Several years ago when I was searching for my life passion, I kept bumping into two careers that intrigued me — counseling and life coaching.
Before I began my passion search, I’d never heard of life coaching. But once it landed in my field of awareness, I started reading about coaching everywhere, hearing coaches (like Martha Beck) on television, and seeing ads for life coaches in local magazines.
I even had a session with a career coach as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, although I didn’t know that’s what she was called at the time.
In speaking with my friends and family, I got a lot of encouragement to become a counselor or licensed clinical social worker. That certainly fit my personality type, and I’d talked for years about going back to school to get my graduate degree.
First, as an English major in college, I didn’t have enough psychology credits to begin a master’s program, which is required to become a counselor. And as a mom of three kids all living at home at the time, I knew it would take several years to complete the undergraduate and graduate work required just to begin a practice.
This was daunting but not altogether off-putting. Had counseling turned out to be my ultimate calling, I would have happily gone back to school and put in the time and work.
But the time and education factor did provide enough of a roadblock to push me to look around at other options. And that’s when I really began to explore coaching and how to become a life coach.
The coaching model
Many things intrigued me about coaching and the way coaches work.
First, I really liked the coaching model that emphasizes putting the client in charge of their progress, with the life coach serving as a challenger, accountability partner, and cheerleader.
Also, people who work with life coaches are generally proactive, emotionally healthy individuals who desire to do something better with their lives and take forward-moving actions. Coaching really isn’t the right helping profession for those going through emotional turmoil, grief, or mental illness. Or for those who don’t take action.
And because of my lifestyle with kids still at home, the coaching model allowed tons of flexibility, as most coaches work from home and generally offer coaching sessions by telephone.
Coaching satisfied my calling to help other people, and combined it with my natural abilities including active listening skills, empathy, discernment, intuitive insight, and good communication skills.
Once I landed on life coaching as a possible profession, I had to figure out how to become one. And believe me, there’s more information on the internet about coaching than one could digest in a lifetime. Coaching schools seem to be everywhere, and it’s hard to know the standards for what makes a reputable school.
Unlike counseling, coaching is not a licensed profession, which means anyone can say they’re a coach and start a practice. And anyone can start a coach training program without jumping through any professional or government hoops.
However, there is an accrediting association for coaching schools, The International Coach Federation (ICF), which holds their member schools to certain professional standards of excellence. The ICF is internally-recognized and attending an ICF accredited school adds a level of professional credibility to coaches. The ICF also has established a respected Code of Ethics for certified members who must pledge to uphold these ethical standards.
Although there are many great coaches who’ve never been to coaching school per se, for me getting professional education and certification in coaching from an accredited institution was extremely valuable and important.
If you are considering becoming a coach and want to investigate coach-specific training, I’d definitely begin with the ICF website which lists all of their accredited training schools around the world. And you can learn more about the various levels of credentialing and types of coaches (personal, executive, health and wellness, career, business, etc.).
I ultimately decided on Coach U, one of the oldest and most highly-regarded training programs. The training was extensive and invaluable, as I both learned the necessary and very specific skills of coaching, but also was given the tools and information I needed to begin a coaching practice.
Should you become a life coach?
So how do you know if coaching is for you? Well, if you are intrigued by this post and the idea of coaching, that’s a great place to start. You likely have some natural aptitudes that draw you toward coaching.
However, there are some very specific skills a coach must possess. Here’s a great list of 20 skills created by executive life coach Michele Caron:
Listening. There is more to listening than just hearing. Capturing the unsaid makes up the core of the listening skill.
Feedback. Be ready to give some constructive feedback without sounding partisan or critical.
Observing. Stay alert to the underlying factors so you can act on them.
Analyzing. As a Life Coach you will come across several information which you will have to analyze and draw conclusions from.
Communication. Be comfortable with communicating yourself, whatever be the medium.
Timing. Be aware of when your client needs to move to the next stage. You should also know when to ask what type of questions.
Assimilation. Be prepared by integrating all your information.
Organizing. If you are not organized, you are bound to get confused. Keep your entire information and work load in an orderly fashion.
Empathy. Be kind and compassionate to your client’s needs and problems.
Ethics. Maintain your client’s information in confidentiality.
Complimenting. Feel free to compliment your clients whenever necessary. It makes them happy.
Motivating. Encourage your clients and make them feel happy about what they are doing.
Empowering. Empower your clients to move ahead and succeed.
Intuition. Having a good read on your “gut feelings” and being able to communicate them.
Energetic. You have to be energetic because you need high levels of vigor to be able to motivate.
Positivism. You as a life coach should be positive in your approach, attitude, tone and even writing. It is your positive outlook that spreads to your clients.
Creative. You have to come up with a number of new ideas to help your clients. Idea formation plays a major role in the career of a life coach.
Interested. You are sincerely interested in your clients and their success.
Self-Assured. You should be confident enough in yourself to be able to make the coaching conversation “all about the client.” It’s not about you!
Thirst for knowledge. There are new things happening every minute and you, as a life coach, have to be familiar with the changes around you. Update yourself with research and get familiar with new areas that you may encounter. This is so you can help your client with what he/she prefers to work on.
(List courtesy of Michele Caron.)
If you are interested in the profession of life coaching, please check out this free series of interviews called I Kinda Wanna Be a Coach with the world’s leading coaches and experts on coaching running this week, hosted by Entheos and Jacob Sokol of Sensophy. I was one of the coaches interviewed, and my interview runs today, Wednesday, November 20, at 10:00 p.m. EST. Click the link below: