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Thoughts around a generation's journey to adulting...

Career Coaching for Young Adults

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Sometimes young people have a REALLY hard time figuring out what they want to do for a living. 

This “what to do with my life?” dilemma is not necessarily associated with deep-seated adulting challenges, neuroses, or negative behaviors. Often these are well-adjusted young people, raised with a good work ethic and role models, who just struggle with making decisions or taking actions in this regard.

A common element, of course, that they don’t have a burning passion for a line of work that points them naturally in any direction with energy or ambition. It’s not that they lack ambition or a willingness to work, they just don’t know where to point it or why.  And there are so many options to consider, choices to make, and “helpful” voices to process. They face a dizzying kaleidoscope of career possibilities. And they feel well-equipped for none of them.  

Deep inside they may actually feel unready for skilled or professional grown-up responsibilities. They may be quietly embarrassed by just how little practical experience or competence they have. They dread that a job interview or networking conversation might lay bare how nakedly ill-equipped they are (or think they are) for the adult working world. So it’s scary.  

A complicating factor is how this generation sees employment / career decisions as perhaps binding declarations of one’s identity.  And they place great emphasis on how other people will comment on those decisions. They also struggle with risk-taking, and the prospect of failure. Of course, employment-related decisions include risk-taking, as things sometimes don’t work out — but when those decisions are burdened as statements of identity or fodder for gossip, the risk calculation changes completely.  

Finally, some young people struggle to orient on what level of job they should have at the outset. They are often only qualified for entry level roles, but they fear that lower-level work may be socially embarrassing today and/or look bad on a resume tomorrow. This generation largely seems to have missed the “start at the bottom and work your way up” class.  

In addition, I find that young adults sometimes stand way too close to the job-finding exercise, grinding with uncertainty, anxiety, and family expectations. It helps for them to pull back from the dizzying possibilities a bit and put in place the foundations of what they are trying to accomplish.  

I counsel clients to think through WHO THEY ARE, WHAT THEY WANT, WHY THEY WANT IT, and WHY THEY ARE WORTHY OF IT. When young people can articulate these things without fear or apology, they begin to appreciate that they a) don’t suck, b) have something to offer, and c) can state their intentions with confidence.   

In my coaching model, the client does these things in sequence over a period of a few weeks…  

1) Assemble a fairly rigorous self-assessment of strengths, weaknesses, passions, dislikes and growth objectives. First we do the exercise to capture who they are today – and then we do another one that presents who they want to be at age 30.  We place big emphasis on the client’s strengths and capabilities but we also practice talking about weaknesses or gaps without embarrassment.  

2) Map what they will seek in an employer and a job.  Things like culture, job security, satisfaction, working conditions, and opportunities for learning / growth.  And how much they need to earn in order to support themselves.  (An input into the earnings requirement is the client doing a thoughtfully complete personal budget, which is often an eye-opener.)   

3) Scan a diversity of industries or lines of work to identify some that may be interesting.  Walking through the NAICS codes is a great way to spark thinking.  Another good way is to draft a list of people the client knows and what they do for a living.  The intent is to appreciate the huge landscape of employment possibilities — and then pick five or six that are potentially exciting.  

4) Discuss how entry-level roles help new employees gain knowledge and capability that position them for additional responsibilities over time.  We then brainstorm what entry-level positions might exist in each of the potentially interesting industries or lines of work identified above.  

With these foundations in place, young adults are able to engage in the job hunt with preparedness and confidence. 

Also, when young adults are entering the working world, they of course have little foundational experience to draw on.  So coaching can improve their effectiveness significantly.  I structure and attend to job-hunting topics as follows: 

Every line of work requires these…  

Presenting Your Best Self.  We develop and then practice how to tell their story with compelling positive energy.  Who they are, what they want, what they are capable of.  We rehearse it in detail so the words will flow comfortably and credibly when the time comes.  

Networking.  Networking is such an important part of the information-gathering and job-hunting work, but it is counter-intuitive and flat out scary for many young adults. We spend time appreciating, and then practicing, the power of intentional, entrepreneurial networking.  

Interviewing.  We dive deeply into understanding the interview processes, what to expect and interviewing strategies.  Then we do practice interviews to help the client be relaxed and ready to do great.   

Some professions require these…  

The Resume.  The purposeful, granular development of resume content helps the client to groom how they position themselves, anticipate what employers are looking for, and plant seeds for winning interviews.   

LinkedIn.  It’s the marketplace and meeting place for professionals, so it’s got to be right.  

On-Line Job Sites.  LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, etc.  The client gains fluency in how to navigate and maximize effectiveness on these platforms.  We narrow quickly to working with one or two that best fit the kind of positions we are seeking.    

With these foundations in place, a young person is ready to seek out and target opportunities that fit their personal objectives – and position themselves effectively.  The table is set for good things to happen!   

Anyone who would like to connect with me or explore these topics more is invited to visit my website at www.otoolecoaching.com

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Martin O'Toole

Marty is a great listener who asks a lot of curious questions. When he asks about your day or how you are doing, he really wants to know. And he comes equipped with a supply of anecdotes and stories that keep the time together interesting.

He is practical and results-oriented. He believes in showing up every day to do the work and learning by experience. He preaches action orientation, resilience, entrepreneurship, and the importance of good decision-making.