According to the Newsweek website, "life coaching" has probably snuck up on you. Once viewed as a weird fad, it is now becoming surprisingly mainstream. Life coaches are even represented by a 15,000-member trade group, the International Coach Federation.
If you want to change careers, train for the marathon or re-enter the dating pool after 30 years of marriage, there is undoubtedly someone who feels he can advise and motivate you -- for a price. (The going rate for life coaches is $189 an hour.) There are probably even specialists such as "afterlife" coaches ("Let's crunch some numbers and see whether you should haunt the same house or go for a time-share") and "extraterrestrial life" coaches. ("Huh! If you expect to transport both Elvis and Bigfoot in the same UFO, you're going to need help greasing the palms of the right bureaucrats.")
If you don't think the life coach phenomenon has become pervasive, just look at a recent survey of kindergarteners. The #1 career ambition was "life coach for ballerina or astronaut."
Many life coaches have been downsized out of other jobs and feel they have now found a recession-proof way to contribute to society. I hope they're right, or the landscape will be littered with unemployed coaches holding "Will criticize your work for food" signs.
Most life coaches bring passion, sincerity and knowledge to the job -- but it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The life coach biz has no regulations, licensing system, standardized credentialing, or code of ethics. You practically need a life coach to help you pick a life coach. Life coaches must often pitch themselves with "Uh, no certificate -- but I'm hypoallergenic! And you get a free ShamWow! Holds 12 times its own weight in diplomas!"
Obviously, the proverb here is "Caveat emptor," which my Latin life coach Bubba assures me translates as "Righty, tighty--lefty, loosey."
Critics worry that life coaches are not trained to recognize mental or emotional distress in their clients, which could lead to disastrous results. ("I ain't got enough explosives to blow up the federal building." "No, no. Say 'I have insufficient explosives to blow up the federal building.' And be sure to speak from your diaphragm.")
I don't expect life coaches to be psychologists. I just don't want them to have the same nepotism problems as Little League coaches. ("I know you hired me to help you lose 80 pounds, but I decided to help my son lose them instead. But you can watch from the dugout.")
I have pieced together a few signs that someone is not cut out to be a life coach. For instance, he says things such as "A second opinion? Ooookay....let me see which of the voices in my head is in a cooperative mood today." Or you notice that every problem can supposedly be solved either with "Just close your eyes and tap your heels together three times and think to yourself, there's no place like home..." or something about "sleeping with the fishes."
Most life coaches work solo, but I understand that in November a lot of coaches will gang up to help some deserving folks make a job transition en masse. Incumbents, I think they're called. ("What? I don't get to keep my health insurance and franking privilege? Worst...Tea Party...Ever.")
Note: Tyrades! is copyright 2010 by Danny Tyree.