How a career coach can help you - from setting boundaries to improving your personal brand

·5-min read
Photo credit: Josh Shinner for Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Josh Shinner for Harper's Bazaar

The concept of a career coach is not a new one. It first came to the fore in the Nineties, when various forms of coaching became a talking point, from Princess Diana rollerblading through Kensington Gardens alongside her fitness trainer to Tim Robbins emerging as one of the first celebrity self-help gurus.

The corporate world were early adopters - recognising how the guidance of a dedicated coach could lead to faster acceleration up the ladder, and the ability to reach personal and professional goals much sooner. Just as sports athletes, politicians and CEOs had been doing for years to enable them to reach their potential, professionals started to use coaches to help them improve their confidence, stay accountable to their goals and overcome mindset challenges.

Fast forward to today and career coaching has moved well beyond the corporate world. Now, multiple specialisms have emerged to help professionals, entrepreneurs and side-hustlers to create a stronger sense of self-belief, resilience and listening to your intuition. There are even coaches that specialise in LinkedIn profiles.

The ultimate goal is for all of us to live a fulfilled, happier and successful existence. Pretty simple, but hard to achieve when you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. I predominantly work with women on how to be their most confident selves, how to negotiate flexibility for more balance, and returning to work after maternity leave or a career break.

So, how can a career coach help you? Here are five things you can learn:

1/ Be the most confident version of yourself

Confidence and happiness go hand in hand; when you’re confident in who you are, what you stand for and have conviction in yourself, incredible things can happen. Incredibly, 79 per cent of women experience a lack of confidence in the workplace, according to Confidence Matters.

Those who are confident are typically calm, open and willing to listen to others, as well as being clear in their own views. And when you don’t quite fully trust yourself and instead listen to that imposter on your shoulder, it can be felt by others and you can sense it; it can have a huge knock-on effect on your career and life.

2/ Present with gravitas

Often a client’s body language reveals they lack confidence. I explain that this may be the reason why haven’t landed a fabulous role, either inside or outside of their company, or secured a pay rise.

You need to trust yourself so implicitly that others do too. Imagine if you went to a tailor to ask them to make you a beautiful new suit and their response was: “Yeah, I think I can do it. I’ve sort of done things like this before - I’m probably lacking a few skills in areas like cutting and stitching, but I could give it a go.” Would you proceed with using that tailor? Probably not. Think of this analogy the next time you present yourself in a meeting or interview; be confident and clear on the value you bring with a clear set of key messages.

Photo credit: Josh Shinner for Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Josh Shinner for Harper's Bazaar

3/ Shape your personal brand

A key factor for improving confidence is working on your personal brand and one of the biggest barriers is not wanting to come across as arrogant or showing off. The women I speak to believe their hard work will speak for itself, especially when it comes to pay rises and promotions. It’s important to have a strong personal brand even if you’ve worked somewhere a long time. Competition inside and outside of organisations is tough and you have no control over a company re-structure or redundancies.

You personal brand includes many facets, from your elevator pitch (who you are, what your strengths are, and your purpose) to how you dress, your LinkedIn profile - which 70 per cent of HR teams use to 'check out' a possible candidate - and how you present yourself. Spending some intentional time to work on all of these things can do wonders for your confidence and career progression, whether that’s up the ladder or moving into a role that’s in your ‘genius zone’, not your area of expertise.

4/ Navigate the pay chat

Knowing how to negotiate pay or a flexible work arrangement is one of the reasons clients get in touch with me. They want to be prepared and confident walking into this discussion.

A coach should help you gain clarity on your request so that you can articulate it clearly to your employer and role-play your negotiation discussions. Recently one of the women I work with secured a 20 per cent pay rise, which will have a really positive effect on her life.

5/ Set boundaries for balance

Does your boss consistently contact you out of hours? Or do you feel constantly overwhelmed with how much you have to do?

A career coach can help you achieve a healthier working life, and set the boundaries that you may not have the confidence to set yourself without guidance. When supporting my clients it’s about both dealing with the volume of work they have, tweaking habits - from people pleasing to checking their emails after dinner (just ‘in case’) - and helping them to communicate their boundaries in a way they feel comfortable. This leads to improved wellbeing, less burnout and stress, and often improved productivity in the long run.

Olivia Bath is an award-winning communications specialist, executive advisor and founder of The Women’s Vault. She is an expert in women’s confidence and compressed hours as a flexible work choice. Olivia works with women stepping into leadership roles, as well as businesses on wellbeing and return to work programmes.


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