What is a “Livelihood Coach”?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has several definitions of coach and they focus mostly on sports.  However, there are many other kinds of coaches: Job, career or business coaches; life coach; social media coach; tutors; music or acting coaches; legal coaches (Attorneys); financial coaches (Investment Adviser, Money Coach, Certified Financial Analyst, …); mental health coaches (Psychiatrist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, … ). Distilled to its essence, a coach is someone (or something, I suppose) who helps people improve at what they’re doing or, especially, at what they want to do. Parents are certainly coaches, among many other things, for their kids.

Merriam Webster defines livelihood as a way of earning money in order to live. That’s good. It leaves open the specific means of earning money. Contrast that with a job coach, who would help someone get employed, or improve his or her employment performance. A livelihood can consist of regular, full time employment of course. But for many people (I would argue, for more and more people), full time regular employment is getting less possible, less ideal and less secure over time. This is one of the hallmarks of our “disappearing middle class.”

There are many alternatives to full time regular employment. Contracting is a way to “stay in the game” between regular jobs, but it also can be a great end in itself. Contractors are forced to keep their skills up, frequently face new challenges and must learn new material quickly (exercise to keep the mind strong!). The downside of contracting includes the “feast or famine” of a fluctuating workload, no benefits, no job security, and many people don’t like the frequent or constant outreach necessary to find work.

Running your own business is a major alternative to regular employment. Win or lose, accountability is blazingly clear, and it can be a roller coaster—terrifying and thrilling. Not too many years ago, starting up your own business usually put you risk of great loss. Startup costs of $50,000 or $250,000 or more were common. That has changed in many ways today; some kinds of micro-businesses (one person or a couple of partners) can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. People who see their innovative ideas stall out in corporate bureaucracies, have the freedom to test them out in the world, without risking their life savings. Simple examples of micro-businesses include tutoring high-school kids, tending other people’s yards or gardens, building websites for others starting their own businesses. When you start looking for them, you’ll find hundreds or thousands of very small businesses trying to make their way in today’s world.

Franchising is another alternative. In some ways you run your own show, and in some ways you have the parent company guiding you. As with your own business, franchisees have the power to scale up by adding more units. Unlike with your own business, you’ll have a good (though of course not certain) sense of how the finances will play out, because what you’re doing has been done before. Downsides of franchising include sometimes very steep fees for the brand, and sometimes very strict operating instructions (so the parent company is sure you won’t tarnish their brand).

Other alternatives to regular employment include investing (if you have at least a little capital to put to use), radically shrinking your expenses so that you don’t need anywhere near as much income, renting out your car or home (or parts of it), bartering your expertise in exchange for others whose help you need.

So, your “livelihood” includes anything that helps you thrive and survive financially. However, regular employment is still by far the most common goal of people in search of income, and a livelihood coach must be able to help tune  your resume and LinkedIn Profile, help you craft cover letters, coach you on interviewing skills, and help you find target openings, along with the best job coaches. We must be sensitive and insightful helping you navigate through career transitions, whether forced or chosen.

But there’s another facet to livelihood coaching. Another dictionary definition is, “a means of securing the necessities of life.” Money is a necessity in our world for sure, but for better or worse, the borders and barriers between work and life have been breaking down for years, and work is often no longer limited strictly to what makes money. A coal miner probably doesn’t want to spend time in the mine outside of work, but an internet engineer probably spends a great deal of time on the net outside of a defined job, doing more work, or play, or life. Generally, the more one loves one’s work, the more hours in the day s/he  spends doing it.

So my goal as a livelihood coach is to help you discover, define and secure the necessities of your work life, to help you find what you want to do in the ways you want to do it, and then guide you in achieving those goals. Simply stated the process pursues three questions:

  • Who are you? (What are your strengths, experiences, talents, skills, education, …?)
  • What are your work aspirations? (What would you love to do now, that is valuable in some way to the market?)
  • How do you get from who you are to who you want to become? (How will you get to the point where you’re turning your work aspirations into work experiences?)

In other words, I’ll help you map the path along the arc of your life, and help you travel where it is leading you next.