Why I Can’t Call Myself a Career Coach

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Laura Simms

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For many business owners, what we do doesn’t fit into a tidy box. That’s one of the appeals of entrepreneurship: you get to make up your job and create a role that a corporation would split up and assign to several individuals. The freedom and innovation that doing your own thing provides is wonderful. But what to call yourself? It’s hard to name a thing that isn’t routinely done.

Starting Out

When I first started out I called myself a coach. I had done a coaching training program…or at least, I had started it. I took the courses on how to actually work with clients but when it came to the business building portion of the program, I wanted to learn those skills elsewhere. So even though I was trained to do the work of a coach, I never completed a certification program. Coaching school drop out, am I.

And you know what? That part has been fine. Only one potential client has asked if I’m certified. I trained for the skill and not the piece of paper, anyway.

Not the Whole Story

But even early on, “coaching” didn’t feel like it was telling the whole story of how I worked with people, and the more I developed the Your Career Homecoming program and responded to what people needed, the more I knew that I had definitely left the land of “coaching” in it’s purest form.

My commitment to my clients has always been to (ethically) do what works in order for them to get the result we set out to get. Even that doesn’t sound very coachy; goal-oriented work is what I find most satisfying. I like knowing that we have Done The Thing.

And while I am working with people specifically to achieve a career outcome, we don’t look at “career” in a vacuum. We want a career that works for the full person, and people have families and goals and priorities that inform what they’re able and willing to do in their career. So while I don’t think of myself as a life coach, the fact that we take a holistic view means that it’s not just about career in the traditional sense, either.

What I Really Do

I use a combination of modalities with clients depending on what will serve them best based on who they are and where they are in the career choice/career change process.

I coach.

This looks like me asking the right questions so a client can find their own truthful answer. This part is critical, because I don’t want to go around guessing what people want from their lives. It’s about them getting clear on their vision, values, and needs.

I consult.

Because sometimes people do just need to be told how to do something, how to avoid a pitfall, or what to say in a difficult situation without going through round after round of thoughtful questions.

I teach.

I’ve found that a huge barrier to people finding meaningful work is that they are miseducated about what meaningful work actually is and how to find it. I have experience teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level and really nerd out on creating a curriculum and culture that supports reaching specific outcomes.

I champion.

To me that means being willing to both encourage clients (warm and fuzzy) and challenge them (not always comfortable) to face the truth of their circumstances AND their own power to change them. It means to fight for them when they don’t feel worthy or capable of the fight, and stand firm in the vision for what’s possible for them.

I share my experience.

I’ve been through my own career crisis, walked away from a career I once loved, started a business, supported my husband in quitting his tenure track academic job, have moved across the country for my career multiple times, have gone to graduate school, been fired from a dream job, quit a job after the first day, started a family while running a business, taken part-time and full-time work in the early days of my biz, and am now the primary breadwinner.

All that to say: I’ve seen some sh*t when it comes to careers. If there’s something from my personal experience that can help a client, I want them to have it.

What To Call Me

And so if Google or the government asks me to describe what I do, I’ll say “career coach” because it’s close enough for their purposes.

But I really see my role is as a mentor. That’s exactly the kind of support I wish I’d had when I didn’t know what to do and was feeling pretty hopeless about my career.

So, what should you call me? Call me Laura Simms, founder of Your Career Homecoming. Because it’s really the only title that fits.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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