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A few weeks ago, I was invited to join Marty Nemko’s radio show about careers on NPR (KALW). It was a lot of fun to talk with another career coach about the challenging issues that come up in our work with clients. I also had the opportunity to do some very quick career coaching with live callers. Marty and I have noticeably different career coaching philosophies so it made for a very rich conversation.

Here are a few examples of the questions we discussed in the live interview.

Q: Is it more ethical for a career coach to shepherd their clients to realistic goals or their dreams?

A: Summary of my response (not word for word): I encourage my clients to follow their big dreams while also being sure to take care of the practical things that are necessary to sustain that bigger dream.

Why? I believe that the act of pursuing the biggest goals has the potential to bring the most fulfillment to a person’s life. Pursuit of the big goals call forth more of our potential and help us grow. That’s what I want for my clients. I want them to be inspired by something that matters to them not just trudging along to a realistic goal that isn’t exciting.

I’ve also seen that some people do reach the big goals that seem unrealistic. Who am I to say a big dream isn’t possible? I think a lot of the successful and happy people took a risk to pursue a goal that didn’t seem possible at one point.

Even if they don’t reach their big goal, at least will be on their true path. Opportunities will come their way that wouldn’t be available to them if they hadn’t stepped onto that path and those opportunities are going to be a lot more exciting than anything they would find in pursuit of the less inspiring “realistic goals.”

Pursuing big goals is also how people change the world. Nothing changes if people only do what is “realistic.” Then we all just fit within the existing system and nothing new and innovative is created. That’s not the world that I want to live in. I want to live in a world where people are using their gifts and passions to make a unique contribution that benefits the world.

Q: Making a career change takes a lot of time and effort and often people aren’t happier in their new career—they bring their problems with them. How do you address that?

A: Summary of my response (not word for word): I address this by helping my clients discover their innate strengths, passions, and personality so that their new career fits who they are. I believe that when a person’s career fits who they innately are, it does make them happier. I’ve seen many clients go from feeling depressed to happy when they make a career change. The thing is, their new career has to fit who they are. If it doesn’t fit their natural strengths, passions, and personality, they probably aren’t going to be happier. Making a hasty career change just for the sake of making a change is unlikely to solve anything.

I remember having a great coaching relationship with a client that was deeply unhappy with his career in tech sales, feeling hopeless about his future and lacking the confidence he once had. When we started discovering who he is, it became clear that tech sales didn’t fit his passions or personality. It was aligned with his gift of building relationships but he wasn’t passionate about technology and his personality wasn’t the right fit for a desk job so he wasn’t motivated to use his strength. He ended up making a bold brave career change into real estate investing, a career that aligns his strengths, passions, and personality type. He’s happy, successful, and he feels like his best self again – all because of making a career change into a path that fits. This example highlights that people are happier if they make a career change into a career path that fits who they are.


Marty and I discussed more of the challenging issues that come in our work as career coaches and then took live calls. If you want to hear more, you can listen to or full conversation as well as the short career coaching sessions with live callers. Here’s the show description from the KALW website:

“On the Aug. 24, 2014 edition of Work with Marty Nemko, Yelp top-rated career coach Adrian Klaphaak and I kick around thorny issues in career counseling. Dealing with client fears, procrastination, etc.”

You can listen to the podcast using the following link. Be sure to choose the podcast segment titled, “Two Career Counselors Kick Thorny Issues” from August 24th.

Podcast Link: SF Bay Area’s Top Rated Career Coaches on NPR

Thank you, Marty, for having me on the show.

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