Although career coaches have long helped workers in a variety of industries set realistic goals and pave career paths, an increasing number of IT execs are recognizing the value of a career counselor.
"Within Silicon Valley, there's now a much greater awareness that just because you're smart about technology doesn't mean that you know all about human interaction, management development and leadership skills," said Michael Shur, an executive career coach and an assessment specialist at CareerPlanner.com, a career counseling firm in San Jose, Calif. "IT professionals, especially when they reach an executive level, require more career coaching."
[ For more tips on managing young IT workers, see 4 Rules For Managing Millenials In IT. ]
A career coach can run as high as $250 an hour. What's more, because the majority of career coaching's benefits are 'soft,' calculating a return on investment can be difficult. Yet there are certain rewards IT professionals can expect to reap from hiring a career coach. Here are five critical areas a good career coach should be able to address:
1. Mentorships. A career coach doesn't need to know Java script to counsel an IT professional. But if technical skills are at issue, a career coach should take the necessary steps to help you find the mentorship you need. "Career coaches generally don't have IT specialization," said Shur. "However, a career professional can encourage and work within an organization to establish a mentorship program to assist IT professionals from a managerial and technical perspective."
2. The future. Many IT professionals have a tendency to live in the moment. A good career coach can help broaden that vision by working with clients to create a five-year career plan. With the proper guidance, an unwelcome administrative task today might start to look like a much-needed skill set down the line. "A career coach can help IT professionals see themselves as part of an ecology of growth so that they become less resistant to saying, 'Why should I help out with customer service? I'm an IT guy,'" said Shur. After all, he adds, customer service experience might come handy when that IT professional reaches a management level.
3. Dual career needs. No matter how technical the job, many techies split their time between monitoring networks and satisfying employees. "IT professionals often have dual career tracks," said Shur. "One for technical specialization and one for management." A career coach can help bridge this gap by encouraging both certification courses and networking opportunities such as conferences and seminars.
4. Conflict resolution. Today's IT shops often are rife with multi-generational strife stemming from millennials' and baby boomers' disparate approaches to work, life, and interpersonal relations. The good news is "a career counselor can help with personality conflicts," said Shur. "A lot of it centers around helping the IT professional understand how they process information and how their preferred way of working may be radically different from how other generations like to work." Understanding these differences "can help individuals realize that it's nothing personal," said Shur.
5. C-level prep. You'll need more than a new briefcase to prepare for executive office. "Certain competencies need to be developed for the CIO's office as C-level executives are expected to be more team-oriented with an increasingly global and strategic vision," said Shur. The trick is finding a coach that best meets your position. "There are some coaches who are better for more junior members and then there are the more experienced executive coaches who specialize in advanced skills and sensitive transitions." said Shur. Find one that's right for you.
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