Coaching Case Study By Keng Loong Cheah
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
Allen is a 28-year-old, Singapore local university graduate who has been asked to leave from his two previous jobs, both multi national organizations due to poor work performance. He is now seeking full-time employment; however, he does not have a clue what he wants to do for a living and is in a depressive and detrimental state of mind.
Throughout our coaching conversation, there were multiple issues which were uncovered, three critical issues being:
- At the start of his career, he took on jobs in MNCs as he feels that it is a statement of his intellect and prove his ability, and the function in which he joined was aligned to what he studied in the university, which was finance. Also, his parents expected him to work in a large MNC as it is perceived as the most viable option to climb the corporate ladder, and the prestige associated with the names of big firms.
- He expects himself to succeed by the age of 28 given that he is from a local university, hence he did not understand why he is not doing as well as his peers
- He did not know how to move forward and thinks that there is something wrong with his mindset, working style or communication.
During the sharing of his experience, I heard that there was a tone of despair and helplessness in this voice and body language. My initial approach was to engage the coachee at a personal level, create trust and increase his energy level. I asked him questions about what/whom is he grateful about/to in his life, sharing of his interests and times in which he is happy both in his career and in his personal life. Also, to envision what is his desired lifestyle if his career is working well for him.
As our conversation progressed, I begun to realize that he was living his life under tremendous pressure, both from himself and his parents. From young, his parents would have high expectations of him, academically with the hope of him getting into a large organization. Also, with the proliferation of social media, his self-esteem has been demolished having seen his peers succeed but himself being asked to leave in his previous two jobs.
Before, engaging in a full-fledge job search plan, my first approach was for Allen to:
- Develop a better understanding of himself: the values in which he holds most dearly to his heart, his interests both personally and professionally, any jobs/organizations which interests him and why do they interest him
- Have a heart-to-heart conversation with his parents on how he felt about the situation that he is in, and their expectations of him and how they can best support him in his career transition
- Think of what success means to him, examine the expectations that he has placed for himself, are they supportive or detrimental
In the following session, he shared with me on the outcome of his self-evaluation and conversations with his parents.
- In his discussion with his parents, he realized that his parents do have expectations of him, but it was his own perception/interpretation of those expectations which put him under heavy pressure. Example: his parents wanted him to find a stable job, but he thought their wish was for him to work in an MNC so that they can be proud of him. In fact, his parents were worried on him working till the wee hours in his job on a weekly basis and felt that it has adverse effects on his health. With their expectations aligned, he was able to better understand his parents’ perspectives and alleviate the pressure, which essentially was formed by his own expectation of success (the need to work in an MNC to make my parents proud).
- We also touched on the topic of managing self-expectation. He felt that by 28, he should have attained a desired level of income and a desired managerial position, otherwise he would be deemed a failure. There was a deep conversation which touched on his fears of inadequacy and lagging from the rest. The session centred around reframing his perspective on the how he defines success, not how society/parents define success. His action plan was to read up on people whom he thinks are successful and look at their career journeys; the objective is to allow him to understand that everyone leads a different life and he should make decisions which is optimal for his career.
- He always wanted to find work that is meaningful and would like to consider working in a VWO or social enterprise. I acknowledged this decision, however as a coach I wanted to better understand: is this decision a genuine one, or is it a consequence caused by the fear of not performing in his previous two jobs hence he decided to close the option of working in a corporate job? I asked the coachee to share about what does he like about working in a VWO, what inspires him, which VWO does he have in mind and does he envision this to be a step towards realizing his long-term career goals? He tried to explain that working in VWO is meaningful but there seems to be a lack of conviction that this is truly the career path that he would like to pursue. We re-evaluated his life purpose, vision, values, interests once again with the objective of ensuring the next decision that he makes is clearly thought out, and one that is authentic to him.
In this coaching case, there were multiple issues at hand which requires the coachee to work on. I realized that it was particularly tough for the coachee to engage in a meaningful conversation with regards to expectations people who are close to him, albeit a necessary one. Also, managing one’s own expectations, reframing his perspective was also a truly valuable process for the coachee to move forward. Now with better clarity and lesser self-induced pressure, Allen will be in a better position to move forward in this period of career transition.