For most people, it’s natural to reach out to people close to us when we’re struggling at work. We seek out opinions and ideas from our friends or partners. Today we’ll look at why that’s not the best option for getting the career help you need.

Friends and family members are important resources in your career. They can offer support and encouragement. They can cheer for you and celebrate with you. They can help you make connections and find opportunities. However, when you’re feeling stuck or uncertain about your next move, these close contacts may not be the best place to turn. Today we’re going to look at a few reasons for that, and what you can do instead to get unstuck and moving ahead in your career.

They See You Through Their Own Lens

Most people show up a little differently at work than they do at home. It’s not that they’re inauthentic.  It’s those different roles draw on different parts of our personalities. Someone who is chatty with friends may be more subdued if they work in a more formal business place. Someone who is directive with a spouse or children, may be more indirect with colleagues. This is one reason it may be difficult for a partner to provide good advice about a work situation. They will see you through the lens of their relationship with you. They know who you are at home. They don’t know who you are at work. That view may bias their advice, which may not fit for you at work.

Limited Experience to Draw On

Chances are that your friends and family members have had a relatively limited range of experience in the workplace. They’ll have their own work history and stories from friends, covering maybe a hand full of organizations. For most people, that’s the extent of their exposure to career strategies and team dynamics. That’s very different from the experience base of a qualified coach. An expert executive coach will have worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of managers from different organizations, helping them through situations similar to the ones you’re facing.  Some will have also worked inside organizations before becoming coaches. In my case, that included decades of consulting to companies and coaching teams. All of that experience creates a breadth of understanding and a depth of wisdom that most people simply don’t have.

They Have a Stake In It

No matter how much a friend or family member wants to be unbiased, they usually have a stake in the choices you make. The decisions you make about your career are likely to have an impact on them.

Let’s say you’re in a role that isn’t working well for you. You have a boss that you feel isn’t supporting you. You’re wondering if it’s time to move on. You talk to your spouse about it — but your spouse is afraid of what changing roles might mean for the family. Will you have to move? They might advise you not to do it, not because it’s the best thing for your career, but because they want to avoid disruption in the family. Their advice about your career gets tangled up with their own wishes. A spouse who’s afraid of change may only see the risks of a move, and not recognize the level of stress you’re experiencing, and the cost of that to the family.

A coach will help you separate these questions out: what’s best for your career and what’s best for your family? They’re both important – and they’re inter-related – but they are separate.  A coach will help you work through them, holding up a mirror for you to get clear about what you want in your career, and how to make that happen in a way that also works for your family.

They’re More Likely to Advise than Ask

When you go to friends, family members, or mentors for support, they are likely to give advice based on their world view, rather than asking you questions to guide your own exploration. A good coach will help you explore and test ideas, rather than giving advice or telling you what to do from their own point of view.

An expert coach will help you dig into the situation to understand what’s going on, and what you can do to shift it.  They’ll stay by your side while you experiment with different approaches, helping you reflect on your experience to understand what’s working, and what’s holding you back.  They’ll support you to make your own choices and decisions.

That process is much more valuable than what most people get from family and friends. Coaching isn’t about getting a bunch of opinions or advice.  It’s about going through a decision-making process, where you’re exploring and growing along the way. With that approach, when it’s time to make a leap to the next thing, you’ll have a whole new set of skills you’ve built to help you get there.

If this intrigues you, and you’d like to know more about how working with a coach might help you in your career, let’s talk.  Schedule a call with my team today.  You’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes and look at what’s working in your career and what’s not. If I can help you move forward in that, you’ll talk about what that would look like. If I’m not the right person to do that, we’ll point you to other resources. We look forward to talking with you soon.

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