Questions About Career Coaching:
Holistic Career Counseling & Coaching
Any good career coach will tell you: Work is never just work. Our careers are holistic, in that they touch every aspect of our life. Between childhood and retirement, our careers are where we spend the majority of our waking lives.
The right career path is more than just how we earn the money to survive. Choosing the right career can be a main avenue for living out our values, finding fulfillment, creative expression, personal empowerment, or being of service to others.
But our careers impact more than just our professional life. We develop relationships through our careers. Our careers certainly impact our personal lives, for better or for worse. If you’ve ever been in a toxic work environment you know firsthand how extensively the wrong job can impact your emotional wellness.
Like it or not, our career choices touch every other part of our life, and vice versa. You can’t just jump into a career path without thinking about your whole life, and how your career choices impact all of you. That’s why holistic career coaching that takes a “whole life” approach is so important.
What Is Your Goal in Life?
Here’s a story — can you relate? Jennifer is a successful pediatric dentist. Every time she arrives at my Denver career counseling office, she parks her Lexus a block away so she can power-walk off some of the stress she’s carrying…as well as conceal the truth: She’s unhappy in her career, and she’s seeing me for holistic career counseling to find a solution.
Jennifer can afford a nice home, new cars, and exotic vacations, but she’s so busy and stressed that she has little energy to enjoy the perks of earning a good living. Furthermore, thanks to the long hours that owning her own practice entails, Jennifer’s partner feels her job is ruining their relationship, and has warned her it won’t survive unless something changes.
While drilling into a sixth grader’s molar recently, Jennifer realized something: She hates digging around in mouths. This epiphany left her feeling depressed. She had dedicated eight years to college and dental school, plus another five to building her practice. She had sacrificed evenings with her partner and trips with her family. And now she hated it? Now she was once again asking herself that question, “What should I do with my life?”
Eventually, Jennifer found Growing Self and hired me. From the worldview of a traditional career coach, her problems may seem easy to fix. Jennifer is overworked, and she’s feeling burned out. She should hire more help and rebalance her time and energy — possibly focusing on her relationship with her partner — so that she can feel better and begin to win at work again.
But this careerist way of thinking excludes all of the other things Jennifer needs in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled, and is really just a way of avoiding the larger problem: Jennifer’s work does not feel meaningful and worthwhile to her. She finds it monotonous, draining, and wonders what the point of it all is. Like many people, when she was choosing her career, Jennifer was a young adult, and didn’t know herself well enough to know what truly interested her, or what she truly values.
Jennifer has other goals for her life, like becoming a mother, running a marathon, and traveling the world. As her work responsibilities grow and the time to focus elsewhere remains elusive, she’s starting to worry that the career she’s built for herself is not only unsatisfying, it’s at odds with the life she truly wants.
In other words, she’s feeling stuck.
If a pediatric dentist hates looking into the mouths of children, that’s a problem. Jennifer and I are still working on a solution, one that will honor who she is, what she enjoys, and what she cares about the most in life. She’ll have to make hard decisions, weighing out the pros and cons of finding a new career path after years of investment, or pivoting to something a little less intensive and a little more “her,” or simply sticking it out on her current path.
These are difficult choices with weighty consequences, but thanks to holistic Denver career coaching, she’s finally facing them head-on, with all of her life goals in mind.
The Purpose of Work
Here’s another story for you. In the marble halls of Denver County Court, Steve is known as a “lawyer’s lawyer.” Smart and skeptical, Steve is a person who can see the same dispute from five different angles, and poke holes in all of them.
Other attorneys admire that Steve comes well prepared for every case. But they’ve also learned his weaknesses: He is impatient and prone to rage. If they stall, if they speak slowly or fumble their paperwork between witnesses, his anger can overwhelm his intelligence.
Steve gets snippy with judges, avoids eye contact with the jury, and his clients pay the price. He still wins most cases, but his average is sinking. And his law partners have noticed. Some colleagues have even started complaining that his attitude is contributing to a toxic workplace.
Unsurprisingly, Steve’s hair-trigger temper carries over into his home life. He sometimes unleashes his anger on Lucy, his third wife. To make matters worse, his long hours at the office leave little time to repair the damage. Steve first called me for career coaching because he feared he was losing his edge. It took a few sessions for me to learn the bigger problem: Steve was about to torpedo his third marriage.
I realized that Steve needed more than basic career coaching. His career was the stage upon which his personal growth opportunities were being played out. In order to help him get better results in his career and in his whole life, we needed to explore things like emotional intelligence, his communication skills, and figure out what was going on between his ears that was leading him to feel so angry.
Most career coaches never get that far. If they do accidentally delve into their clients’ emotional or family lives, they quickly find they’re out of their depth.
That’s because, unlike becoming a licensed therapist becoming a life coach or becoming a career coach requires no specific training, licensure, or educational background whatsoever. Really!
Some career coaches enter the field after spending a few years working in HR, processing resumes for a tech firm’s human relations department. These coaches may have valuable insights about the best ways to get hired, or how to plot your career path. But when they encounter clients like Steve, they may lack the whole-person approach that keeps the purpose of work in perspective. (More on how to find a good career coach here).
Professional Growth Through Personal Growth
Because, like the other career coaches at Growing Self, I am a therapist as well as a career coach, he and I could go much deeper and do excellent personal growth work together.
While Steve’s career was indeed floundering, he and I were able to quickly establish that the real solution had little to do with work, or trying to find a different job. Instead, it depended on emotional intelligence training, specifically, in learning to name his anger, understand the reasons for it, and find better ways to cope both at work and at home.
As a licensed therapist who’s also trained in coaching, I often see this. I could tell you a zillion stories: the career counseling client who knew she was in the wrong career path but felt that she couldn’t change it due to emotional angst about disappointing her parents. Or the many people I’ve worked with who came for career coaching to help them become more productive, and be better managers… only to learn that they have untreated symptoms of ADHD. Or the young man stuck in a toxic work environment with an emotionally abusive boss, that she was subconsciously tolerating because the boss had a lot in common with his emotionally abusive father.
Just as with relationships, the things that come up for us in our careers offer many, many opportunities to do fantastic and important personal growth work. In fact, because our careers consume so much time and focus that our jobs can function as the early warning system for the rest of our emotional lives.
The upside of this is that our experiences at work can point the way to the skills we need to build to improve our lives as a whole, like emotional regulation, setting better boundaries, and effective communication. A good career coach can help you use on-the-job experiences to raise your emotional intelligence so that you can reap the benefits at work and beyond. But an excellent, holistic career coach who is also a therapist can help you use your professional experiences as a catalyst for personal growth.
Eventually, Steve learned the value of emotional intelligence, worked on some strategies to manage his anger, and began to work through his childhood pain. This not only helped Steve’s professional development, it helped him avoid yet another divorce.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
We haven’t even talked about work/life balance yet. Your job is important, but here’s a secret: many people with successful careers are miserable. From the worldview of a holistic effective career coach, that’s unacceptable. Even if your job provides plenty of money and prestige, it will feel empty to you unless it connects to your larger life’s purpose and leaves room for your other goals.
Outside of work, everyone needs friendships, romantic partnerships, exercise, and the emotional bandwidth to explore new things, whether it’s hobbies, spirituality or simple relaxation. We all need work-life balance. Holistic coaching operates from the premise that the right career affords opportunities to develop all of these things, often simultaneously.
How Deep, Holistic Career Coaching Works
- We look for “core themes.” These are the assumptions everyone holds about themselves, others and the world. If we distrust our ability to know what’s right, we can be like Jennifer, five years into a career she doesn’t love. At Growing Self, each of our trained career coaches is also a certified therapist. This experience helps us switch comfortably between career issues and personal issues, healing both.
- We look for positive feedback loops. Using evidence-based techniques, we help clients learn to soothe themselves, regulate difficult emotions, handle stress, focus their attention, organize their time, strengthen personal boundaries, and advocate for themselves. For some, the best opportunity to improve these skills will come in the context of a challenging friendship. For others, the emotional pain is more present at work. It doesn’t really matter, because the emotional intelligence <Link to: What is emotional intelligence?> we gain from our personal relationships flows naturally to our jobs, and vice versa.
- We look for integration. I’ve met too many men and women who wanted children, but who sacrificed that deep desire for the sake of building their careers. Now they’re 45 or 50, and worried they’ve missed their chance. Many others present with obesity and other health problems because their busy jobs leave no time for exercise. In a truly successful career, these are sacrifices you don’t have to make. Using the evidence-based modalities of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and career development theory, we can help you build a successful life, not just a successful career.
Life and Career Coach
People grow and evolve throughout their lives, and throughout their careers. As a trained holistic career coach who’s also a licensed therapist and a life coach, I’ve had the opportunity to help people at all stages of life and career.
Many recent college graduates come to my office feeling paralyzed by all the possible career choices, with no method to make a decision. My career coaching approach is often two-fold, helping young adults to simultaneously get serious and lighten up.
On the serious side, we delve into their deepest goals for life. Do they want to serve others? Be creative? Achieve stability? Then we add lightness. What’s the easiest way to know if you like something? Try it! If you like it, that’s great, and if not, that’s ok too. Now you can stop pining for it, and experiment with something else.
People in mid-career have a harder time finding lightness. For them, the pressures of leading a family, working in a professional environment, and paying the bills are intense, especially if they don’t like their jobs. For people in this stage, the coaching process tends to be more gradual. Let’s figure out how the core themes of your life led to your current predicament, then strategize ways to bring your career (and everything else) into alignment with who you truly are.
Finally, there are people at a stage I call “mid-career-plus.” This is often a client who likes her career well enough to stick with it for a long time. The problem now is that she’s so good at it, she spends little time doing the work she loves, and lots of time managing other people. With each promotion, she moves farther away from her old source of joy, and deeper into a web of complex relationships that pricks old feelings about her family and herself. The challenge for these clients is to leverage their wisdom and experience to design the remainder of their careers around what feels satisfying for them and what they still want to accomplish, not just what benefits the organization most.
Holistic Career Coaching
Believe it or not, it is possible to create a career that is so congruent with your values, passions, talents and life path that it doesn’t feel like work at all. Having a career that is so closely integrated with who you fundamentally are makes your work and your life one and the same. In fact, some people feel that if they won the lottery tomorrow, they wouldn’t change a thing about their careers because they are such a meaningful and enjoyable part of their lives. (They’d just show up in nicer clothes).
Whatever career stage you find yourself in, this level of work-life congruence is the true goal of holistic career coaching.
Holistic Career Coaching For Career Exploration… and Whole Life Satisfaction
Maybe you already do what you love. Or maybe you hate your job. Either way, your feelings about your work linger after you clock out, seeping into your friendships and romantic relationships. The influence flows in the other direction, too; If you’re happy and fulfilled at home, that contentment will bleed into your mood at work, and will likely boost your performance.
Deep, holistic career coaching is rare. Unfortunately, too many career coaches treat work as if it’s an island, and try to solve work-related problems without examining their place in the person’s life overall. In reality, if you’re unhappy at work, there’s a good chance you’re unhappy generally, and you could benefit from stepping back and re-examining the entire picture with a holistic career coach.
Rather than narrowly focusing on what it takes to reach the next rung on the career ladder, holistic online career coaching can help you design a career that truly reflects who you are and what you want the most out of life. This is the kind of growth work that leads to real career satisfaction, where your working life integrates seamlessly with your values, your personality, and your long term life goals.
Because we believe that work and life are connected, the career coaches of Growing Self go deep. Our career development services experts have specialized training as career counselors who are also licensed, practicing therapists. This makes a huge difference, because we can help you dig deep.
Our coaching methods are informed by evidence-based forms of therapy, toggling between the realms of outer success and inner happiness. Whether you’re trying to choose your first career, or you’re decades into a career that no longer feels right, or if you’re aware that you have professional development opportunities, holistic career coaching is designed to tie all the parts of your life — work, love, healthy relationships, personal growth, and your emotional wellness — into a healthy whole.
I sincerely hope that this discussion of what holistic career counseling is, and why it matters so much, has been helpful to you as you’re considering your options.
Your partner in growth,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
Meet a Few of Our Holistic Career Coaches
The therapists and career coaches of Growing Self have specialized education and training and years of experience in helping people achieve their personal and professional goals. We use only evidence-based strategies that have been proven by research to help you get clarity and direction, have better relationships, feel happier, and design your ideal life.
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