Professionals, including those in tech, always seem to be looking for ways to improve their resumes and boost their skill sets. Due to a tech talent shortage and skills gap, most tech professionals have room to grow, and have a reason to do so: To get hired or promoted.
There are multiple ways to boost technical skills, but online bootcamps aren't as helpful when dealing with a lack of soft skills or plotting a career path. That's a void virtual career coaches hope to fill.
Virtual career coaches can provide one-on-one help to a professional looking for work or to improve their current standing.
Virtual coaching can take place through almost any means except in-person meetings, including email and phone. The process can help with a variety of professional topics, including career development, team alignment, and leadership development. For example, coaching company RiseSmart works with employees looking for work after layoffs or downsizing.
Compared to in-person career coaching, virtual coaching lets the job seeker to work in their own space. Talking over the phone instead of in-person can decrease anxiety, leading to more open interactions between the job seeker and coach, according to Kimberly Schneiderman, practice development manager at RiseSmart. There are options to talk via webcam to the coach or to peers—group coaching is common for in-person coaching, Schneiderman said—but only when a person feels ready.
SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)
"Some coaches report that they can be more direct with clients in a virtual setting," Bob Hewes, senior partner at the Camden Consulting Group, said. "That can be a plus, enabling the person receiving the coaching to reflect on the conversation and deepen the learning."
Is it worth it for tech pros?
Tech professionals may need a coach more than those in other fields because of how competitive the industry is, Schneiderman said. Coaches can use assessments to identify strengths and weaknesses, both in terms of personality and skill sets. They can also help job seekers understand how a skill can be applied in a different way to a new job.
"Tech people may need the extra support from coaches to help craft effective messages around this side of their skill set," Schneiderman said. "In general, people from the technology sector tend to focus on hard skills but are not as focused on the soft skills currently in high demand. Once an employer has figured out they have the hard-techy skills, what will make them stand out beyond that?"
Virtual career coaching could help boost soft skills, which are growing in importance to hiring managers. Over two-thirds of HR professionals have withheld tech job offers from otherwise qualified candidates because of a lack of soft skills, a recent report found.
"Very often, technical professionals are introverts and need to gain extravert skills in order to operate in the workplace," Carolyn Broderick, a senior HR systems analyst, said.
Career coaching could also be helpful for navigating workplace culture and the challenges that can come with it, Broderick said. It can also help with other forms of personal development, including crafting a career path.
Having a career coach could also help unemployed professionals get hired. Around 80% of people who go through RiseSmart's program find a job, and do so 60% faster than the national average, Schneiderman said. The organization has also seen success in terms of helping employees earn more money: About 83% of those that use the program land a job with a higher salary than their previous position, according to their website.
What to look for in a virtual career coach
Job seekers should look for a coach with industry knowledge, along with professional certifications and coaching experience, Schneiderman said.
"The best career coaches will have a balance of tactical instruction - 'let's review interviewing best practices'—with softer, discovery processes—'what do you think that you will gain if you go down that path?' Schneiderman said.
Finding someone you can trust and that has the experience to help you improve is crucial, Hewes said. Look for places that match job seekers with coaches based on compatibility.
"The real key is developing a trusted advisor relationship," Hewes said. "That can take time to develop, but getting a good working relationship in place and covering principles like confidentially will make a difference."
- Special report: IT jobs in 2020: A leader's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Forget hard skills, it's soft skills that are hard to come by (ZDNet)
- Cheat sheet: How to become a data scientist (TechRepublic)
- IT pros will need a diverse skill set to be employed in 2020 (ZDNet)
- IT leader's guide to achieving workplace diversity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Olivia Krauth is an Education Reporter at Insider Louisville.