Posting on behalf of Kathleen "Currer Bell" Miller.
We at How to Leave Academia have observed the growing popularity of the life coach, both as a resource for folks transitioning out of academia, as well as a new career path for those billing themselves to post-and alt-ac individuals. Since a few of our readers were uncertain as to what a life coach does, how to locate a coach that’s a good fit for you, and what to expect from life coaching, Kathleen “Currer Bell” has designed this handy-dandy guide to life coaching full of general information with examples from her own practice and knowledge. She is nearing completion of an intensive training seminar with Martha Beck (author and monthly columnist for O: The Oprah Magazine) and is currently working toward her life coaching certification. She is happy to announce that as part of her certification process, she is taking on clients for a very low fee.
What is life coaching?
In a very general sense, a Life Coach helps people clarify and articulate what they want most from life and how best to achieve it. More specifically, coaching helps people get past their obstacles in order to create the results they want in life, work, relationships and spiritual growth. Coaching is like having a “personal trainer for your soul.” Life coaches don’t tell people what they should do; rather they ask powerful questions in an effort to help the client find the answers that always lie within. A good life coach will not tell you what to do. Coaching is particularly helpful if you feel out of balance, i.e.; working too much, playing too little (or the opposite); if you feel something is missing but can’t put your finger on it; if you want to pursue a new career or change jobs; or perhaps you simply want more joy in your life. Coaching gives you someone who holds the space as you grieve and grow, and promotes accountability for your own transformation. Change can be difficult and it’s useful to have someone navigate the journey with you.
You can see why life coaching would make sense for people in the middle of the huge transition out of academia, especially if you have no clue where you are going or what to do next. But people in many life situations might want to consult a coach: people going through a divorce, folks who are navigating empty nest or retirement transitions, or people who have just lost a job, are changing jobs, or who are facing a medical diagnosis that means lifestyle changes are imminent, etc.
Coaching is not a substitute for therapy
Let me clarify that coaching is no substitute for therapy. It is not for people with serious emotional problems. Coaching is about creating results, not dealing with crises. It focuses on the future and, as a result, can assist to change attitudes resulting from past experience. Life coaching might be a great option if you have processed your emotions and are ready to make a next step.
How long does coaching last?
Coaching is an individual process and so clients may sign up for sessions ranging from 1 to infinity. However a good coach ultimately wants you to be able to coach yourself. They will teach you the tools to do the work of coaching on your own; a good coach doesn’t want to set up a codependent relationship. Clients may benefit most from 3-6 months worth of coaching, or even up to a year in some cases. After all, making long-term changes in thought patterns and behavior isn’t work one does overnight! But there should be an end date to a good coaching relationship. You can discuss finances up front, and most coaches can come up with a flexible range of services to maximize your value while working within your personal budget. Newer coaches in the process of certification (see below) often offer services at a discount or even for free as they establish their credentials.
How do I pick a coach?
Most life coaches will offer a free 20-30 minute information session. During that time, you can ask questions related to the coach’s training and experience, how sessions typically progress, reimbursement, etc. Your potential coach may offer a brief sample of his/her coaching technique in order to help you decide. Remember, this is a time for your coach to interview you, but it’s also a time for you to interview and determine the fit of your coach.
While picking a life coach, you may want to consider the rapport you have over the phone or Skype. Does the coach’s voice resonate with you--its pitch, tenor, pacing? Do you enjoy your coach’s energy? Does your coach laugh and joke around? Is s/he more serious? Do you get the sense that he/she is listening and responding to your specific situation and desires? Personal communication preferences will be key here, so pick someone who complements your own energy and communication style. Go with your gut.
You should also look at consider the program your life coach completed. Coaching is an unlicensed industry, so people can declare themselves life coaches without training or certification. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is taking steps to make life coaching a more regulated industry and if working with a coach from a coaching organization is important to you, you may want to search the site for someone who is ICF certified.
Life coach training programs are very diverse, and some are pyramid schemes designed to get money from trainees, so investigate the program with which your coach is affiliated. Reputable programs like Mentor Coach and the Martha Beck Coach Training Institute are respected programs with articulated philosophies for their approach to life coaching. Some programs adopt a positive psychology approach, while others are devoted to goal setting; others are more holistic in their approach. You can imagine that the philosophy under which a life coach is trained says a lot both about their own values as a coach, and the advice and style they will offer you.
A program like the Martha Beck Coach Training Institute draws from Eastern philosophy, Western medicine, mind-body coaching, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I was drawn to Martha Beck’s holistic approach, as it used the tools of many different philosophies to push back against painful and limiting beliefs we have about ourselves and our stories. Plus, Martha Beck is a former academic and her scholarly, but humanistic approach, appealed to me. Coaches trained by Martha Beck are also encouraged that their most powerful coaching comes from their own “to-hell-and-back” story. Life experiences then become a powerful indicator of choosing a “right fit” coach - and this might be a good strategy for you to use as you look for your own coach.
If you’re struggling as a new divorcee, you might want to consider looking for coaches who specialize in relationships, or for those who have been through experiences like divorce or single parenthood themselves. Of course, it is definitely possible that a coach who has not been through a particular life event can offer excellent coaching on that topic, but you may find that someone who has navigated the waters you are venturing into may be particularly resonant in their advice for your situation. So along those lines, if you’re a post-ac leaving academia, you may benefit from a coach like Julie Clarenbach who has made the transition, conducted a successful post-ac job search, and worked outside the academy.
How to Contact Me
If anyone is interested in my services or has additional questions about coaching, they can contact me at email@example.com. I look forward to speaking with you!