Because I have been in the coaching profession for so long, I am often asked for advice about becoming a coach, both as a full-time profession and as an additional skill set.
In the case of leaders as well as learning and development professionals, it does seem like an awfully good skill set to have in the toolbox. If that’s you, here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you begin to explore coaching.
Experience good coaching firsthand. Work with a coach and have an experience of what it is like to be a client. Working with an exceptionally capable coach will provide you with perspective and answer a lot of questions you might have. You will learn what a coach really does and experience some coaching techniques firsthand. Most important, you will get a strong sense of whether or not you want to provide that kind of service for others.
Take it slow and steady. If you do feel a strong calling to be a full-time coach, that’s great—but don’t quit your day job. It will take a while to get to a full practice that will sustain you financially. If you have never run your own business before, remember that that is an entirely separate skill set and the learning curve can be steep.
Get training. Being a really good listener is not enough. Being an excellent trainer or facilitator is not enough. Consulting skills are not coaching skills. Being a psychiatrist or psychologist can be handy—but, again, coaching is a distinct approach and skill set.
Stick with certified programs. Certification is important now and will become even more so over the next decade. Find a training program that is accredited by the International Coach Federation. There are a lot of excellent programs; I cannot endorse one or another here. Your goal is to invest in a program with a proven track record and one that has the appropriate administrative structures in place. Once you find a program that appeals to you, ask to speak with a couple of former students.
Get focused. You will also want to explore what you want your focus to be. There are programs devoted to leadership, neuroscience, health and wellness, real estate sales—it goes on and on. It is okay if you don’t have a specialty going in. Many programs provide a good foundation for lots of different specializations. If you aren’t sure about what your niche should be, a good first clue will be the kinds of people you do your best work with.
Coaching is a great calling and coaching skills are useful to everyone—helping professionals, managers and leaders, parents, performance and sports coaches. I encourage you to explore if you suspect this could be your passion. It would never be a waste to get training, even if you don’t feel a strong calling to be a full-time coach. If you do have your heart set on being a full time coach, don’t ignore the fact that this will mean starting your own business. So, do go in with both eyes wide open.
I invite other longtime coaches who work in organizations to post in the comments additional thoughts they might have, and I am happy to answer questions as well.
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