Work forms an intricate part of our lives – from providing a living to expressing ourselves, to leaving our mark in the world. Engaging in work that is progressive, in the same field over time makes a career. This can be in one job or in a series of jobs. If you have experienced a stalled or interrupted career, dissatisfaction with your job or a fruitless job search, then you are probably familiar with the discomforting, if not stressful feeling it creates.

According to the International Coach Federation 2017 Global Consumer Awareness Study, 35% of the people who sought professional coaching had the objective of expanding career opportunities. Professional coaching, as defined by the International Coach Federation is a process of partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

There is evidence that partnering with a professional coach can help navigate career transitions and expand career opportunities. While studying for my MBA, I conducted a research in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of professionals whose careers had stalled after they relocated with their families. This is a global phenomenon, as articulated in one of many articles I found during literature review, published in the Human Resource Development Journal (McNulty, Y. 2012, “‘Being dumped in to sink or swim’: an empirical study of organizational support for the trailing spouse”, Human Resource Development International, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 417-434)

The participants in my research shared that their career interruption had resulted in an identity crisis, stagnation, loss of financial independence, low self-esteem and feeling ‘lost’. Their experience resonated with me deeply, because I had lived it and had taken the long, painful and oftentimes frustrating path to self-reinvention, because I did not know about coaching. My experience got me thinking that there had to be a way to support people like me – and when I discovered an MBA program with a coaching elective, I dug in.

Back to my research – after professional coaching, seven out of the eight participants reported increased confidence, hope and empowerment. They embarked on a path of self-reinvention, leveraging their gifts and engaging in work that is aligned with their values. Ever since this research, I have been on a mission of providing professional coaching to help people navigate career transitions.

In coaching clients facing career transitions, I coined a simple model to help the client design their personal career GAME PLAN©. The GAME part of the model focuses on self-awareness, with questions designed to help the client:

  • Identify their Gifts – those special abilities, talents and things they do exceptionally well
  • Reflect on Alignment of their gifts with their values, opportunities and definition of success
  • Reflect on their Motivation – what drives them and the ‘why’ behind their choices
  • Consider the Experience they already have for work and life and what’s relevant for the outcomes they are seeking

The second part of the model is the PLAN, which helps the client put everything together and design
actions going forward. In this process, I use questions that spur the client to:

  • Identify the Platform that’s suitable for playing out their GAME, for example, forms of
    employment, consultancy, entrepreneurship etc
  • Identify areas of Leverage e.g. networks, skills, location etc
  • Take steps to Activate their brand, especially if they are venturing into something new
  • Commit to continuing Nurturing of their skills and be accountable

There are diverse models and since the coaching relationship is client driven, the coach guides the conversation and uses the model that works best for the client. As one of my current clients puts it, “the healing power of self-expression, having a safe space in which to articulate my greatest aspirations without worrying about being judged is a big benefit for me. My coaching experience has given me a new boldness and courage… it has challenged me to put my faith to flight.”

Colleta Macharia is a Leadership and Career Coach (CCLC)