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Home  > Article

Is Cyber-Coaching Catching On?

By Martin Lieberman

After graduation, formal career guidance becomes nonexistent and young professionals are often on their own to navigate the new world of work. An increasing number of people are seeking answers to their career-related questions from online career coaches. But while cyber-coaches can provide a multitude of advantages, they can't help with every aspect of the career search. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of working with a coach online.

 
While cyber-coaches can provide a multitude of advantages, they can't help with every aspect of the career search.
 

Close to 80 percent of all college students take advantage of their university's career services office-whether meeting with counselors, surfing the office's web site, or scheduling on-campus interviews. But after graduation, this formal career guidance becomes nonexistent and young professionals are often on their own to navigate the new world of work.

"In the workplace, there really isn't anybody who's going to take you by the hand and tell you what your career plan should be like," says Gail McMeekin author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor (Conari Press, 2000).

Recently, however, an increasing number of people are seeking answers to their career-related questions from online career coaches. Despite rarely meeting with their clients in person, these coaches are often able to provide a worthwhile service.

Judy Feld is one coach who prefers to work in the virtual world, communicating with her clients primarily via email or phone. Feld says her clients appreciate the convenience of a virtual relationship because they often do not have the time to meet in person, due to meetings and travel schedules. "And because it takes less time-a minute after the call they're back to doing their work-it's cost-effective for them."


Feld is just one of the many career coaches listed on the International Coach Federation's website. The site is a good first stop for prospective clients because the listings describe the coaches' certifications, specialties, and previous employment history. Counselors are available to work on anything from developing a client's time management, leadership, or writing abilities, to setting personal career goals. In most cases, the fee is the same whether services are rendered online or off.

According to Bill Foster, a career counselor based in New Jersey, cyber coaching is most beneficial for those looking to work on their resumes and other technical skills. It's more practical, he points out, to simply email your resume or cover letter to a coach for editing than it is to accomplish that task in person. Also, when you write out your thoughts instead of saying them out loud, you tend to be more concise.

"The one piece you miss [with cyber-coaching] is the visual," McMeekin says. Cyber-coaches can't assess a client's personal presentation or manners like an offline career advisor can. To work around this problem, McMeekin asks her clients to videotape themselves and then send her the tape for evaluation.

We found one skeptic of online career coaching in Jennifer Murphy, 28, who sought out a coach for herself two years ago for help in deciding which of two industries was a better match for her. She chose an offline coach and says the relationship would not have been as beneficial had they just communicated via email or phone. "A counselor needs to meet you to see what your personality is like so they can see what kind of corporate culture you'd fit into," she explains.

But the Internet is not without valuable career resources, she adds. "There's a lot to be gained by going to different web sites, learning about different industries, and doing the research yourself, so that you know the right questions to ask [your coach] later on," Murphy says.

As the workplace continues to evolve, forging your career path will surely involve even more options. Despite some drawbacks, an online career coach may be an invaluable resource in helping you make your career decisions.







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