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7 Ways You Can Be Your Own Career Coach

If you need motivation but aren't ready to hire a professional coach, take these steps to coach yourself.

7 Ways You Can Be Your Own Career Coach
[Photo: Flickr user Roco Julie]

At some point during your career, you may feel the need for a little extra motivation, insight, or accountability. For many, the solution is to hire a professional coach who can help you move in the direction you want. IBISWorld’s 2015 Business Coaching report estimates that the sector has grown to $11 billion annually in the U.S.

But what if you’re not ready—or willing—to add your cash to that pool? Is it possible to coach yourself?

Yes, says career coach Susan Bernstein, PhD, who is based near San Francisco. While it can be enormously helpful to have a dedicated professional focused on helping you achieve your goals, there are a number of principles you can apply yourself in order to reap the rewards. Here are seven actions you can incorporate.

1. Study The Gap

A good coach helps you take inventory of where you are versus where you want to be, says Bernstein. But chances are that you have a good idea of that yourself. Think about the areas of your life where you’re stuck or dissatisfied. What will it take to make you happy or fulfilled? What specific goals do you want to achieve? Think about where you want your life to change or improve, being as specific as possible, and think about the actions and behaviors that are going to need to happen to get there, she says.

2. Journal

When you don’t have a coach helping you track where you are and where you’re going, a journal can be an invaluable tool, Bernstein says. Not only will it give you a place to write down your goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them, but it will also help you track how far you’ve come. Detailing actions and feelings in a journal lets you analyze them later when you’ve had some time to get perspective and can be objective about your actions. A journal can also help you sort out complicated feelings and track the actions and behaviors that are working for you—and those that aren’t.

"Notice your thoughts and emotions around the things that you’re tracking and track metrics [how you’re measuring success]," she says.

3. Know Your Focus

Some people have a promotion focus and others have a prevention focus, and it’s important to know where you fall, says Harrison Monarth, CEO and founder of executive coaching firm GuruMaker Executive Development Inc. and author of 360 Degrees of Influence. A promotion focus means that you’re motivated by becoming better, while others are motivated by fear of losing something they have.

A good coach can help you identify your key motivators and use that insight to help you keep your resolve and remind you of the reasons why you wanted to take action in the first place. If you’re doing this solo, it’s important to monitor what makes you most want to take action so you can tap into that insight when you need it, he says.

"You are either motivated by gaining something or you are motivated by not losing something," he says. Thinking about past situations and what made you succeed can give you some valuable insights, he says.

4. Find Accountability

Having regular sessions with a coach is also a powerful motivator, Bernstein says. Knowing that you’re going to have to answer to someone about what you’ve done or not done since the last session can help you get off the mark. So if you’re not going to have a regular coaching session to keep you on track, it helps to set up another form of accountability. Choose a friend, colleague, or mentor who is willing to check in with you on a regular basis for a report on how you’re moving toward your goals or making improvements in your life, she says.

5.Get Good Feedback

In addition to accountability, you also need regular feedback, Monarth says. This may come in a variety of ways. Finding good advisers or mentors is one way to receive input that can help you grow, and find solutions when you encounter challenges. A skilled coach would guide you through a process to find the best solution for you, but a knowledgeable mentor can have similar benefit, he says.

Nick Kettles, a faculty member at The Coaches Training Institute, a coach training and certification organization, says you need to find people who are committed to your growth and not your ego. Feedback is intended to help you get better, not to feed the ego, he says. In addition, it may be useful to explore some of the many psychometric tests available, which can deliver insight into your own personality type and traits.

6. Engage In Self-Inquiry

In a coaching relationship, you would be encouraged to think about why you make the choices you make each day, and why you take certain actions. Without that support structure, it’s important to be introspective on your own, he says. As you review your journal entries and take additional actions during the course of your day, think about the motivations behind each action, and whether the action is serving you, he says.

"It’s like going to the gym," he says. "You're developing the self-awareness that helps you to be more conscious and more deliberate in the way you assess situations and make decisions about what it is that you want to do."

7. Adjust Along The Way

As you become more mindful and deliberate about the actions you’re taking, you’ll also notice what’s not working. It’s okay to change your approach and focus more on what’s helping you, Bernstein says. A good coach would encourage you to do so, as well as to celebrate your successes to help keep you motivated, she says.

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