Coaching for Confidence

Jill is a highly-skilled, valued professional. As a college student, she had co-founded an advocacy group on campus, which, as a testament to her success, continued to operate after she graduated. She went on to work at the start-up non-profit organization that empowers low-income college students with the skills and resources they need in order to improve their former public schools. Yet like so many otherwise confident, successful professionals, Jill found herself unaccountably applying the brakes when it was time for a career change.

“How do you move forward when you’re still deciding what to do? How do you create opportunities for yourself when you don’t know which ones you’re ready to pursue?” Jill said of her first, awkward efforts to seek a new career path.

“I felt so clumsy. I needed someone with an analytical skill-set to apply structure to this process.”

Jill began coaching with Valerie and discovered a lack of confidence she didn’t know existed. Those brakes were self-doubts — what Valerie calls saboteur voices — the self-critical questions that only serve as excuses not to take risks.

She was loyal to her organization, passionate about her work, and highly regarded by her colleagues. Yet despite, or because of this, Jill found it extremely difficult to disentangle herself. She had given so much of herself over many years that she had trouble calibrating her skills in a professional setting. Coaching gave her a structure to do so and revealed that her much-admired strengths — loyalty, the ability to support and empower people — came with a price.

“Skills like loyalty and humility, the backside to those result in having trouble initiating a change, devaluing your skills. I had trouble knowing if mine would be valuable elsewhere,” Jill said.

Taking the plunge ultimately came down to confidence. Through six months of coaching sessions over the phone, Valerie and Jill established and refined a framework. They began with an analysis of Jill’s strengths, weaknesses, and core values that motivate her. Then they focused on those strengths to select only opportunities that aligned with her values. Valerie said it was a vital step to take before Jill even approaches her resume.

“You really need to know this before you do your resume,” Jill said. “If you were responsible for different major functional areas of the organization, and enjoyed some workstreams more than others, you really have to think about what you accentuate in your materials. Reflection is an important first step.”

Valerie also held her accountable, which Jill believes set her coaching apart from past coaching experiences.

“In past work with other coaches, I had been able to fudge my homework, especially when it involved introspective activities that were loosely defined” Jill admits. “But with Valerie I was always on top of things. She gave me great tools and I know when I commit, and have a process to follow, I’m able to discover what I need to do.”

The process was put to the test when several opportunities emerged. Jill said without that groundwork in place, she wouldn’t have pursued them to the same extent, if at all.

“As I started putting out into the world that I was looking for a move, a few opportunities checked out for me. But I was skittish. How do you run headlong into an opportunity you don’t know you want to take? How do you not look cagey, or put people off, while you work it out?”

“With Valerie’s rare combination of high emotional intelligence, strong analytical skills and organizational knowledge, I was able to push forward even though I had questions. Valerie helped me use a formal interview process to seek answers to those questions rather than letting them turn into doubts that would hold me back… I was even able to negotiate salary, which I’d never done before.”

Jill is now looking forward to taking these new skills into her new role at a large national education non-profit. She credits Valerie for helping her turn a difficult life decision into a streamlined process

“It feels so good to be on the other side of that search,” Jill said.

Through coaching, she also discovered that confidence is an acquired skill — and it can be trained.

“It’s eye-opening, how our deeply-held beliefs get in the way of us being the people we can be.”

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