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Looking to get ahead in the workplace? Time to enlist a career coach

A growing UK trend is emerging among professional women in their 30s and 40s

Originating in the US and embraced by UK business leaders in the 1970s, the corporate world has for decades enlisted career coaching services in the areas of staff training and development.

They are consulting career coaches for support with progressing, reigniting or even changing their careers. In many cases, these ladies have arrived at a career crossroads, whilst perhaps juggling responsibility for young children or elderly parents.

Penna Consultancy is a leading UK firm in this area and earlier in 2016, it noted ‘a sharp rise in women over 35 requesting career coaching in the last two years’. Neela Bridge, an executive coach, has similarly observed a surge in fresh enquiries from professional women in their 40s. A report published by Lord Davies in 2011 that encourages women to fulfil their potential has gone a long way to destigmatise career coaching, whilst the rapid pace of modern working culture is a growing stress factor among women trying to juggle work and home life.

Having enjoyed yet “fallen out of love” with a PR career spanning 18 years, Natalie Truce recently opted to take time out to focus on full-time motherhood. Eight months later and fearful of losing her identity, Natalie yearned for a fresh professional challenge that would enable her to strike a happier balance. Enlisting a career coach proved invaluable when, within a matter of weeks, she secured a book deal.

Natalie’s coach worked with her via tests, quizzes and homework assignments to dissect every aspect of her career, with an emphasis on establishing accomplishments, passions and aspirations – before helping identify the three things Natalie most desired from a new role and whittling out any aspects she had merely been “tolerating”. In Natalie’s case, it was writing that they kept coming back to.

Many professional women, from executives to medics, are now advocating career coaches, often after starting a family or losing a job, and paying anything from £150 and £500 per hour for advice in areas such as striking a healthier work-life balance, securing a promotion, adapting to career progression, or honing interview skills.

In speaking with career coaches, it would seem that the most widespread concern expressed by these women is a lack of confidence in the workplace and specifically, fear of new challenges, networking and attaining leadership presence. Coaches are also playing an increasingly valuable role in the management of workplace stress which, according to the Government’s Health & Safety Executive, caused 440,000 people to become unwell in 2015.

However, in a climate where anyone can describe themselves as a ‘coach’, some self-appointed career experts could be a hindrance, hence there are regulating bodies including The International Coach Federation (IFC), Association for Coaching (AC) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) to safeguard the sector.

Career coaches have become a commonplace dinner party ‘buzz topic’ among career-minded women, often seeking a return to the workplace after years of full-time childcare commitments. In a world where woman invest considerable time and effort into re-doing their homes and wardrobes, Gwendolyn Parker suggests that our careers might also at times benefit from a “makeover”.

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