In recent years, it seems that the American workforce has become increasingly unhappy in the office. In fact, according to the "2013 State of the American Workplace Report" recently released by Gallup, about 70 percent of U.S. employees do not feel engaged or fulfilled in their work. Even more stunning is the fact that 18 percent of the workers Gallup surveyed reported to being so unhappy with their jobs that they actively try to undermine their employers in some way.
While workers who don't want to suffer in silence may find a way out of a job that makes them miserable, if they take the first position that comes along, they run the risk of ending up in the same place they started -- same disengagement, different company. But in this day and age, how can you really find a job that keeps you engaged and makes you happy?
Whether you're thinking of transitioning into a new career or want to make the most of your current career, a good place to start is by finding out what your passion is and figuring out how that passion translates into a career. Of course, that's easier said than done, and though we're often told to follow our bliss, we have to find our bliss first.
That's where a career coach can help.
"Oftentimes people think about coaching as only reaching out to it when you're in dire need. Although coaching can help you work through and overcome obstacles, it's really important to know that you're the source of the answers and a coach can help you to unlock them," said certified career coach Sheila Boysen-Rotelli of Professional Success Coaching. "A lot of times, it really comes from a place where you feel like maybe you're a little bit stuck, and you've gone as far as you can on your own, so you need a little more support to get to that next level of success."
But what is a career coach, and how can a coach help you attain that next level of success?
Boysen-Rotelli says that although coaching can be defined in many different ways, career coaches generally help you get into the right mindset to go after the type of job you want, while giving you the tools you need to impress potential employers when those perfect opportunities do come along.
Finding the right career coach for you
Anyone can put up a shingle and offer career coaching services, but that doesn't mean they all have the experience needed to help you reach your career goals -- or any experience at all for that matter. Since there is no licensing process associated with career coaching, it can be hit and miss when you're looking for a qualified coach.
"Unfortunately, we're at a point right now where a lot of people market themselves as a lot of different things, but they don't necessarily have the education to back it up," Boysen-Rotelli said. "A lot of folks are marketing themselves as a coach, even though that's not completely what they're doing."
For example, Boysen-Rotelli says that some people who call themselves career coaches are basically selling their advice and promising solutions to their clients' problems that they are not qualified to deliver. One way to avoid those who overpromise and under deliver is to search for qualified coaches on websites run by professional coaching organizations. For example, the International Coach Federation (ICF) not only provides a list of its members to consumers, it also offers credentials to coaches that certify their expertise and experience in the field.
But just because a coach has experience doesn't mean that coach is right for you. It's also important that you're compatible with the coach you choose because you will be delving into many personal issues when working together. Once you find coaches who have the professional chops to get the job done, you should also get a free consultation with them before making your choice -- which will help you find the one you feel most comfortable with.
What to expect from career coaching
Although all coaches have a different process, Boysen-Rotelli says that the following are some of the things you may experience when going to a coach.
Setting expectations. During the initial meeting with a career coach, you will generally have a discussion to set expectations for the relationship. At that time, you can tell your coach what you hope to get out of the process, and your coach will also let you know what is expected from you, so that you can get the most out of the experience. For example, in order to ensure that her clients have realistic expectations, Boysen-Rotelli stresses that although no coach can promise a client will get a job, she can promise to help clients gain valuable tools that will make them more attractive to potential employers.
And coaches should have realistic expectations as well, Boysen-Rotelli says. While the ultimate goal of coaching is to help clients find their passion, coaches realize that in today's economy, clients may be more concerned about paying the bills first.
"It's challenging right now to find something new and not everyone's in a position where they can spend months and months exploring their passion," she said. "From a sustainability standpoint, they need to find the next paycheck before they can do that -- and that's understandable. But what you eventually want to get to is the place where you're finding a way to marry up your passion and your livelihood."
Assessments. Boysen-Rotelli gives her clients the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory assessment tests in order to help find job options that will make them feel most happy and fulfilled. This is an important starting point in her relationship with clients, as it helps her understand what's important to them and how their personalities fit with certain careers.
One of the most important aspects of coaching, says Boysen-Rotelli, is the clients' ability to make mental breakthroughs that will help them gain the success they're looking for. In order to do that, she assigns homework exercises to her clients that require them to reflect on where they want to go and how they can get there.
"I find that in most coaching engagements, homework really is a big part of it," she said. "I think a lot of people have the misconception that coaching is about going to this sage, wise person who is going to tell them exactly what they need to do to be successful. But that's not exactly what coaching is. Really the client's the one doing all the hard work, and homework is a big part of that."
All careers have their ups and downs, but if you're experiencing the downs and not the ups, there's always a chance you're simply in the wrong career. More likely, though, you just need some direction and advice to find the career that's right for you and understand what it takes to thrive in that career.
Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She is also as contributor to OnlineColleges.com.