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Focus on Coaching

January is the peak season for professional coaching, as people set work and career goals for the year. Coaching is also becoming increasingly common throughout the year, as organizations offer it to employees below the executive level, new online services are making it more affordable for individuals, and stigma around the need for coaching has receded. 

But it’s not always clear to people when they should hire a coach, especially if they’re paying for it with their own money. 

We talked to experts about who should get coaching, how to choose a coach, and what you can expect to get out of it. Here’s what they told us:

Write down how you’re feeling about work and where you want to go professionally.

Kraig Kann, an executive coach, advises potential clients to write down their thoughts at work in a journal for 30 days. “If you keep landing on feeling unfulfilled in your current role or you keep finding yourself stuck,” it’s time to consider a professional coach, he says. 

Consider a coach when you’re not landing the jobs you want.

Career coach Elissa Harris says that most of her clients come to her after encountering roadblocks, like not getting traction with companies or not getting final-round interviews. Harris says the job market is more competitive than ever, so people are looking for ways to get a leg up.

Coaching can help even when there are no obvious problems.

“You might work with a coach precisely because things are going well,” says Jenny Blake, founder of Pivot career coaching. “Maybe you want to double down on your strengths or you’re ready for more growth.” Coaches can help with creating 90-day “landing plans” when you start a job at a new company, for example.  

How to find a coach and what to look for? :

  • Referral—Ask your friends and colleagues if they’ve worked with a coach who they’d recommend. Some coaches we spoke with said that their entire business comes from referrals.
  • University—University career centers increasingly offer free or low-cost career coaching to alumni.
  • Employer—In addition to bespoke coaching for executives, companies pay for coaching services such as Bravely and Sayge, which any employee can confidentially access on demand for specific questions. You can generally request to speak with the same coach over time. It’s worth being aware that such coaching services tell management about the issues employees are bringing to them—but they’re supposed to do so in ways that can’t be linked to a specific employee.
  • Personal fit—Most professional coaches offer free introductory conversations, so you should take the time to interview several and see who you like the most.
  • End goals—The clearer you are about what you’re looking for, the better chance you’ll find the right coach. “Do you need a job as quickly as possible? Do you want to transition careers? Maybe you just need a resume refresh,” says Lindsay Pollak, a career and workplace expert. In addition to careers, a lot of coaching can help you navigate challenges such as a new role or tricky work relationships,
  • Tailored expertise—Some coaches specialize in underrepresented demographics, like mothers returning to the workforce, the long-time unemployed, or transgender employees, Pollak told us. They can provide more tailored advice and come with specific experience of relevant issues. 
  • Industry or role specialization—Look for coaches with experience in your professional area, either because that’s where they come from, or they’ve coached people in it. Some coaches focus on specific career pivots, like individuals wanting to transition out of sales roles.

What does a coach cost, if you’re paying for it yourself or considering it for your staff? Hour-long sessions can cost between $125 and $200, with executive coaching paid for by companies often $300-$600 per hour. “The best coaches always have you on their minds, sending you links or making connections to people in their networks,” says Blake. “There’s a lot of intangible types of things that happen even outside of the calls.” Newer career coaches may offer discounted rates to earn enough hours to receive accreditation from coaching certification organizations.

Here’s what you can hope to get out of working with a coach:

  • Tactical advice
    • If your focus is on a job search, coaches can offer help with crafting a resume, improving a LinkedIn profile, providing resources to better network, holding mock interview prep sessions, and even negotiating offers. 
  • Accountability
    • “Frankly, when you’re someone paying money, you’re more likely to take it seriously and actually do the homework, assignments or the actions that they’ve recommended because you have invested in that activity,” says Pollak.
  • Uncovering and highlighting skills
    • Blake says that an effective coach can help individuals be more self aware about their skills. “We often only have a vague sense of what we’re good at, but a coach can help to uncover and explore one’s vision of what success looks like.”
  • Branding and storytelling
    • Some coaches help their clients craft a narrative around how their experience connects to the roles they’re looking for next. Others focus on external visibility, coaching people on writing and industry speaking opportunities. 
    • Harris says that she often helps people uncover experiences that are more interesting and memorable to potential employers.
  • Building confidence 
    • A coach is on your side, and can help you surmount any insecurities. 
  • Increasing credibility and impact
    • Becky Cotton, a career coach, says coaches can help you think through questions like “What does your manager really need? Is your work aligned with the goals of those above you? Do you have advocates and sponsors who will speak on your behalf if you were not present?” 

In theory, a lot of what coaches offer could be provided by your friends, family, colleagues, or manager. But pretty much anyone who’s had a coach will tell you that there are advantages to working with someone who sits outside of those relationships and is paid to help you.

We wrote on Sunday about the lessons from sports coaches and captains for how we all work. If you missed that, you can read it here

What Else You Need to Know

How the Biden administration will impact work. I wrote on Sunday about how Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief plan, if passed as is, would bring a $15 federal minimum wage, child-care support, and emergency paid leave. On his inauguration day, it’s worth mentioning a few other areas related to work that he’s targeting:

  • 100 million vaccine doses and reopening most primary schools in his first 100 days. There are few things that could impact our experience of work more than this.
  • Boosting employment. Goldman Sachs economists estimate that a new stimulus could help lower the unemployment rate to 4.5% by the end of the year, from 6.7% in December. 
  • Reducing restrictions on immigrant work visas. The Trump administration made it harder to get H-1B work visas—utilized especially for high-tech workers—and then banned any immigrants coming to the US through the end of March. Biden has promised to increase the number of work visas awarded and get rid of limits by nationalities. 
  • Reinforcing unions. “I’m a union guy,” Biden told business leaders after the election, adding “that’s not anti-business.” Biden has nominated Boston mayor Marty Walsh, a former union president, as his labor secretary and supports the PRO Act, which would alter labor laws in favor or workers and unions. 
  • Tighten rules around who qualifies as an independent contractor. The Biden administration is expected to make it harder for businesses to classify full-time workers as independent contractors, depriving them of benefits and job security. 

Paid family leave, beyond the emergency measure proposed in the stimulus package, is another area where some of his advisors have been vocal advocates. The US is the only developed country without a national policy permitting workers to take paid time off to tend to family medical and caregiving issues—a reality that impacts women disproportionately.

Finance chiefs split while CEOs stayed in their roles. Almost 30% more big-company CFOs resigned in 2020 compared to the year earlier—a level well above the average for the last decade. Some blame the stress of steering corporate finances amid the pandemic. 

  • CEOs apparently didn’t bail at the same rate. An earlier study showed that chief executive turnover by mid-year was lower than the previous two years. The stability at the top was chalked up to “minimizing uncertainty.”

There are more leaders focused on diversity in US businesses than ever. The number of people holding “head of diversity” titles has doubled since 2015, according to research on LinkedIn. The number of “chief diversity officers” is up 68%. Diversity and inclusion job postings in the US increased 40% from January to August. 

  • But turnover in chief diversity officer roles is high, with an average tenure of three years compared to five years for CFOs. And too often it’s a dead end role for executives of color, who aren’t considered for CEO roles, because they’ve stepped away from a pure focus on operations or business strategy.


How do you adequately clean a White House known for dozens of coronavirus infections? There’s typically just six hours on inauguration day between the departure of one First Family and the arrival of their successors. The General Services Administration says it has an elaborate plan for cleaning following the departure of the Trump administration, which has been linked to at least 45 cases. Experts say Biden and his team would be smart in their first hours to also open some windows.  

Wearable sleeping bags are must-have accessories for the winter months. Along with blankets and snowsuits, they’re key to socializing outdoors amid frigid temperatures. In case it’s not obvious, a wearable sleeping bag has a hood and holes for your arms and feet—and after it keeps you cozy hanging out, you can just zip it up and find some shelter and conk out in it. (You can find recommendations here, though many designs are sold out.)

Children are looking at screens more than we’d like to acknowledge. Since the pandemic started, kids’ screen time is up 50%, as school is online and parents have stopped fighting the use of devices. 

Harrison Jobe contributed to this briefing.

The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.