Coaching as a Map

Coaching as a Map Click To Tweet


I’ll be the first to admit, I was a bit skeptical of the whole field of career and life coaching. When applying to graduate school, I was accepted to doctoral programs in clinical psychology. Though I chose a different direction, I see definite value in seeking out the help of a trained clinical professional, when needed. But I’ve also come to see that, when it comes to your career, a coach may have the right set of skills and experience to effectively guide you through issues that may be challenging to navigate. While my Passionista brain subscribes to the idea (via Ralph Waldo Emerson or Aerosmith, depending on whom you ask) that “Life’s a journey, not a destination”, my Practical brain wants a map to guide me along the way. So I’ve circled back to this idea of coaching with a fresh perspective.


My first experience with (non-sports) coaching was a few years ago, during my struggles to finish my dissertation- not an uncommon experience, but exacerbated by the fact that I was already in a full-time job and much more interested in pursuing that path than doing anything purely academic. Having a coach as a neutral party to check in with and offer a mix of encouragement and accountability definitely helped drag me over the degree finish line. A few years later, I’ve reached a point in my career where I’m contemplating next steps, and how they fit into the journey of parenthood and wearing my different passions in a coordinated fashion.


How to Pick Your Guidebook

On this blog I’ll be sharing tips on how to navigate the career coaching landscape as well as insights gleaned from going through the process, using my background in social science as a compass. Committing to this journey is an investment in time, money, and yourself, and you want to be sure to start off on the right foot. In that spirit, here are some ideas for choosing a career coach as your guide:


  1. Do your research.

In this day and age, it is easy to find resources on the internet, but also easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of what’s out there. Use strategies such as crowdsourcing to narrow down the field. One well-known option is to do a search on Amazon for career books and then read the customer reviews; these are best if written by customers with a verified purchase of the book and who were not offered the book or product for free in exchange for an ‘honest review’. You can also leverage social media, such as by following people and publications that interest you on Twitter, and seeing whose material those people ‘retweet’ or who Twitter recommends that you follow, based on your current list.


  1. Take advantage of one-stop shops to maximize your time.

Check if your favorite career coaches offer weekly newsletters or digests through their websites. That way, you’ll be sure to never miss the most important or popular information they’ve shared. You can also opt to receive newsletters from websites that aggregate material across multiple sources. For example, The Daily Muse (, @dailymuse) is a user-friendly site with many quick, practical articles related to your career search. While the site is made by and for millennials, the advice is sharp and applicable no matter what career stage you’re in.


  1. Take advantage of the free stuff!

Most coaches offer great free resources on Twitter or their websites so that you can learn more about their methodology and point of view. While you may not have the money to pay for a series of consultations with a master coach, you can learn a lot from going through these materials. For example, Laura Garnett (@garnettl) offers a free ebook, Maximize Your Joy At Work: 4 Steps to Having a Killer Career Now, if you sign up for her newsletter, “The Zone”. And just last week, Christie Mims of The Revolutionary Club tweeted about her free workbook:



  1. Know your learning style.

Some people like to delve deeply into a step-by-step written guide; others prefer watching a series of videos or listening to podcasts. Whatever your style, there is mostly likely a career/coaching resource out there for you. Of course, you can also dabble in all of the styles! I really enjoyed sitting down with The Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore (Rockport Institute), a classic in the career development field, and working through the different exercises, but I can also get a quick shot of knowledge by watching a TED Talk or listening to one of the many great podcasts out there on my way to/from work (e.g., “Best Part of My Job” or “Best Work/Best Life” by Kathy and Mo).


  1. Pick coaches who have a map and track record.

As top coach Kathy Caprino writes on her blog and on LinkedIn Pulse, an effective coach develops expertise in their craft and brings “an effective “model for change” that’s been proven, vetted and researched over many thousands of individuals, outcomes and scenarios, and is designed to help the client see her life, her problems, and the way in which she is operating in the world, differently.” While your journey is unique, a coach should provide a map to highlight the highways and dead ends along the way.


  1. Listen for which voices resonate with you.

As you may have already gathered, I am drawn to female coaches who have an understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing working women today. I decided to take a course by Classy Career Girl (@classycareer, AKA @AnnaRunyan) because it has a clear methodology and her journey as a working mom with a young child resonated with me. As I also wrote about previously, Emilie Wapnick’s (@emiliewapnick) work and TEDx Talk on being a “multipotentialite” sounded off all sorts of bells of recognition in my brain. There are many coaches out there today, so you should be able to find one/some that speak your career and life language.


  1. Match your needs with your budget.

While investing in yourself and your career is a worthwhile expense, you need to be realistic about what you can afford and feel comfortable spending. For some, a $250-$500 consultation with a career coach is what they would spend during a jaunt to the mall; for others, that would make a serious dent in their budget (or contribute to their debt). Another reason I love The Daily Muse is that they showcase a series of career coaches who offer support at different price points, based on their level of experience; browsing the list was how I was introduced to Anna Runyan’s work. And since I didn’t have a specific question that could be explored during a 30-minute session, instead I chose Anna’s “Love Your Career Formula 2.0” class because I could benefit from her entire approach at a price that fit my budget.


I hope these tips have been helpful and that you’ll join me again, as I continue traversing the terrain of career development and coaching. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned explorer, here’s to making it work and loving the journey!



About Practical Passionista

Hi! I’m Tish (AKA the Practical Passionista). I spent my twenties as an educator, researcher, and academic, teaching and obtaining a doctorate in Education (focusing on Human Development and Psychology) at an Ivy League/R1 university in the United States. I spent a chunk of my thirties transitioning to being a public policy wonk, spouse, and parent. I’ve worn other identities along the way, including woman, professional, immigrant, concerned citizen, polyglot, traveler, mentor, and friend. This blog is about how I manage “wearing” these different identities without getting too hot or too cold in the process! You can reach me at or @pracpassionista and @tishbr on Twitter.

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