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Paul Work, JD '89, MBA '95

Paul Work, JD '89, MBA '95

WHEN IT COMES TO CAREER TRANSITIONS, women and men both can use some help. Just ask Paul Work, JD ’89, MBA ’95. After making some money in the dot-com bubble, he moved on to a position in corporate strategy/business development at McKesson in San Francisco. Then his wife was offered a prestigious position as a deputy general counsel in Southern California, and the couple decided to move. “I never thought I’d be the trailing spouse,” he says, “but it was the right thing to do.”

Work didn’t know anybody in Orange County. So he picked up the phone and contacted Jennifer Winn, MBA ’90, a professional career coach based in Alamo, Calif., who had helped him make the jump to McKesson in 2005. “She gave me some incredibly helpful pieces of advice about how to meet people and build a network rapidly,” Work says. Today he’s the chief operating officer of a Southern California-based social networking startup called Xenii, and an angel investor as well.

Unlike executive coaches, who are hired to groom talent within organizations, career coaches work with individuals to help them refine their career goals and strategies. Typically they charge by the program, month, or hour ($150 to $250 on average, with some significantly higher) and meet periodically with their clients over weeks, months, or even years. Some of the folks who come to them have been laid off. Others are attempting to reenter the job market after years of home-based work. Some are unhappy in their current jobs and want to move to a new company or industry. Others love their companies and want advice on getting ahead. Still others aren’t sure what they want to do and need advice from an objective individual.

Mercy Eyadiel, director of alumni and Sloan career services at the GSB’s Career Management Center, says she’s happy to refer alumni to a list of highly qualified career coaches, including several who have MBAs from top institutions and professional coaching credentials. [See http://alumni.gsb.stanford.edu/career/advising.] Among them is Michael Melcher, JD/MBA ’94.

Michael Melcher, JD/MBA '94

Michael Melcher, JD/MBA '94

“Now that there’s this gigantic recession, all of a sudden the work that I do has become incredibly validated,” says Melcher, who works in the New York office of Next Step Partners. “The old way of looking at careers — picking out a path and doing that same thing for 20, 30, or 40 years — doesn’t work anymore. … People want expertise. They want a partner to help them navigate the process.”

Melcher usually starts out meeting his clients once a week and assigning homework between sessions to help them clarify what they really like to do and what they bring to the table. He also spends time helping them improve their networking skills. “Eighty percent of my work,” he says, “is communications based: How do you talk to somebody you haven’t talked to in eight years? How do you talk to the parent of your kid’s soccer buddy who happens to work in an industry that you think would be interesting? Saying things exactly right is very much an art.”

Winn, the coach who helped Work find his footing in Orange County, says it’s common for clients to call her back months and even years after their first sessions, depending on what’s going on in their lives. “Sometimes they get into a company, and then six or seven months later they might have a conflict with their boss; so we talk through that,” she says. “That’s probably the biggest difference between me and a traditional job placement counselor. Career coaches take a more holistic approach.”

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Also on Stanford Knowledgebase:

  1. How to Steer Your Career Around Life’s Curves
  2. QOTD: Online Life Morphing with Real Life
  3. Balancing Career and Family Commitments

12 Responses to “A Career Coach Can Help Keep Your Professional Life in Shape”

  1. Working online (and alone) for the last seven years has resulted in my social skills taking a backward step. I had never thought of a career coach and really did not know if they existed in the UK. When I landed a post at a top seo company in B’ham I decided to act on the advice of a girlfriend of mine who had used a coach in the past. All I can say is “Money well spent”
    I went from recluse to city girl in just 5 sessions and I never hesitate to contact Zoe anytime I need some advice about what’s happening in the office or my working life

  2. During the last of a handful of my own times of darkness and doubt, I reinvented my career and myself more fully than ever before. In the process, I became happier, more loving, even more materially successful. I’m now doing exactly what I want to do, and I have in my life all the people, all the bounty, I could ask for. I realized that what interested me more than anything in the world was the same transformative process.

  3. Hmm, i don’t think that I’ve ever heard heard of these coaches. Well, nice information. The communication stuff is very interesting. It’s good to know how they work, thanks for blogging about this.

  4. I just started in career coaches @ Internet Marketing and this article clearly figure out some problem I’ve found to start.

    Anda know Im more then ready to walk, thanks

  5. Having been coached and also trained as a coach, I am more than familiar with the benefits and changes that can be achieved. However, as a word of caution, I think it’s extremely important to do your research before selecting your coach. Not only is it a very personal journey, but there are also some unscrupulous individuals out there who are not all that they claim to be.

  6. Gina Reedy says:

    Thanks for the blog! :)

  7. there is just so much to keep up with these days it helps to have help. My best advice comes from people around me who understand what my life is about.
    Any resource that helps you get were you want or need to be is valuable.

  8. Denim Geek says:

    I have to agree with Best Day Ever. I personally can’t understand why people would fork out that much money to a stranger when family, friends and colleagues can offer just as good advice?

  9. I don’t think I understand the benefit of hiring a professional coach, maybe it’s because I believe in doing things myself. Seems like a waste of money lol, plus I bet the professional coaches don’t feel the urge to hire other professional coaches to help them out with their lives :P

  10. I would agree a career coach is necessary, provided you have the budget to hire one. Having a professional lead you to understand your inner strength and moving forward to your ultimate goal is always better than struggling and lost by your own.