The Biz

Perhaps you’ve already resolved to quit smoking, lose weight or just generally be a better person in 2008. But why stop there? Maybe this is the year you resolve to make a career change—or at least take steps to make your current career more successful and meaningful.

Going places: Looking for your calling? Life coach Barbara Brady may be able to help. Photo by jonathan welch

If that sounds like you, then it might be time to consult a career coach.

Sure, you can buy any number of books to help you boost or change your career, and some of them may be quite good, if impersonal. But with a coach, you get a guru, a mentor, an architect, a cheerleader—someone who not only helps guide your transformation but helps you draw up and stick to a road map for getting where you want to go.

Life and career coach Barbara Brady (www.mycoachbarbara.com) is one of a number of local coaches who are available to help. (It doesn’t have to be done face to face, however; like many coaches, Brady also has national and international clients). Brady says she knows what it feels like to struggle for meaning, for something new in your working life that takes your values, passions and gifts into account. The former corporate sales whiz didn’t set out to become a career coach—but just as with many of her clients, Brady says she found her new career path only after taking a step back to examine her life.

“I did really well in sales. I was winning awards and trips and was in the top 10 percent working for AT&T’s [national sales force]—but I wasn’t fulfilled,” she recalls. After wondering what was missing, Brady embarked on a personal search that led to an epiphany of sorts concerning where her life should go.

“I realized I needed to make a difference in people’s lives at a really deep level to be fully satisfied. Selling telecommunications and airfreight and other things was not the best vehicle to do that,” she says with a wry laugh.

Brady initially discovered coaching in the ‘90s, when the phenomenon was taking shape amid the hyperkinetic world of work and wealth created during the dot-com boom. There are now about 30,000 career coaches worldwide, according to the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. American coaches earn an average of $52,478 a year, the Lexington, Ky.-based International Coach Federation reports. Like Brady, who became a full-time coach several years ago, these people—who are often credentialed and certified—are typically now in their second or third career.

Besides life and career advice, Brady also specializes in helping people relocate to places they dream of working. If those destinations are foreign, Brady also helps clients deal with culture and language changes and other potential obstacles.

Tabula rasa

So where do you want to go in your work life? Have no idea? That’s good, says Brady.

“Invariably, when somebody comes to me and says, ‘I’m not happy with what I’m doing, and I have no clue about what I want to do next—please help me,’ I love that. I love it when somebody has no clue, because we start with a blank slate,” she explains. In that situation, Brady says she can bring her entire tool kit into play to help the person achieve that elusive work/life/spiritual balance.

Although client demographics vary from coach to coach, Brady says her typical client is a professional between ages 32 and 45 who’s been “following the recipe and doing what they’re supposed to do,” but discovers they’re no longer happy and can’t seem to bear the thought of spending the second half of life just perpetuating the first half. Some are simply burned out, she says.

Often, these people have accumulated skill sets that can carry over into new careers they never imagined. Sometimes the client has had an injury or illness that’s given them a chance to more fully contemplate their future. In other cases, people may simply be bored and looking for a new direction. Still others want to keep their present career but feel stymied and long to discover ways to break through to a new level of responsibility and success.

Career coaching, says Brady, is not an event but a process that lasts for three months with at least two to three consultations per month. The first step is sitting down for a consultation and determining whether she can help—and whether coach and pupil are a good fit. “I really want to understand their philospophy, how open-minded they are,” Brady says about this initial meeting, which is free.

Like most coaches, she’ll spend the next few months attacking the problem from different angles, starting with a series of “life questions” designed to help clients focus on their goals. Later, she’ll ask questions aimed at pinning down the client’s likes and dislikes; clients also tackle more creative, right-brain-oriented exercises. In addition, Brady is a firm believer in using personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the DISC behavioral assessment, to help identify key traits.

“It helps tell what that person’s natural behavioral style is versus how they’ve adapted it for their work environment,” she says. “That can really be a good indicator as to what kinds of careers [they’re best suited for].”

Three months may seem like a lot, but Brady says, “A lot of coaches I know have a six-month commitment,” and some require up to a year. The time is important, she explains, because it helps build momentum and trust—and, ultimately, success.

That’s all fine and dandy, you might say, but how much will all this cost? Typically, anywhere from $200 to $500 a month, says Brady.

For many, that might seem a steep price to pay—but maybe not, if it leads to a lifetime of workplace satisfaction.

Visit www.coachfederation.org or www.findacoach.com to learn more about career coaching or for help in finding a certified coach.


Growing local farm markets: The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will hold its fifth annual Marketing Opportunities for Farmers Conference on Saturday, Feb. 23. The event will help farmers learn how to sustain their farms in a time of changing markets and landscapes. Instructors will include farmers, agricultural professionals and marketing specialists. This year, ASAP is also teaming up with the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Center’s Small Farms Initiative to report on promising areas for diversification.

The conference will be held at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa. Farmers can choose from 15 farm-marketing topics offered during the day. The cost—including a lunch of locally grown food—is $30 ($40 for two people coming from the same farm or family).

Sponsors include the Southern Region Risk Management Education Center, the USDA Risk Management Agency and the Golden LEAF Foundation. For more information or to register, visit www.asapconnections.org/marketingconference.htm or call 236-1282.

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