How taking a coaching approach can help you figure out your career dilemma

Development Monthly | #15 December 2022 | How taking a coaching approach can help you figure out your career dilemma

Amanda Owen-Meehan (she/her)

Career and Leadership Coach,
Amanda Owen Meehan Consulting

When you were a child, did you ever think about what growing up and getting a job would look like? It turns out that the long-held vision of entering a career sector and gradually climbing your way to the top of a ‘ladder’ with each step bringing more money and an impressive job title doesn’t always do us any favours. In today’s careers, progress is far less linear with the past few years in particular highlighting how we’ve all needed to respond to uncertainty, change and increased complexity at work.

At one point or another we’ve all faced big decisions at work and in our careers. My work as a career and leadership coach involves helping my clients through many career challenges such as

How to handle challenging conversations or situations at work

Facing a mid-career slump and feeling ‘stuck’

Overcoming imposter syndrome

Making a big career decision such as changing role, making a sideways move or changing sector completely

Dealing with becoming a first-time manager or moving into a senior leadership role 

Getting clear on career goals for the future

Taking a coaching approach to your career

Coaching is brilliant at helping us uncover new options, but the opportunity to spend time with a qualified coach might not be something we can all access when we need it most. So how is there a way to make it work for everyone? The basis of any coaching practice is about asking questions so I often speak to my clients about taking a coaching approach so they can learn how to coach themselves throughout their career. Self-coaching is the skill of asking questions to improve self-awareness and prompt positive action. Everyone can learn to coach themselves, regardless of experience or expertise. It takes practice, will require learning new skills and might feel uncomfortable at times, but the hard work will be well worth it.

Coach Yourself Questions (CYQs)

To get started with coaching yourself, think about ‘Coach Yourself Questions’. (CYQs).  Asking yourself insightful coaching questions will unlock your thinking and support you to identify actions that will help you make positive progress in your career and at work. You can use the 3O’s as a framework to assess the quality of the question you ask yourself 

The 3O’s


CYQs start with who, what, why, where, when, or how.  They are not a closed question with a yes-or-no answer. If you find yourself asking a closed question, such as, “Do I enjoy my job?” try to reframe it in an open way: “What do I enjoy about my job?” You’ll find you get more insights as a result.


CYQs focus on ownership and always include “I.” Instead of, “How has that person progressed more quickly than me?” the question becomes, “How could I accelerate my progression?” If you find yourself blaming other people or external factors when coaching yourself, it’s a signal that you need to refocus on what lies within your control. By identifying your own actions, you’ll be more committed to making career change happen.


Avoid question “stacking,” where you ask multiple questions at the same time. Instead of asking, “Why am I missing deadlines and feeling so out of control of my time?” you ask and answer each question in turn: “Why am I missing deadlines?” and “Why do I feel out of control of my time?” One-at-a-time questioning helps you generate more options and actions as part of your coaching approach.

And here are some CYQs to get you started

When do I let my self-belief hold me back?

How can I increase the frequency of the feedback that I get?

Who could offer me a different perspective on my career challenge?

What do I want to be true in 12 months’ time that isn’t true today?

Listening to Yourself

In order to coach ourselves, we need to become skilled at listening to the thoughts and beliefs that inform our actions. However, distraction and discomfort can make our minds wander or gravitate toward things that are easier to work on. When our attention is diverted, we don’t achieve the depth of reflection that will help us think or act differently.

Find your friction

Life can be distracting. Understanding when and where distractions happen is an important part of making sure you don’t get in your own way when you’re learning to coach yourself. Finding ways to increase the friction between you and distractions can prevent it from affecting your self-coaching approach. For example, if technology is your weakness, you can find friction by leaving your devices in another room. If other people create a problem for your focus, try coaching yourself in a café or at the start of a day before the demands of your job get in the way.

Be your best friend

Coaching yourself is about learning who to listen to inside your head. We all have an inner coach and an inner critic, and there will be times when your inner critic will creep in and start to take control. This might sound like “I’m not smart enough to work this out” or “I can’t do this so I should give up now.” To quiet your inner critic, try talking to yourself in the same way your best friend would talk to you. Imagine yourself having a conversation with that person and write down three supportive sentences they would say. Perhaps they would remind you of previous successes or how you’ve overcome adversity before. Or maybe they would talk about how much they admire your determination or bravery. Keep this person in mind when your inner critic begins to creep in.

Our careers can frequently feel uncertain, but self-coaching is a capability we can all have control over. If there’s one skill you spend time learning, practicing, and improving in 2023, coaching yourself is a great place to start.

Amanda Owen Meehan Consulting is an established coaching, training, and consultancy business that helps established professionals take control of their careers to be more fulfilled and successful at work. Consultancy projects include work with education and not-for-profit organisations that want to support their key people as they take on new projects, roles and navigate change in the workplace. 

Amanda also has a free weekly career and work newsletter, ‘Work Your Way’, that goes out every Thursday, including tips and advice to help you take control of your career and be more fulfilled and successful at work. Plus those who subscribe will be the first to hear about new resources, blogs, and workshops.  The sign-up link is here

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