A guest blog…well, interview…but still exciting! Please sit back and enjoy some information from my amazing career development coach and mentor Stacy Smyk-Santiago!

Hiya Stacy!  Would you tell everyone briefly essentially what you do and how you ended up in your field? 

I help mid-career professionals find fulfillment, not just the money. My clients have had successful careers but they do not feel in control of or happy with their job. They want self-discovery, to articulate their brilliance, and create a path that cultivates the highest expression of their talents.

I became a coach after a winding road of different jobs each evolving more into the best way for me to use my talents to help people. That’s the short story. Read the fun details here.

What is your average “treatment plan” for clients, time frames etc? Have you had any clients succeed very quickly, or take extra long?

Each client has different coaching goals which we define together in our first session. From there I work with clients on average for 4-6 months. Some of my clients do achieve realizations that allow them to take action in 2-3 months. Many others work with me for 6-9 months.

In your experience, how does the world (in other words employers and HR departments) respond to your field? What kind of feedback do you get, or are employers usually unaware of your service in the background of new hires?

Coaching is well regarded especially at the executive level where many companies invest in their employees by providing coaching for them. Experienced interviewers can often tell when a candidate has prepared through career coaching. Here is a 41 second video with a Google CEO describing the value of coaching. 

How does a career coach maintain their “continuing education” in their field? 

This depends on the credential. I have several for which continuing education credits often overlap: BCC-Board Certified Coach, LPC-Licensed Professional Counselor, NCC-National Certified Counselor. On average, it breaks down to about 20 clock hours of training per year in core areas such as ethics.

What the consumer does not typically know is the difference between credentials in terms of quality, value, and training required. For example, including education, it takes 6 years to become a LPC but only 6 months to complete many of the coaching programs out there. 

From a coaching perspective, what sorts of major life decisions do you recommend and what do you discourage? (i.e. going back to school, quitting their current jobs)

Coaching is more about asking the right questions to help the client come to his or her own knowing vs. giving advice. I ask the client different questions to explore implications and options he/she may not be aware of. Clients need to know that a career change does not automatically require a new degree or immediately quitting a job. That said, I have had clients decide to quit their jobs, start their own business, get divorced, go back to school, and even enter therapy.

Have you ever had anyone you couldn’t help?

Yes. There are few clients who truly desire new career direction, however, they are not in a stable, healthy place to do the exploration and work it takes to achieve this. I can’t always see this on a consultation call but see it emerge as the client divulges background information and voices his/her emotional state as we begin coaching. I do recommend therapy in extreme cases before continuing to coach. 

Aside from the obvious (pessimism, gremlins) do you notice any trends in terms of which clients are most suited to your process and succeed and who should seek a different type of coaching or entirely different path?

I have analyzed client profiles and do see a trend of clients who I work best with and who achieve life-changing, satisfying results. These clients are typically mid-career business professionals with a successful performance record. They are high-functioning and well balanced in terms of life components like relationships, personal growth, fitness, fun etc. They are ambitious, articulate, and committed to thoroughly completing the coaching work. They see the value of discovering self-knowledge and like to spend time observing and processing their behavior patterns. Those who do not do as well may need therapy before or in-conjunction with coaching and do not complete the coaching work thoroughly and on time.

I have a friend who I asked to go through this process with me, but on his own.  His reason for disinterest was that he knew he would be un-able to answer questions/do the homework honestly because he always (“can only”) answers questions with the idea in mind of what the audience wants to hear and “knew” that he would not be able to give core answers unrelated to audience.  This answer bowled me over, as I’m the polar opposite.  How would you address this issue (if they were your client)?

I would explore the audience as only himself and what he fears about being honest with himself. I would challenge him with a question like “What are you passionate about?” or “What makes you really happy?” and assess the depth and truth of his answer. It sounds like he does not want to learn or see a truth because it moves him closer to a fear such as change, failure, or moving out of his comfort zone.

*And a weirdo bonus question – ’cause I’m all about the weirdo bonus questions.  For me, before working with Stacy (or as I’ve learned since…anyone) it was important to know whether she can shift from linear professional to creative thinker too.  Ya gotta relate to your coach y’all!  So: 

As a client, if Andrea were a puzzle, would I be a crossword, a jigsaw, a magic eye picture or a metal puzzle ring?

Metal puzzle ring. It twists and turns through the same positions and is difficult to untangle. It’s strong and clever but does not respond well to force and pulling / pushing in the same nonsensical direction. When configured correctly, it will be free and at peace!

Aww shucks, Stacy. Cool answer! 

So there you have it, happy audience. If you have any questions for Stacy (or me) please feel free to ask. Or visit Stacy at her website to read her very informative and interesting blog as well!

4 Responses to Queries for the Career Coach

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Great interview. I always enjoy learning about worlds I know little about. And I agree, Stacy’s response to your puzzle question was fabulous!

    • andrea1 says:

      She’s good for my ego, lemme tell ya. I agree with you Carrie, it’s really interesting to learn about other fields. I’m always sort of taken aback when I read about conferences and seminars for specific fields I never think twice about. Tons of different little whirling worlds all overlapping. It’s fascinating! What’s that tv show…history or discovery channel.. how it’s made? Or something. Where they tour crayon factories and widget designers. So cool. 🙂

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    Very interesting interview! Your puzzle ring option in the bonus question really brought back some memories. Those rings were really popular when I was in junior high. Every girl had one, I think! Based on what I know of you from your blog, I also bet Stacy probably nailed the answer to the question. 😉

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