Time for inclusive career coaching

by | Aug 18, 2020

Inclusive career coaching ensures we reach everyone

Quite often we see a one-size fits all career advice, which doesn't sit right for for everyone, suggesting it's time for inclusive career coaching


Have you ever been to an exercise class where the instructor divides you into capability categories? They ask right at the beginning if there are any mitigating health issues: bad knee, bad back, bad.. everything. In group one you have the ones that can bend like a pretzel and run 20K without breaking a sweat. We all secretly hate them, but wish we could be them. They get the advanced moves. Category two is intermediate. They are happy with some sophisticated twists and try not to look pink after 5K. Then there is the basic group, where a stroll to the cafeteria counts as aerobic exercise and strength training includes changing the printer paper. Sometimes we might feel a bit sore or uncomfortable and the instructor will suggest a minor tweak to make it easier, but still effectively hit the target area.

I have yet to find a group where you can exercise lying down with a book and a glass of Chablis. But it's a work in progress.


Avoid generic one size fits all

We need to start applying the same distinctions to career coaching. Why? Because not everyone has the same level of capability, the same personality or even the same inclination to follow frequently recommended advanced or alpha strategies. Quite often we see one-size-fits-all career advice, which doesn't sit right for for everyone, suggesting it's time to offer more diverse and inclusive career strategies. Very often clients don't realise they are "sore" until they have to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable. We live in cultures where "feeling the fear and doing it anyway" is encouraged. But sometimes what job seekers need is a minor, but effective tweak that will help them reach their required goal, but perhaps a little bit later.

I find myself increasingly dealing with clients who are confused and overwhelmed as the number of "career coaches" post pandemic increases exponentially.  In my network I have 800,000. The last three digits is not a typo. Most career advice is given to help people succeed in male coded organisations which reward extroverted, go-getting personalities. There are also strong cultural differences and what might be perceived as dynamic in one environment, is received as being pushy and over the top in another.  We have to recognise that not all job seekers fall into the same category, so as career coaches we should try to avoid generic advice and offer alternative and even customised approaches to meet the same goal.

This is not to say that some of the dynamic suggestions don't or won't work. Generic tips may help a number of people so for some they may, but for many they are not appropriate. What it suggests is that strategies need to be broken down to offer a range of options to make career coaching more inclusive. So job seekers get confused when they see binary instructions of don't/never/always etc.  We have to start making room for "well...it depends."


inclusive career strategies

Advanced strategies

These are generally higher risk moves which suit more extraverted personalities. They can involve suggestions to job seekers which include:

  • By-passing HR and pitching directly to the CEO - this is bold and may work in a small flat organisation but unlikely to succeed in a large corporate setting. You may encounter gate keepers or get bumped to HR anyway, who you now may have unwittingly upset. You need to have a high level of confidence, skills or smarts to overcome those challenges.
  • Tracking down hiring managers using Mailscoop.io or similar to send an email with pitch. This also by-passes HR and may nor may not work.
  • Video CVs  - can be very successful if done well and a supplement to a regular CV.
  • Turning up in person at an office (yes really I have seen that even during COVID19) This is very bold and I probably wouldn't recommend, but it could work for a start-up maybe. Otherwise you may find yourself having an encounter with security and a pavement.
  • Confident assertive interview style with pre-prepared business plan related improving the organisation's results or solving a specific problem.

Other factors to consider

We have to factor in that not everyone will fall into the bold, out-going risk-taking demographic. We have to take into account all our differences: personality types, cultural backgrounds, communication styles, gender, age, or different career points.

1. Cultural differences

Not all cultures value an assertive approach and a job seeker can experience push back. This can be damaging to their confidence and even their reputation. Some cultures have  a high regard for hierarchy and systems. They expect deference and respect to individuals in position of authority and their systems to be followed.  The casual, informal confidence found in some Anglo-Saxon cultures, doesn't always go down well in other geographies. This behaviour can be perceived as being brash and arrogant, rather than go-getting and dynamic.

Some cultures still expect a photo with a CV, while other cultures discourage women from putting a photo on their LinkedIn profile. For some large bureaucratic organisations the cover letter can be a deal enhancer.

2. Gender bias

Assertive, confident, ambitious men are rewarded and admired.  The interview process which is recognised to be highly flawed, favours this behaviour. We tend to look for charisma and confidence. Women who follow that same advice can be impacted by gender bias and called "aggressive" and "pushy" for exhibiting the same behaviour.

It's important that coaches factor in their own biases into the coaching relationship and prepare their clients for encountering and dealing with other biases in the hiring process.

3Plus has a wealth of free services and podcasts that help with career development. We invite you to try them HERE.

3. Personality types

Introverts in particular struggle with this type of direct and open approach. They prefer a lower key, more subtle route of following a contact on LinkedIn before connecting and possibly interacting in a discussion thread. But even for some this is a huge step. The thought of a direct, personal pitch would fill them with horror, even in writing, but especially face to face.

4. Age

Different age groups have different experience levels and struggle with confidence for being too young and inexperienced or too old. Here network referrals, talking to people and informational interviews can be helpful to gain an insight into an organisation's culture.  Both younger and older age groups quite often prefer something that is more gradual and discreet, where someone makes an introduction.

5. Point in career

I have seen individuals at different points in their career change their approach. For some they may think they have nothing to lose. They just think "what the hell" and take that leap. But for others there maybe factors which require them to be more cautious. They may be the sole revenue generator, or have specific family or caring circumstances to consider. Perhaps there are location or relocation elements or fringe benefits to take into account such as commuting distance or access to childcare.

A different approach can also be helpful for the unemployed, when some job seekers feel uncomfortable announcing their lack of employment because of unemployment bias. In a global depression, this is frankly ridiculous.  Some ATS still require a placeholder (recruiters should do something about that). Andy Benson  went for "House Manager and Interim Teacher" and I saw another "Enforced Sabbatical."  I loved both of those, but I do think "COVID Casualty" should be acceptable.

By offering more inclusive career coaching, coaches will reach a greater number of job seekers who feel more vulnerable and lack confidence.  If coaches build in some nuance and offer multiple options to account for different circumstances, they will help job seekers feel less overwhelmed and panic stricken.


If you are unsure about your career strategy needs get in touch today!





Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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