Let’s play a game. It’s called “put-a-finger down”. The rules are easy: You have to put one finger down if your answer to the statement is “yes”. Ready. Set. Go!

  1. Put a finger down if you don’t feel confident in your profession.
  2. Put a finger down if you believe you were passed over for a promotion at work.
  3. Put a finger down if you are struggling to reach your career goals.
  4. Put a finger down if you are the first person in your family to have a white-collar job.
  5. Finally, put a finger down if you have never had a coach help you advance in your career.

If all your fingers are up, congratulations. If you are a person of color, though, you have most likely put-a-finger down for one or more of these statements. As an Afro-Latino designer who has worked in corporate America for the past 20 years, I have personally dealt with each of these situations, which have been exacerbated in part by a lack of professional guidance. This brings me to one of the secrets to moving forward and achieving your career goals: coaching.

What is a coach?

The term “coach” is frequently associated with sports coaches. Many coaches who work with leaders, executives, managers, and developing talent, on the other hand, prefer not to compare what they do to that of sports coaches because the two are vastly different. The dictionary defines a coach as “one who instructs or trains.” However, the act of coaching goes much deeper than that. In my experience, a coach is someone who helps you grow your skills, make better decisions, and gain new perspectives on your life and career. So, for the purpose of this article, when I use the term coach, I’m referring to the following:

  • Relationship and Family Coaching
  • Career Coaching
  • Executive Coaching
  • Mental Health Coaching
  • Health and Wellness Coaching
  • Financial coaching
  • Spiritual Coaching
  • You get the point…

There are twenty-three thousand certified coaches in the United States and over seventy-one thousand worldwide. In fact, the number of active coaches has increased by 35% in the last five years in the U.S. alone! Despite industry growth, access to coaching is limited, especially among minorities. A recent survey from the non-profit Jobs for the Future found that 55% of Black learners and workers have never had a coach. One of the main reasons found was simply the high cost associated with personalized coaching programs. Personal coaching sessions can vary depending on the coach’s certification, expertise, or program. According to the National Coach Academy, hourly rates can range from $100 to $600 per hour!

Why is coaching important for Black and brown professionals?

Coaching opportunities are essential for retaining and cultivating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) talent, as previously mentioned in my blog, “How To Attract, Hire, and Retain Black Creatives: A 5-Step Strategy”. Aside from improving organizational objectives and ROIs, coaching helps individuals improve their overall performance, reach professional and personal goals, and be more fulfilled in their life. In addition, a 2021 LinkedIn survey of 2,000 Black professionals found that “40% of Black professionals believe that career coaching opportunities will help lead to a more equitable workplace culture.”

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

– Harriet Tubman

7 Steps To Become Your Own Coach

For many creatives professionals, access to professional coaching is limited. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t stop you from reaching your professional and personal goals! Anyone can be their own coach through self-analysis, strategic planning, and accountability. Follow these 7 steps to become your own coach, in order to achieve your professional and personal career goals.

1. Set a Goal

Goals are the foundation of what drives our own success. Not having clear and defined goals in your own career path is like driving to your dream destination without a map (or a clear internet connection)! When creating your goals, it’s important to consider what you can achieve in the present and in the future. This is better defined as setting short-term and long-term goals.

Short-term goals are small achievements that you can easily accomplish within three months to twelve months or less than a year. Long-term goals are aspirations that you set out to achieve over a longer period of time, often three to five years.  For example, if your long-term goal is to be the Creative Director of an agency one day, what short-term goals can you set today to eventually reach that desired position?

2. Define Your Why

Congratulations, you’ve set up your long-term and short-term goals! But what is going to keep you motivated to achieve them? Defining your “why” is the x-factor that will drive you towards reaching your short-term and long-term goals, no matter the challenges you may face. For many first-generation professionals (myself included), the why may be to achieve economic stability, create generational wealth, or be the first in their families to reach positions of status and power within their respective fields. Once you’ve defined your why, you’ll be one step closer to not only achieving your goals, but also solidifying your path to personal success.

3. Tap Into Your Potential

Former United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell famously once said, “Have a vision. Be demanding.” Tap into your energy and discover your own potential in taking the first steps of reaching your goal. Analyze your present situation, what you need to get started and how long it will take you to reach each respective short-term and long-term goal.

Do you need to learn a new skill? Then sign-up for a special course or class! Are you seeking a promotion? Set-up a time to speak with your director or manager about next steps! This is the part of success where you get your hands dirty and see what works and what doesn’t. Remember that while having clear goals is important, being flexible is what will help you maintain your progression and peace of mind.

4. Drive Accountability

How SMART are your goals? The SMART Goal formula stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound and is a great way to drive accountability for your goals.

  • Be specific in defining your goal. Instead of “I want to make more money”, set a specific goal such as, “I want to be faster at (insert specific task).”
  • Measure your progress.  Define how you will measure your success, whether it is by creating a checklist, adding action items to your daily calendar, or doing a monthly progress report.
  • Make achievable goals. While we’d all like to be workhorses, the reality behind success is cultivating a proper work-life balance.
  • Keep your goals relevant and realistic to your current reality.
  • Be timely when setting your goals. Create a calendar of milestones and deadlines.

5. Reward Yourself

We all deserve some love from our biggest cheerleader, ourselves! So now that you’re making progress towards your goals, it’s time to reward yourself. This can be anything that brings you comfort on your path to success, from something as simple as an extra-long lunch break to a spa day or even a vacation. You’ve earned it!

Don’t forget to treat yourself to positive affirmations along the way. In the published study, “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation”, researchers found that the practice of positive self-affirmations led to improved well-being, performance, and behavior change! I practice self-affirmations every morning to keep myself balanced, focused, and centered. My personal favorite affirmation is, “I allow myself to see what I need to see and renew my focus.”

6. Find a Community

You’re not in this alone! For many people of color, our community and family serve as essential foundations for lifting us up. Through the advancement of technology, new Black and brown digital communities have emerged, providing a nurturing environment focused on a wide range of industries and career advancement. One of my preferred networks to connect with industry-specific peers are via Slack groups. Check out a few of my recommended communities:

7. Find a Mentor

“If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this earth.” – Roberto Clemente

This quote speaks volumes to me as a proud Afro-Dominicano designer, creative, and now mentor. Mentorship, as opposed to coaching, is often free advice from someone with more expertise in your industry or career field. The right mentor can provide you with industry-specific advice, assist you in defining your goals, hold you accountable, and cheer you on along the way.

This year, I began my own personal journey of mentoring designers through the help of adplist.org. Hands down, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Mentorship allows me to give back to the creative community while also benefiting from the energy and passion of my mentees.

My Future Ready mentoring program is specifically designed for Black and brown creatives in need of mentoring. As a mentor, I hope to pass on the lessons and industry knowledge I’ve gained over the years to transform the lives of designers, creators, and innovators of color, thereby bridging the opportunity gap.

 Need a mentor? Work with me!

Want to discuss your next career move or get guidance on your creative path? Schedule a FREE session with me on ADPList: https://adplist.org/mentors/barney-abramson

I'm mentoring designers on adplist.org