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Tax & AccountingFebruary 17, 2020

Who Needs a Career Coach

Do you need a career coach?

Most of us are familiar with mentors, sponsors, or coaches. At CLA, we use the term Career Coaching to refer to our firm-sponsored mentorship program designed to help employees at all levels. While I will use the terms “coaching” or “career coach,” it may be easier for you to think of it as a formal mentoring program set up and run by your organization, to benefit both the employees and the firm.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “Do I need a career coach?” My answer is an enthusiastic YES! Regardless of level in the organization, most employees can benefit from working with a career coach--someone who can help identify your work goals, plan your career path, and advise on ways to develop the skills needed to reach your goals.

The goal of the coaching program at CLA is to develop our people, offer them the opportunity to voice their own goals and career dreams, and show that CLA is invested in them and developing their talents. With our coaching program, every employee selects a coach from the managers, directors, and principals of the organization, usually in the same office. Our coaches help employees understand the choices here at CLA, build skills, and gain experiences needed to be successful in the choices they make. CLA benefits from the increased employee engagement and loyalty, with a pipeline of talent actively being developed to handle more responsibility and eventually assume leadership roles.

How can a career coach help me?

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Why do I need a career coach?” There are many benefits to having someone in your corner. Having a coach can help improve your performance and help develop your soft skills and technical expertise. Sure, you can try to do this on your own, but those good intentions often fall to the bottom of our list of priorities when competing demands at work, home, and elsewhere are vying for our limited time. Meeting with your coach allows you to carve out time to discuss career growth opportunities, to get useful feedback on your work product, and to help build a career that you love.

A career coach can help make the most of your skillset and knowledge to move forward on your chosen career path. Your coach can also share objective feedback and advice to improve your skills and increase your market value.

What would Career Coaching look like at different levels in an organization?

Executive – At the highest levels, a coach can help executives define their business strategy and drive change; develop a way of influencing and improving collaboration while supporting effective decision making.

VP / Director – At the director and VP level, a coach can help directors and VPs build a team culture that leads to better productivity and higher performance for the group. A coach can offer insight and ideas to better understand and deal with team dynamics and clashing personalities.

Manager – A coach will help managers understand their leadership style and how to cultivate a positive and supportive team culture. At the managerial level, it becomes more important to know how to navigate uncomfortable or difficult people and situations. Coaching a manager will likely include advice on managing time effectively, networking, and how to prioritize competing assignments.

Supervisor – A coach can help develop a positive and inclusive work demeanor for those now supervising and training others. A coach can invite feedback from others at the organization and use this information to advise the supervisor on what they are doing well, ways they are effective, but also about training programs available and skills to develop that may be needed to succeed in handling the day-to-day schedule for a group of employees they supervise.

Individual Team Member – A coach provides guidance and support to help new and entry-level employees acclimate to the organization, understand the leadership style and culture, explain the possible career paths available, and identify areas of potential growth.

Where can I find a career coach / mentor?

Recently I read that 70% of Fortune 500 firms have a mentorship program. Does your employer have a formal coaching program? If so, that is where to start. Check the internal firm website or links to resources for employees that will explain how the program works.

At CLA, employees start in the coaching program during their first month; there is no need to apply for a coach or ask to be included in the program. Every organization, and every coaching program, is different, and yours may require employees to apply for a coach. Once you have been added to the coaching program and have either chosen or been assigned a coach, the next step is to start engaging! Reach out to your coach for an initial meeting.

If your organization does not have a mentor or coaching program, look around and start identifying individuals that you think would align well with you. Approach one or more people at a higher level of authority and see if they are open to becoming your informal coach. Alternatively, there may be someone outside your organization that fits this role and may be a great sounding board and coach for you. The point is, start checking what is available and launch a simple plan to identify a coach.

Remember that a coach can help prepare you for the next step in your career and advise you when changes are being made within the organization. Your coach can guide you through the career choices available to you, and help you navigate your career journey.

In the coming months, I’ll explore more about coaching, including the benefits a formalized coaching program has for an organization, the coaching process, what it means to be a good coach, and how to build a connection with your coach. Keep checking back for more on this topic.



Ready to learn more about the coaching and mentorship process? Check out other posts in Jackie's coaching and mentorship series.

Jackie Fiesher
Jackie Flesher, CPA, CGMA
Jackie is a Coach Champion and Director at CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) in the Washington DC region in their outsourcing division. Jackie’s clients are medium-sized private sector businesses as well as not-for-profit organizations. Jackie’s passionate work is to support the firm’s coaching program and help her colleagues get the most from their coaching relationships.
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