Widening opportunities open the way for life coaching
Throughout their business careers, people are faced with key choices and decisions which will ultimately have a major impact on the direction their lives will take.
Whether to stay in the same company, change their job description or even switch careers are all questions which confront the entrepreneur and employee alike.
But it is also possible to make a living advising people who find themselves in such a situation.
The concept of life and business coaching has been established for some time in the US, where businesses and individuals use it to help make the right choices.
But recent years have seen the industry also begin to establish itself in Ireland. So, what does it entail - and how do life and business coaches actually make money?
According to Mr Greg Dalton of Q1etc, a Dublin-based life coaching consultancy, surveys have revealed that 70 per cent of people are unhappy with their careers.
His company, which has been up and running for the past two years, aims to help such people to understand what it is they do best, and then to apply this to a career which suits their attributes.
Q1etc works with a wide variety of people, from second-level students to those at third level, as well as people already working in a particular industry who may be contemplating making changes to their lives.
While much of the work revolves around career coaching, Mr Dalton also looks at other factors such as the individual's financial situation, personal relationships, and working environment.
And the resulting advice can range from helping Leaving Certificate students to decide on what subjects to study in order to pursue a career which suits them, to improving someone's quality of life by cutting down the amount of hours they spend commuting to work, to helping them to change career altogether.
"The only people who are successful are those who are doing what they want to do," Mr Dalton believes. "We get people to challenge what they think about themselves. Then we might set them a goal or plan for the next two to five years. And we say in order to achieve this, you need to achieve x during this period, this is what you need to do."
Mr Dalton, who has a background in business development, marketing and sales in the aviation industry, says he built up a network of contacts in his previous career. Word of mouth is also a significant factor in generating new business.
While there can be an element of counselling involved in life and business coaching, coaches tend to place more of an emphasis on the individual psychology of the person in question, in order not to focus simply on the past but to emphasise concrete steps which can be taken to change his or her future.
His consultancy currently employs six life and business coaches who work with a variety of companies, including financial institutions and other household names.
Charging between €290 and €1,380, depending on the type of programme - which range from half-day sessions to four, six and eight-week programmes - life and business consultancy can generate significant revenue.
"There is not really any typical day I would generally see at least two clients a day, with the rest of my time taken up with the coordination and running of business, meetings, seminars and training and educating people in presentation skills, for example. So it really is extremely varied," says Dalton.
"But what is really rewarding is if a customer comes into me who is really downbeat, and walks out motivated and re-energised after four to six weeks. They are headed in the right direction." Mr Sean Farell of Mindstream, which runs a diploma in life and business coaching in UCD, says that between 75 to 100 people enroll on its course every year. Those involved can range from 19 to 72 years of age, he says.
About a third of students are already involved in human resources, and are seeking a further qualification in life coaching. But another significant proportion are counsellors or people who are already getting further training.
Among the key attributes necessary to be a good life coach are good listening, questioning and communication skills, Mr Farrell says.
About 60 per cent of the work revolves around business coaching and dealing with the usual issues that emerge from working life. This might include bullying in the workplace or difficulties with a boss.
The remaining 40 per cent involves life coaching, which entails looking at an individual's career and personal issues.
"Many companies are now looking at using coaches to work on a one-to-one basis with their staff," Mr Farrell says.
Among these are businesses anxious to retain staff who are unhappy in their current role but wish to remain with the company in a job which may better suit their personality.
In a world where the so-called "job for life" is rapidly disappearing, areas such as life and business coaching seem set to continue to grow. Faced with an ever-widening range of choices and oppportunities, people are turning to coaches to help them make the right choices for them - or simply to get out of a rut.
Interestingly, this growth area may also provide fresh opportunities for individuals to generate new income from the coaching process.