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By Marty Nemko

Career coaches and counselors, including me, have liabilities:

-- Pros are unlikely to understand you and your workplace as well as you do, so their counsel is too often off base, yet because you’re paying, you often follow their advice, figuring, “Well, he’s the expert.” Many pros claim to just facilitate your own thinking, but often, consciously or unconsciously, they push you toward their preferred solution.

-- Coaching and especially counseling can be disempowering, making you feel you need a crutch to solve your problems.

-- Of course, there’s the cost. Many career coaches charge $200 for a weekly half-hour session, and make you prepay for three months worth. That’s $2,500. And they usually expect you to keep seeing them for longer than three months.

Self-coaching has none of those liabilities. Plus, if self-coaching doesn’t solve your problem, you can always turn to a pro.

Here’s how to self-coach. Let’s say you’re contemplating changing careers:

1. Write what makes you unhappy about your current job.

2. Could those problems be fixed without changing careers? If so, how? Write your musings. For example, what could you change in your current job? Or, what if you stayed in your same career but changed bosses or places of employment? What are the pros and cons of those options? The act of writing your thoughts will help you generate even better thoughts.

3. If your written musings convince you to at least consider a new career, scan the lists of careers in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, my book, Cool Careers for Dummies, or at least my quick takes on 37 popular careers

4. Write the pros and cons of two or more careers that intrigue you. Don’t have enough information about the career to do that? Google that career or find a book about it on Among Amazon’s three million titles, you’re almost sure to find at least one insider’s book-length look at a career. Talk to a few people in the career.

5. Over the next days, reread and expand on your notes. Or perhaps jot down some things that happened at work, good and bad.

6. Now reread everything you’ve written one more time and write one or two goals you’d like to pursue: whether it’s change your career, your attitude, your boss, your skill set, whatever.

7. Make a to-do list of the baby steps you need to take to accomplish the goals you set in step 6, for example, your first step might be to ask employers who provides the best training.

8. Every day, rate yourself on your progress toward your goals. Perhaps do it in chart form, so you can see your trend. If you’re not making much progress, consider joining or starting a support group. (See

Here’s how you might self-coach if you want to advance in your current career, in your current place of employment.

1. Answer this question, in writing: In what ways are you qualified and not qualified for the job to which you’d like to be promoted?

2. Write the things you need to do to make yourself eminently promotable: Build on your strengths? Remediate your weaknesses? Readjust your current job description to hide your weaknesses? Suck up to certain people?

3. Create a to-do list based on #2.

4. Every night, after work, rate yourself based on how much progress you’ve made on your to-do list.

Now, take the money you would have spent on a coach and treat yourself to something.

Next week, I’ll teach you another alternative to hiring a counselor or coach: co-coaching, in which you and a friend or colleague agree to coach each other.

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