Everyone's a Coach

Photo by Carlos zgz

Ever since women and work became my main reporting beat I've begun to notice something: lots of self-employed professional women are coaches. Or at least they call themselves coaches. If I look at bios on Twitter I see the word 'coach' appear startlingly often. And the more time I spend there the more female coaches I see - and they all seem to work with women.

It seems pretty much anyone can hang out a shingle as a coach. The industry isn't regulated and coaches come in many forms - life coaches, career coaches, executive coaches (who, from what I can work out, tend to work with companies as well as individuals - but if you're a coach feel free to set me straight). I haven't tracked down much in the way of statistics yet, although this study claims the life coaching industry in the US is worth $1 billion a year. That's a lot of people looking for some big life changes, and paying for them too - and I would wager the majority are women. We know women tend to seek outside help for their problems more than men do.

I wonder if this apparent glut of coaches comes as part of the whole female empowerment movement. If it does, you could argue it's good - that more people want to help women discover what makes them tick and makes them happy both at work and in life. Or maybe it's fueled by women leaving corporate life after many years and starting career number two as a coach, eager to use their experience to help others.

I suppose I should admit that as a fully paid-up curmudgeon raised in Britain I can't help being a bit suspicious of the American attitude of endless positivity that fuels the whole self-improvement industry. I'm not anti self-improvement. I just want the real thing. How is someone who may be feeling vulnerable and desperate for advice meant to tell what constitutes solid, valuable help versus the more woo-woo stuff that's out there?

I'd love to hear from anyone who's either used a career or life coach or is one.