Do you want to fast track your career? Sure, you can read free career advice online in articles like this one, but implementing ideas from an article can be a lot like making a New Year’s resolution. Eighty to 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail—they are a great idea at the time, but hard to sustain long term.
If you are serious about your career success, you should consider working with an executive coach to help navigate and support your growth through real, measurable change. Trained executive coach and industrial-organizational psychologist Kathryn Keeton, Ph.D., from the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE) at The University of Texas at San Antonio, shares five tips to fast track your career.
1. Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror.
Before you can determine your path forward, you need to understand where you are now. Assessment tools are great for gathering insight; however, as entertaining as it is to discover “your TV character personality” or “what dog breed you might be,” not all assessments are equal.
“An experienced coach can select the right validated assessments, help you make sense of the results and identify critical information. Coaches bring additional knowledge and resources to put your assessments into perspective, and help you focus on the information important for your career,” shared Keeton. “Assessment results can reveal personal tendencies; identify strengths to draw on and growth opportunities.”
An executive coaching participant through UTSA’s Leadership Institute Certificate Program, Sandra A. Perez shared, “The assessments were helpful, they confirmed that my interests and abilities are a good fit for my career. They also provided additional information, which has made me think broader about related areas I had not considered before.”
2. Set clear goals and be accountable.
Setting clear and specific goals is easy; the hard part is achieving them. “Goals need to be broken down into smaller, manageable and measureable pieces. Write down your goals and find your cheerleaders. These are people you trust, who will celebrate your success, but also hold you accountable,” says Keeton. “As an executive coach my job is to be objective, help you course correct and keep you accountable throughout the process.”
For Perez, the most valuable part of her experience has been taking the time to think about her professional goals. “You have annual evaluations at work, but they are often limited to past actions. Coaching makes you think about what you want today, but also five and 10 years out. It really gives you perspective on who you are and where you want to be.”
3. Turns out what other people think really does matter.
Although you may have self-identified your strengths and weakness, how others perceive you also matters.
“I use the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI-360) assessment. It invites bosses, colleagues or direct reports to provide anonymous and honest feedback. By comparing assessment results at two different points in time, the LPI-360 provides real, tangible and measureable results,” says Keeton.
“Research also supports that the second LPI is essential to support personal leadership development initiatives.”
Lizette Rubio, who engages in executive coaching as part of the UTSA Executive MBA shares, “Coaching helps you identify the quirks you may not recognize so that you can tailor your approach when speaking with others and analyzing situations.”
4. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take a step forward.
This step can be literal or figurative. It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you are busy with day-to-day demands. “Stepping back provides perspective. The outcome may require you to take a lateral move or close a skill gap, but it may just mean taking time to appreciate the bigger picture,” says Keeton.
Current Executive MBA student Michael Figueroa M.D., reflected on how his coaching experience helped him to step back. “Coaching has helped me identify my priorities. My coach is a great listener; she has a way of simplifying things and encourages me to take action. She helped push me past what I thought I wanted to do in the distant future and encouraged me to integrate what I can into my plan now, even if I just start small.”
5. Today’s achievement is tomorrow’s starting line.
The average career spans decades, which means the professional development process is iterative and continues throughout your career. “Visioning is a helpful tool for looking long term. Clients work through defined scenarios to help them better define a direction and also be inspired by what they want to work toward,” shares Keeton. “Visioning aligns your purpose or intent with your effort; it also helps to keep you motivated and moving forward.”
“Visioning really helped me identify what was important to me, my vision for the future, what I wanted from the program, from my career and life in general,” shared Rubio. “After the (EMBA) program, my goal is to continue with a monthly assessment of my goals and refer back to my notes from coaching to be able to apply the concepts as I meet my goals and encounter new challenges.”
A trained executive coaching professional is worth the investment to realize your professional potential. Their experience can help you define career goals and turn those goals into a plan with measureable outcomes. So if you could get expert advice that could help you not only set goals, but also lead to a promotion or possibly your dream job—would you invest in your success?
When asked about her coaching experience overall, Perez shared, “I would recommend coaching. If you want to grow as a professional you have to do it.”
Executive coaching is a fundamental feature of the executive programs offered through the Center for Professional Excellence at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Executive coaching supports executive program participants to ensure they achieve personal and professional growth. Through the Executive Education Leadership Institute Certificate, one-on-one coaching supports the knowledge participants receive in monthly workshops, so that they can translate their new skills in a meaningful way back to their professional work. Participants in the Executive MBA program have access to one-on-one executive coaching throughout the 21-month program.