What does it feel like to work as a Career Coach? I feel honoured to interview Jennifer Faherty who is a Career Advisor from the USA. Let’s find out what her experiences as a Career Advisor have been so far. Jennifer Faherty established her own private coaching practice in 2013 (www.JenniferFaherty.com) and is committed to helping mid-level professionals find greater satisfaction at work, and/or make a successful transition to a new career.
She gained over 20 years of experience as a Coach, Advisor, Director and Educator and is an expert when it comes to growth, learning, development and the change process. She is an active member of the International Coach Federation, has a Masters Degree in Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College and holds a Coaching Certification from the Martha Beck Institute. She has held several leadership positions, including Director of Marketing for a wealth management firm and as a Director of Diversity for a top-tier private school in New York City.
Jennifer Faherty is also a Certified Financial Planner CFP® and her background in the personal financial industry helps her clients also to understand the potential impact that changing careers can have on their financial situation. She helps them to navigate through their decision-making process in a more strategic and practical way.
Jennifer Faherty: Interview with a Career Advisor
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What is your reply when people ask you “What’s your job?”
Jennifer Faherty: I’m a Career Coach and Certified Financial Planner. I specialize in transitions and help clients figure out not only the best career path to follow – based on their interests, experience and passions – but also how to resolve any money issues that may be preventing them from changing direction.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the most positive aspects of your profession?
Jennifer Faherty: Usually clients reach some kind of “aha” moment for themselves, where they can move forward in their decision to leave a job or stay. That provides them with an enormous amount of relief because they are then able to move forward and commit to a certain path with renewed energy. I love being part of that process and seeing clients enjoy their work again. For me, that’s extremely rewarding.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: If there would be something you could change about your own job, what would it be?
Jennifer Faherty: It’s very specialized and does not fit in a particular box, so I do have to educate people on what it is that I exactly do. I’ve been able to find a niche combining my work as a coach as well as a CFP® but it does require some explanation on my part when first meeting people.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You gained 20 years of experience in the financial/coaching/career sector. What are the five most important lessons you learnt in your career so far?
Jennifer Faherty: There are so many! I think the most important lessons are:
1) Change is possible, but also difficult. I firmly believe that any person can change. But for real change to occur and be lasting, it requires consistent, sustained effort. Often, clients go into the process with lots of enthusiasm and then have problems maintaining that same level of enthusiasm over time, especially when results aren’t immediate or there are setbacks. That’s why you often need outside support.
2) Your mindset is everything. The most successful people I know – and by successful, I mean not only people who enjoy a certain amount of financial success, but that they also love what they do – have an intentional, positive mindset. That does not mean that they are happy or Polly Anna all the time; it means they are aware that their thoughts drive certain behaviors. They do not dwell in self-doubt or negative thinking and are able to bounce back. The ability to quickly recognize and change one’s thoughts is key.
3) Always keep learning. Stay in a growth mindset and always be learning something new. By keeping your skills up to date, you’re more marketable if you want or need to change careers, and it keeps you interesting and engaged as a professional.
4) Know where you want to go. Be very clear on what the end goals are, both in terms of your career and your financial plan. So many of my clients are unsure of what they want. They find themselves in careers or circumstances that they didn’t necessarily plan for, and wonder how they got there. Clarity of purpose and having a vision of the career or life you want to have is essential.
5) Start good financial habits early. Perhaps not the most exciting tip, but one that’s so important. The sooner you can master good, basic financial habits – save more than you spend, reduce debt, diversify your investments, etc. – the better. You’ll be in a stronger financial position later on, and have more wiggle-room to be able to risks and make career or other lifestyle changes when necessary.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: I fully agree with your last suggestion. I’m a strong believer that schools should not just teach ‘math’ but include more practical money management lessons in their curriculum too. I remember when I was holding a speech on Soft Skills to Sixth Grade girls in my daughter’s school two years ago. Apart from a list of different soft skills that I suggested to speak about, I also included “money management” which is actually more of a “hard skill”. I was surprised to see that money management was actually the topic that these girls were most interested in, so I decided to include that in my speech too. I was very pleased to see that these students already realized the importance of money management in their lives. Definitely a highly relevant life skill that every school should embrace at an early stage, in case one doesn’t learn it from their parents. Now, let’s change topic. In your opinion, what are the qualities that make a great Career Strategist?
Jennifer Faherty: The ability to listen and pick up on the underlying meaning of what a client says. And from there, being able to ask the right questions to direct them to a place where they can then take inspired action.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Please describe the process you go through with your clients once they decide to approach you for your career coaching sessions.
Jennifer Faherty: Usually we have at least one complimentary session to make sure that we are a good fit. From there, I provide some pre-work questionnaires and assessments to identify goals and areas to focus on. Sessions are held bi-weekly with “assignments” in between, depending on what they are trying to achieve by the end of our time together. This is where it becomes highly customized based on the individual client; however, by the end of our three months, we create an action plan and specific strategies to help a client transition to another career or role in their current workplace. I also provide a bonus check in call six months later to help keep clients on track and accountable.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Sometimes people have this perception that they book one or two appointments with a Career Coach and then they will know what steps to take in order to improve their situation or make the perfect transition. Let’s say a client can’t wait for three months to see career changes happening. Every client and every case is obviously different but what would you suggest in that situation?
Jennifer Faherty: To be honest, I like to help people slow down the initial part of the process as much as possible and maximize the situation they are in before leaving. First, you don’t want to close any doors if possible. Secondly, I find that if people are too quick to leave before addressing the root of their dissatisfaction, those same issues tend to pop up again in their next position.
That being said, if a client cannot wait due to circumstances outside their control, such as immediate re-org, relocation, etc. I might advise them to find a temporary position – a “bridge” job if you will – to provide them with some financial relief as well as some time. That way, they can have a chance to re-evaluate and figure out what they’d like to do next without the pressure.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the main benefits that your clients gain when they get coached by you?
Jennifer Faherty: Clarity. The bulk of our work together is on figuring out what’s not working in your career and what would be the best “next” step. Sometimes that means changing things in your current job first, and not necessarily leaving it. Other times, it means making a complete 180* transition to another path entirely. It also helps to have financial clarity, because often clients are fearful of making a switch due to their financial circumstances. We can sort through all of that together, so that they can come up with the best solution for themselves.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You offer an initial free 15-minutes- consultation to your clients. How much do you charge for your services afterwards and what can they expect?
Jennifer Faherty: $1,487 for three months, which includes six bi-weekly coaching sessions plus email support. Financial planning is a separate fee.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What percentage of people take also advantage of your financial planning expertise and how much would that additionally cost? Can you give an example please?
Jennifer Faherty: Money issues almost always come up, but it’s not always a financial planning question per se. Often, it’s really a fear or the perception of having a lower paying job or job with fluctuating income or some other money block, that’s more an obstacle than their actual financial circumstances. However, right now, I work with another planner. So, if a client does not already have a financial plan or solid cash flow in place, I’ll recommend that we do one through a separate contract.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Let’s say someone really wants to hire you as their coach but is struggling financially, do you offer alternative payment options?
Jennifer Faherty: I do not offer a payment plan for career coaching; however, if someone is really struggling financially and it’s not a good fit to work with me at the time because of it, I would recommend career resources such as books, web sites, etc. that they could use and research on their own. In the past, I’ve also recommended financial counselors to clients who had significant debt (excluding mortgage) and needed assistance with debt consolidation.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the three reasons why a client should approach you as their Career Coach and not someone else?
Jennifer Faherty: Because I spend so much time on clarity and thought work, clients have a much deeper sense of what it is that they want (and don’t want) out of their careers as well as next steps. I find that many career coaches jump quickly to “action steps,” i.e., what jobs to apply for, how to interview, how to improve your LinkedIn profile, etc., whereas I focus my coaching on the client’s thought processes. We spend a lot of time really understanding what’s stopping the client from taking action or keeping them from moving forward. My experience as a financial planner helps them understand the role that money may be playing in their career choices. Finally, I think I bring a sense of empathy because I have gone through my own career changes successfully and can easily relate to the process.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What was the most challenging client you ever had? What was the person’s career dilemma and how were you able to solve it? Any interesting and memorable episode you would like to share with my audience?
Jennifer Faherty: I had a client who came to me because she was recently laid off and really wanted to become an entrepreneur and open her own business as a designer. One of the issues she raised was that she was worried about money and that the loss of steady income from her corporate job would be a problem. So I worked on her financial plan after some initial coaching. From her financial plan, we realized that because she accumulated a substantial amount in savings, and because her husband had a pension through work and also was still employed, that she had a “cushion” of about three years from which she could launch a business and not necessarily have to make any income until year four.
I thought this was great news, because basically I gave her the financial “green light” to be able to start a business. Instead, she surprised me and panicked! A whole other set of fears emerged and after a much longer coaching process, she came to the realization that she did not want to actually launch her own business. It was a career “fantasy” she had, if you will, but that the reality of being a solo-preneur did not appeal to her at all. Through coaching, she realized that a better fit for her was to work at a small business where she had a leadership role, but was not necessarily in charge and where she had colleagues with whom she could brainstorm and collaborate.
This was a challenging engagement because my initial instinct was that the client had fears around risk, leadership and money that she just needed to work through; but further into the process, we realized that she had this “projected” idea of success but that her real preferences lay elsewhere. Although the process took longer and was not as clear cut as others have been, it was rewarding because it affirmed to me that coaching works AND that it’s important to address the money issues because sometimes clients use this as an excuse to stay stuck and not take action. If we did not do a money plan first, we may not have known this.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: That’s surely an interesting case. Thanks for sharing this episode. Another topic that I wanted to address is mental health issues. Major depression is considered as one of the most common mental disorders in the United States according to several well-researched studies, stating that 19 million Americans (10 % of the population) are affected by it in a given year. I do believe that not just Americans are affected by it but many other people from all around the world too. I guess that for many people the cause of their depression might be work/career-related issues. Let’s say a highly qualified and experienced professional approaches you with his/her career dilemma. After some time, you realise that the person’s dissatisfaction at work is based on a mental illness that recently started to develop. What do you recommend? Going to visit a psychologist/psychiatrist or would you take care of it yourself? Did you have similar cases like this?
Jennifer Faherty: I absolutely would recommend a psychologist or other appropriate help when I believe it’s a case that involves mental illness. That is not work that in my opinion a coach – who is not otherwise professionally trained in that area – should address. That is stated in my client contract and code of ethics.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What advice would you give to someone who would also like to become a Career Coach/Strategist. Any particular education path you can recommend and why?
Jennifer Faherty: My work as a career coach has actually made me realize that there is no right or wrong career path for anyone, and that the process is rarely linear. If one wants to be an Executive Coach, it may be a good idea to get certified through the International Coach Federation, because that’s the most recognized by corporations and traditional employers. But I actually think that there are many coach training programs that are as good and even better than the ones offered through ICF, so if you are not interested in Executive Coaching, I would recommend just finding one that suits your interests and learning style.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Now, let’s say someone is working in a completely different sector but is keen on becoming a Career Coach too. The person is working full time and has no other option than to embark on a flexible, elearning qualification. Is there any qualification you can recommend also in that case?
Jennifer Faherty: There are plenty of elearning options where people can obtain a coaching credential, so it’s a great option for people who are working full time and cannot attend in-person courses. I believe that ICF offers some programs online, as does the Martha Beck Institute and others. There are also supplemental assessment programs that would also make one appealing as a career coach, such as being certified in Myers-Briggs, Strengthsfinder, ISEI, 360 Feedback, etc.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How much on average can a Career Coach/Strategist earn in the USA?
Jennifer Faherty: Coaches can make anywhere from $20,000 to multiple six-figures annually for the most sought after, high-end coaches. But on average, I believe it’s safe to assume anywhere from $60,000-$120,000.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: We all know that marketing is a crucial part in running a successful business. What has been your most effective way of promoting your coaching practice so far?
Jennifer Faherty: It’s been a lot of trial and error! The typical things worked, like blogging, speaking at events, writing articles, etc. but I think the most effective way was to network – and by that I mean, connecting with people consistently and sincerely. I’m not necessarily one to speak to every person in the room; I tend to find one or two people that I naturally connect with and then try to stay in touch.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Social Media has become highly important for many businesses nowadays but also for jobseeking professionals. To what extent did social media have an impact on your job as a Career Coach? Did it make things easier, more difficult, better, worse, more complicated, more effective? Would you consider it as a curse or a blessing? Please share your thoughts.
Jennifer Faherty: This is actually similar advice to what I would give a client – while social media is important to some extent, after a minimal baseline level, what you do with it, is really subjective based on your particular preferences and style. So, at the baseline level, for example, it’s important to have a LinkedIn Profile and stay professional on publicly accessed social media such as Facebook and Instagram. But beyond that, I only recommend a social media job-seeking strategy if that’s something that’s interesting to my client. Social media is simply another tool that’s used, but the strategy begins with the client and what they’d like to accomplish with it.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: We are living in a highly-competitive and technically advanced world. Reading the news, we realise that more and more jobs are being lost due to artificial intelligence. Do you think that in the future a human Career Coach could ever be replaced by a machine in sorting out a person’s career dilemma?
Jennifer Faherty: That’s an interesting question! In the financial planning industry, robo-advisors where coming on the scene a few years ago and there was a lot of talk about how they would replace advisors. While they’ve definitely played a role, what’s being proven is that clients still prefer talking to a human, even though some tasks, such as portfolio rebalancing, are not driven by technology. I cannot foresee artificial intelligence ever replacing completely the job of a Coach and the nuances in perception that he or she has to have to be successful, but you never know!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Do you think schools and colleges should do a better job in helping students to find their right career path?
Jennifer Faherty: I actually think many schools and colleges do a pretty good job of highlighting different career paths, both traditional ones – such as medicine, banking/investments, media, etc. – as well as more recently highlighting entrepreneurial and start-up ventures. For example, my alma mater, Dartmouth College, created a program called DEN – the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network – for the entire community to take advantage of advice to mentoring to continuing education, etc. Students have a wealth of information from panels, workshops, informational sessions, etc. to explore the various career options available.
That being said, I think that there’s still an opportunity for educators as well as parents to guide students in the decision-making process, that is, how do you know what’s the best fit for you based on your interests, natural skills, goals, etc. as well as how do you know when to continue down a certain path vs. when it’s time to change direction. We need to do a better job of teaching those skills, which are more nuanced yet equally if not more important.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Let’s say you would have to hire another coach for your own coaching practice due to an increased number of clients. What 5 questions would you ask a potential career coach in a job interview to determine whether the person is a good fit for you or not?
Jennifer Faherty: I would ask the following five questions:
- Who is your ideal client?
- Why are you a career coach?
- Give me an example of the process you took to get a client from point A to point B.
- What is your coaching philosophy?
- Have you hired a coach in the past? Why or why not?
Karin Schroeck-Singh: These are indeed great questions Mrs Faherty! Thank you very much for your detailed insights, your valuable time and for sharing your personal experiences. Wishing you lots of success for the future!
You can visit Jennifer Faherty’s website at www.JenniferFaherty.com and get in touch with her by email at email@example.com. Why not also following her on Twitter @JenniferFaherty or scheduling a free consultation with her at http://bit.ly/1Sia8Pd.
Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.