Amateur Professional Career Coach

People come to me for career advice. It's been everybody -- colleagues, former colleagues, testers from the community, friends I know outside of software, younger family members -- everybody. I am not completely sure why. I have a job I enjoy, but I'm not a professional coach. I seem to be an amateur coach of professionals.

I do have (and am happy to share) strong opinions about what people should do when they describe particular situations they're in. I can immediately tell them what I would do. But figuring out what they should do is much more useful. So in response to tough questions, I ask them tough questions back.

Why is this so hard?

People come to me with tricky situations with their current roles. For some, venting is enough. But I might ask someone who seems exhausted, sick of it, checked-out, or seems stuck for too long:

  • How much longer could you let things stay the way they are? Another six weeks? Another six months?
  • It sounds like you're having {X} trouble with {Y} person. Have you told them this directly?
  • I don't have the skills to mentor you in {Z}. Do you know someone who does? Or where could you find someone like that?
  • Would aligning expectations help?
  • Is saying "no" an option here? (I've been called the "No Coach" for this.)

What should I do next?

I don't know what you should do next, or even if you should change what you're doing now! But here's what I will ask you about so you can decide:

  • What do you like about what you do now?
  • What parts of your current job do you want to stay the same?
  • What do you avoid or dread? What keeps you in bed in the morning?
  • What do people come to you for help with?
  • What is there no hope of changing in your current situation?

I know Esther Derby gave a webinar in March of 2021 describing the tipping point between whether you can reconcile your needs and values with your employer, or whether you should leave. But unforunately both the webinar and her name for this zone is lost to me.

What do you think of my CV?

I've written both for the Minsitry of Testing and on my own blog about resumes and how they relate to the interview. TL;DR: Tell me about the impact of what you've done, and give me some indication of how fluent vs. on the shelf the skill is for you. Other things I end up asking people:

  • I know you {did this other thing} or {have this other skill} too. Don't you want to brag about that?
  • It sounds like your skills would be a great match for {this kind of job}. Is that the kind of role you're applying for?
  • If a recruiter were trying to find someone like you on LinkedIn, what keywords would they search for?

Some of the feedback I've received after recent resume reviews:

  • "Thanks again for your feedback on my CV, it was INCREDIBLY useful and very gentle at that."
  • "You are a great feedback provider."
  • "Elizabeth was so good in helping me with my resume!!"

I'm curious who you've gone to for career advice. Were they in your industry? What made you seek them over other people for advice or wisdom? What question or piece of advice has changed the way you look at your current job or for a new one?