It’s not that unusual for people to have a personal trainer, nutritionist, financial advisor, physical therapist and chiropractor. When we’re younger, a family physician is sufficient; as we grow older, the list begins to expand, and often includes, a cardiologist, dermatologist and optometrist. Before I turned 50, I made fun of the seniors who constantly talked about their physical ailments — and now I’m one of them!
What’s ironic is that our kids have a new need that wasn’t our radar when we were growing up.
A career coach.
The idea of having a coach was typically associated with high-level executives, but the landscape has changed. It is a need that is growing and is becoming a necessity for people of all ages who hope to have a stable and successful career.
Why has the need for a career coach become so critical? The short answer is technology. An even shorter answer is the internet. The way we learn and conduct business is occurring at a rate that we never imagined. It has become common practice to earn a bachelor's, master's and even a doctorate degree online. My wife travels for business and frequently uses Uber and Lyft instead of renting a car. Shopping malls are in trouble; this year’s Christmas shopping is expected to exceed 50 percent online.
As I write this column I’m watching "Shark Tank." The experts are discussing the fact that the lifespan of many new products will not exceed 10 years. They accept the reality that as long as they can make a profit in the short term they are willing to invest with the understanding the window may be closed in less than a decade.
The "Shark Tank" panel is talking about money. I’m talking about people. As products and companies have shorter lifespans, so do the career paths for the people associated with these enterprises. One of the most famous job interview questions — “Where do you expect to be in 10 years?” — is getting more difficult to answer. My goal is to ensure that my skills and the company’s needs are still compatible, and that’s no easy task. I must admit the pace of change sometimes intimidates me, but at the end of the day do we really have a choice?
Last week I spoke with an individual who was looking to make a major career change at the age of 57. Halfway into our conversation, he says, “I wish I would have done this 10 years ago.” It’s not that he didn’t see this problem coming, but he wasn’t sure how to respond and, as a result, is now worried that it’s too late.
The good news is that it’s never too late, but it will be more difficult. If you haven’t been exercising for 20 years and then you suddenly decide to run a marathon at the age of 50 I’m going to suggest you find a great fitness coach. Getting your career in shape can be every bit as difficult as getting your body back in shape. Even after years of neglect you can still make it happen, but it is in your best interest to ask for help.
If you’re serious about managing your career, I’m going to suggest you consider the benefits of using a coach. If reaching out to a coach feels intimidating, there are other options you should consider. Contact your local workforce office; they can help you explore options to fit your individual circumstances. If you have a friend or acquaintance in the human resources profession, buy them coffee and pick their brains. Are there successful people you admire who might be willing to be your mentor?
So, is this the right time for you to consider a career coach? That coach may be a good friend, peer or professional resource, but the goal is still the same. This may be the right time for you to ask for help and take control of your career.