.

The second reason for the indeterminate length of career coaching has to do with the discipline you bring to the process. Obvious though this might be, the impact of career coaching does not happen in our sessions, but rather results from the action steps you take when you aren’t meeting with me. It has to do with the regularity of your out of session work, the lessons you learn from that work, and your ability to apply those lessons as you move forward. The more adept and disciplined you are, the quicker the process will move.

A final and less obvious reason, but at play no matter what’s going on for you, is that most of this process is not in your control. There is also a great deal of non-rationality in the process and given the vagaries of the current job market, you can do everything right and get poor results, and conversely do everything wrong and get lucky. Many people, even seasoned professionals, get frustrated by this aspect of the process and often act out in unprofessional ways (Instead of the follow up inquiry, “I’m checking to see where you are in the hiring process,” becomes an exasperated, “Why didn’t you contact me on Friday as promised.”). Recognizing that you have limited control is a key to moving through the process both more quickly and more smoothly.

Regardless of how long it takes, the career coaching process can help you to feel more hopeful about your future, as well as teaching you strategies and techniques for achieving your goals. Feel free to contact Steve Hernandez ( or me any time with your questions and inquiries about career coaching.

Mark Guterman