Coaching Tools for Career Transition

by Risto M. Koskinen (Finland)

For a career transition coach, it is crucial to understand the transition process and tailor his or her tools according to the coachee’s needs of the moment. In this article, I will introduce to coaches three different tools that are useful in most cases.

The transition will occur several times during our career(s). Sometimes it’s voluntary (like willingness to change occupation), often involuntary (being made redundant). It also affects us differently depending on our career phase, career level, and a plethora of other factors like location, family issues, education, job market transformations, our skills or capabilities, the scope of experience, and so on. Therefore, there is no general one-size-fits-all solution.

The other side of the coin is what the coach can bring to the table. A senior coach not only has a deep understanding of his/her coaching tools, but also a broad array of different tools and approaches. And apart from your coaching framework, some tools can be applied to almost all clients. These three examples from my coaching toolbox have been tested with hundreds of clients since the 1990s.

The Springboard Attitude.

Whether abrupt and shocking or consciously planned, the first phase of career transition includes disengagement and disidentification. We no longer hold the earlier context, social network, rank or status, or access to certain people or knowledge. Our professional identity is more or less shaken, we may have difficulties defining ourselves. And very often there are feelings of being hurt, anger, injustice, and so on.

As a coach, I do recognise that sometimes the trauma caused by job loss requires processing in larger measure, and tools like Kübler-Ross’s change curve are tools to be used. But as soon as reasonable I’d like to turn the client’s attention towards the future and start the process of disengagement by applying The Springboard Attitude.

The idea is to reframe the client’s current position: job loss is not the endpoint but a springboard. The first questions asked here are:

  • What is/was my last position a springboard for?
  • What is my intended position a springboard for?

The purpose of asking the second question is to create a longer time span and enhance the fact that the current transition is just one in a series of transitions. The tentative vision is then colored a little bit more by asking for example:

  • What new capabilities do I need?
  • In which areas I must absolutely be an expert?
  • What kind of networks do I need to build up?
  • What personal qualities I must enhance?

The Backbone Exercise

Backbone is a description of the client’s professional competence thus far – and a little bit further. It is to aggregate the client’s experience and thus enable the client to see his/her resources and future potential. In addition to strengthening the customer’s self-confidence and self-esteem – like the springboard approach – it also guides the customer towards generating new options.

The basement is constructed of education and/or professional experience. The client might have worked in different places and functions, but here the key is to focus on the three most relevant areas. These three areas have something in common; some concept is present in each of them. It can be selling, negotiation, social skills, caring… whatever. The question ‘What can be derived from these key building blocks?’ is to unfold the key competence that forms the bedrock for the professional domain the client is pursuing.

Source: iCN Issue 39  (Career Coaching); pages 15-17

About Risto M. Koskinen

Risto M. Koskinen, MBA, CPC, is a certified Finnish coach and supervisor. He has made a long career in career coaching and career counselling as well as in teaching and social work. Today, as semi-retired, he is active on LinkedIn, with his weekly career-related posts. You can follow him at #CoachRisto.