“An effective coaching environment is safe enough for clients to take the risks they need to take and two, it is a courageous place where clients are able to approach their lives and the choices they make with motivation, curiosity and creativity.” Co-Active Coaching, by Henry Kimsey-House. This quote perfectly expresses the reasons why I passionately believe in the power of virtual one-on-one coaching and why I wouldn’t want to do anything else with my career. Partnering with people in job transition and providing an environment that allows for some of the most transformative decisions of their lives is an honor and privilege.
In my world of virtual career coaching, it’s clear how the virtual elements of coaching mitigate many of the common dissatisfactions people feel when working with an outplacement provider. As Kimsey-House states, the coaching environment must create, first and foremost, a safe space. For most of us, a group setting does not provide the safety or security that phone and virtual meetings provide, namely: anonymity, comfortability, and convenience.
But don’t just take my word for it– in a survey of over 7,000 job seekers who had been laid off in the past year, the overwhelming majority (76 to 1) prefer virtual outplacement services, compared to in person outplacement services. Outplacement services, in this survey, includes career coaching. The survey also showed that virtual service delivery is actually more effective in helping job seekers land a new job. In fact, 77 percent of full time, salaried employees landed a job with virtual coaching, compared to the 65 percent who landed a job with in-person coaching.
The virtual relationship, especially as it relates to career coaching, provides advantages to job seekers and employers. Here are five reasons to consider hiring and working with a virtual career coach, and how it might be the next best thing you can do for your employees’ career development:
#1: Home court advantage
Among its many advantages, virtual coaching mirrors the way a lot of people work. 43% of employed Americans spend at least some time working remotely, according to the New York Times. These people are interacting with their co-workers, managers, and business partners in virtual meetings on telephones and through meeting applications. In 2015, connecting virtually had become the norm for over 4 million workers, and the number has grown in the last few years.
For a multitude of reasons, more people are choosing remote work options when they’re offered by their employers. Not insignificantly, people tend to feel more comfortable in their own space, which often leads to better productivity and work-life balance.
In the case of career coaching, home court advantage allows clients to express themselves honestly and freely. How would a client have the opportunity to explore career change in a group setting? Recently, I spent almost 6 weeks helping a client identify the traits and skills she wanted to use in her next job. We could not have had the deep, soul searching conversations we had to have with even two other people in the room. Using that information, we brainstormed the jobs and industries worth researching.
Before our sessions, my client wasn’t ready to have her resume rewritten or to start looking at job leads; she wasn’t ready to hear about interviewing best practices or how to network. Only one-on-one coaching in the safe environment afforded by the comfort of your own home provides the atmosphere necessary to make these kinds of life changes.
Virtual coaching creates an environment that allows the client to focus on what truly matters during a career coaching conversation instead of worrying about appearances or arriving at a set destination on time. Especially during the winter months, virtual coaching breaks down many of the barriers that keep people from moving forward with their job search efforts including sickness and weather. People can still join a call even with a bad cold or during a snow storm. Virtual coaching puts coaching back into the realm of possibility, even when other types of coaching would have to be put on hold.
#2: Anonymity creates a safe space
Anonymity has long been used as a tool to allow people to show their honest and authentic self. In some religious settings, the confessional or other situational constructs allow individuals to say the things they would never say in any other setting. The same principal applies to the effectiveness of virtual career coaching. The ability to be vulnerable and honest with a complete stranger from the comfort of your own home increases the likelihood you’ll share everything that’s on your mind.
Surprisingly, career coaching can surface very sensitive topics in some situations, from financial instability to anxiousness about career uncertainty and everything in between. I’ve had some clients tell me information they don’t even want to tell their spouses, usually because they don’t want to burden or worry them. Virtual career coaching creates a safe space to strategize and take on some of life’s biggest challenges.
Virtual coaching allows people to grieve. I had a woman cry several times during the first few phone calls, and she was embarrassed by it. She may never have engaged at that level with a face-to-face coach, and certainly not in a group setting. She was not ready to look for a job and was terrified I was going to push her to do things she was not ready to do. I asked her to make me only one promise: to stay engaged with me and not drop out. In return, I promised to go at her pace. Because I was able to meet her where she was, and not push her into a prescribed and pre-planned timeline, she was able to process her loss and engage in job search activities with hope and anticipation much quicker than either of us expected.
#3: Better listening to get to the heart of issues
The gift of being truly listened to is rare and gets to the heart of issues, because people open up when they know they have a willing ear. When I hear energy, passion, discouragement, hesitation, and frustration in their voice, that leads to the most impactful conversations. I’ve learned to sense these things in my clients’ tone of voice and I’ve fine-tuned my listening skills to pick up on the nuances of the meaning of what people are saying.
In a phone conversation, I’ll be focused on the client’s words without the distractions of facial expressions, appearance, or backgrounds. By actively listening, I may be able to identify patterns in a client’s speech – using words such as “I think” and “I may” instead of saying things like, “I can” and “I will”.
Many recruiters and hiring managers use phone interviews as their first contact with a job candidate. This practice is not used by accident, or simply due to convenience. There are psychological studies and research that support why phone interviews are a good way to get to know a candidate, even before you meet face-to-face. Some of that research talks about the types of information people are willing to share when they are comfortable. Part of my job is to make sure clients share freely with me, but learn how to tailor their messages to interviewers.
#4: Customized guidance for career transitions
At RiseSmart, career coaches are carefully matched with program participants based on compatibility criteria. Engaging with a specialized coach facilitates the job seeker’s success in overcoming career hurdles and helps to smooth the transition and accelerate the time to land a new job.
I offer “Just in Time Training” (JIT) as part of my customized virtual coaching services. I’ve taken a first call with client who had an interview the next day, so we opted to skip the ordinary intake processes and prep for the interview instead. Other clients have already been interviewing and are expecting offers so they wanted help and guidance for negotiating in our first call.
Often times, in-person coaching sessions are offered in groups. In this case, a sequential agenda of job search topics is set and customization is minimal. People are most motivated and therefore retain information if comes right when they need it. If I am talking about salary negotiations when you have not even landed an interview, how much will you remember? The more customized, individualized, and timely the suggestion, the greater its impact.
#5: Challenges that bring change
If my clients are either uninformed or overconfident about how good their knowledge is in a job search skills, one-on-one coaching allows me the ability to expose it without embarrassing them in a group or a face-to-face coaching situation. For example, I frequently ask an on-the-spot behavioral based interview question to let a client critique their own performance about how well they answered. The dialogue that follows frequently helps identify areas for more practice with even the most confident and experienced clients. Virtual coaching allows me to check clients’ competencies and engage in skill building practice with feedback in a safe setting.
However, safe does not always mean comfortable. Depending on the client’s needs, I may use my coaching skills to motivate them to take action, or I may confront them and hold them accountable for not following through on behaviors that will lead them to job search success. Sometimes my job as a coach is to challenge what a client thinks they already know or make people uncomfortable enough to take the next step and then offer the support they need to move forward successfully. This blend of push and support can only be achieved once a relationship has been established and trust has been built. Virtual one on one coaching accelerates a trusting relationship where learning and transformation can take place.
When choosing career coaching options, it’s important to partner with a service provider that employs qualified coaches who have been trained to listen, who know the best practices to recommend, and who have the breadth of experience to effectively tailor the guidance based on the needs of the individual and their goals. While there are circumstances where support groups are beneficial to the job search process, these groups cannot offer the benefits of anonymity, comfort, convenience and challenge and support that one on one virtual coaching provides.
Sally Malchow is a RiseSmart Career Coach with over 15 years of corporate talent acquisition experience in a variety of industries and more than 10 years of experience designing and delivering soft and technical skill training in traditional classrooms, through webinars, and in online formats. She holds a master’s degree in Human Resource and Change Management and a BA Degree in Education.