Originally Published in Forbes
Credentials, qualifications, advanced degrees: Look around today, and it can start to feel like the only thing standing between you and your dream job is another expensive prerequisite. Not to mention, one that's going to cost you a lot in energy and time.
I speak from experience.
After pursuing an expensive graduate degree from a prestigious university, I found myself in a dead-end admin job filing expense reports for CEOs. When that became insufferable, I decided it was time to pursue my dream career of becoming a counterterrorism expert for the government. I worked hard, and made my way into a management role for the Pentagon.
For a few years I felt that life at the Department of Defense was where I was meant to be...until it started feeling all wrong.
I worked hard to get there... And I somehow didn't want that, either.
In an attempt to find a new job, I started networking and talking with friends and friends of friends. I counted on meeting with a lot of people, but what I didn't expect was that all of these people started asking ME for career advice. They'd confess that they were unhappy at work; I'd make suggestions about what they might consider doing, and a lot of them ended up making big career shifts that completely changed their lives. Suddenly, my own path seemed pretty clear: My authentic career laid in coaching.
I started building my career coaching practice. I invested in my business; learned the ins and outs of sales and marketing, and I took on countless clients, watching them achieve wild success in their lives.
I also saw my own star begin to rise.
As part of my own personal growth, I attended many seminars with other coaches and service providers, and it was around that time when people started telling me I needed a coaching certification.
I started researching the myriad options for this sort of credential and was surprised to find that everyone seemed to have one. Seeing that, I felt the pressure to get one, too. So, I thought, how do I decide which one is worth my time?
The short answer: none were worth my time. Take it from me--a coach who has now mentored tens of coaches who struggled in getting clients, despite their fancy certifications.
Here are a few reasons I decided a coaching certification was neither necessary nor meaningful to my practice.
- Just hire a powerful coach. You will get much more impactful results from doing your own work on yourself, not in a classroom but one-on-one with another person who can help you clear your emotional and mental windshield. Results are loud, and you don't get them from following a curriculum - you get them from doing the kind of work you want your clients to engage in. Finding someone who can help you walk the walk is a much more powerful instruction tool for your clients than a framed certification hanging on the wall.
As author Steven Pressfield says, "research can become resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work." If you want this, the only person whose work matters is your own. Don't think that certification is going to give you the courage to get started.
The coaching program won't change your mindset. You need to work with the best of the best to up-level the way you see the world and the way you see what is possible. You can't do that at a desk in a certification program.
A certification is a checklist item that doesn't have any bearing on your capabilities as a coach. You can check all the boxes and still not have any clients - or any personal fulfillment -- if you aren't truly living your practice and your message from the heart.
The person who really needs your guidance isn't going to work with you because you have a certain credential. She is going to work with you because you get results.