Three Lessons I Learned From My Career Coach

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"If you do the same thing you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."

I remember first hearing these words back in seventh grade during math class and they've stuck with me ever since. So when it was time for me to kick my latest job search into high gear and I found myself at a professional crossroads of sorts, I turned to a career coach.

Now, I had a not-so-great experience with a so-called life coach before, so admittedly I was a bit skeptical going into it. But after meeting with a friend-of-a-friend who'd faced a similar situation when job searching in the nonprofit realm and hearing about her overwhelmingly positive experience, I decided to give career coaching a try.

The timing could not have been more imperfect. Last summer, I'd discovered I was underpaid and was facing some financial hardships. So the $100/session was certainly an investment. But the ROI was more than worth it when I accepted a job offer that was $30,000 more than what I was making at the time.

Below are the top three lessons I learned from my career coach, Bliss Hansen. And don't worry if you're not in the Chicagoland area, she's available to meet virtually as well.

Get Crystal Clear on Your Non-Negotiables

After my complimentary consultation with Bliss, I fell in love and knew we'd be a great match. During our first session, she asked me to share my personal and professional values. Taking it a step further, she asked me to list my top 10 criteria for a new job:

  1. Salary: at least $80,000
  2. Director-level position
  3. Communications role with writing and editing/storytelling as a main component (yes to PR, but no to marketing and social media)
  4. Work-life balance: flexibility to work on my side-hustle and passion projects and, when the time comes, to be a working mom
  5. Excellent benefits: robust PTO (at least three weeks and major holidays); health insurance (medical, dental and vision); PAID maternity leave (beyond FMLA); 401k with a match
  6. Diversity and inclusion as demonstrated in senior leadership
  7. Room for advancement/the opportunity to grow with an organization; a company that invests in employees
  8. Located within Chicago city limits
  9. Easily accessible via CTA
  10. Politically progressive/liberal

This litmus test was helpful as I searched through dozens of job descriptions. I don't know about you, but sometimes I'd apply for jobs that I knew weren't a great fit or didn't meet my criteria simply out of frustration and desperation. Having these non-negotiables at the ready helped me discern whether an opportunity was really worth my time and energy.

Quantify Your Qualifications

During our second session, Bliss helped me revamp my resume. It's something I'd done for friends and family members throughout the years, but I'd never had someone give me honest feedback on how to improve my own resume.

The most important piece of advice Bliss shared with me was to quantify my qualifications and add more metrics to my resume.

It's not enough to simply write that you "managed interns." How many and for how long? Wrote articles? Created a budget? Saved the company money? Quantify it! Sometimes numbers speak louder than words.

Visualize Your Future

In our last session, Bliss had me visualize myself 10 years from now. I know it sounds a little woo-woo, but this was hands down my favorite session.

She asked me to close my eyes and envision present-day me visiting future-me. The mental picture was crystal clear:

I'm 40. I'm CEO of a nonprofit for women and girls. I'm wearing a classic green sheath dress a la Michelle Obama with nude Louboutin heels. I'm living in an open-concept townhouse with spotless hardwood floors and the most beautiful HGTV-worthy kitchen you've ever seen. Jeff, my husband, is wearing chinos and a dress shirt standing at the island chopping vegetables for dinner with a dish towel casually thrown over one shoulder. Our kids -- a boy, 8, and a girl, 6 -- are doing their homework at the breakfast nook.

Life is pretty sweet.

Since then, I've listened to this manifestation meditation on several occasions to keep my vision front and center. It's great to listen to on days when I've forgotten my "why," when I feel frustrated that I'm not where I want to be or where I thought I'd be. It's a reminder for what I'm working toward and the future I'm building not only for myself, but my family.

So there you have it: the top life lessons that I've learned from my career coach. If you've been thinking about hiring one, I highly recommend doing your homework to ensure it's someone you'll gel with. Yes, it's an investment. But you're worth it.