Cruisin' for A Coach? Sail the Four C's

By: Tom Pierce

The four C-words to consider when searching for a career coach.

You already have a career in association or nonprofit management, but your boss has told you—or you've told yourself—that you'd benefit from career coaching. Now what?

All coaches offer a no-charge exploratory meeting. Some coaches offer a low-charge 30-minute or 60-minute introductory coaching session to see whether or not the "fit" is right. ASAE offers low-charge confidential career sessions during its Annual Meeting & Exposition, a great place to experience your first hour of coaching.

Before you have a fit deciding what "fit" means, consider these four C's when you're on the lookout for a career coach or an executive coach:

  • credentials
  • credibility
  • creativity
  • chemistry

Credentials and credibility are required before a coach can earn your consideration, trust, and investment. Creativity can turn still water into sparkling champagne when both of you bubble up new solutions to your career challenges. However, chemistry is the most important "C." If you don't feel a positive chemical reaction, your coaching relationship will fizzle into a failed experiment. Here's a closer look at each critical component of the coaching relationship.

Credentials. Trust your questioning skills. How long has the coach been coaching? How relevant are the coach's degrees and consulting or coaching certifications? Although much executive coaching is necessarily confidential, can he or she provide three association or nonprofit clients willing to tell you about the impact that coaching had on their jobs, careers, and lives?

Credibility. Trust your instincts. Does the coach seem full of relevant experience and full of targeted ideas? Or just full of it? Does the coaching conversation feel robust or robotic? If the coach does most of the talking for most of the hour, wave bon voyage and sail on. Your destination? A coach who is interested in knowing about you, rather than obsessed with being a know-it-all.

Creativity. Trust your imagination. After listening carefully and quietly to where you've been, where you are, and where you want to be, does the coach suggest innovative, practical, and targeted solutions? Or are you just getting an executive summary of the latest business self-help book? If so, read the book yourself and cruise toward another coach.

Chemistry. Trust your glow. While interacting with a potential coach, do you get that warm glow that signals the ignition of a productive relationship? Or do you get that cool blue blinking light that warns the fuel tank is empty?

Connect. Here's a bonus fifth 'C.' The best way to start your search for a career coach is to start searching your network and asking for referrals. Which coaches have they used? What coaching success stories have they heard? And don't forget to ask the professionals at ASAE Career Headquarters for recommendations. They'll launch you toward coaches who will build on your strengths.

Tom Pierce is chair of ASAE's 2011-2012 Consultants Section Council and president of Pierce Management Development in Los Angeles. This will mark the sixth consecutive year he has served as a career coach at the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo. Phone: 802-999-9749; email: [email protected]

ASAE Career Headquarters

If you're looking for the next step in your association management career or looking for high-quality candidates to fill open positions at your organization, check out—the best source of association jobs and resumes. In addition to helping you find your next job—whether it's as CEO, director of technology, or membership coordinator—ASAE's career services department offers such services as executive coaching, resume writing, and more. For more information, contact ASAE at [email protected].

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