An Alum's Inside Look at the World of Career Coaching

By Joshua Spodek '93CC, '96GSAS, '99GSAS, '06BUS of the Columbia Career Coaches Network 

Spodek shares valuable insight from his job as a career coach and details the real value in working with the Network to better your career.

With five diplomas from Columbia, I love our alma mater's education, but I recognize the limitations of traditional education. What we learned in classrooms may have been decades ago. The world has changed, as have we, and much of university learning doesn't apply outside academia.

Coaching helps bridge the gap for professionals. Business coaching is a billion dollar a year industry and growing. Like online dating, leadership coaching has gone from secretive to standard—a perk at top firms. Business coaching now resembles coaching in other performance-based fields like acting, sports, and music, with the top performers getting the most coaching.

Coaches provide what schools don't or can't. Traditional education delivers knowledge, information, and ability to analyze, which were tremendously useful generations ago, in the age of the knowledge worker. With Wikipedia and the internet, hinging your identity on knowing more information can hold you back from promotion.

The Cutting Edge of Coaching

Today, social and emotional skills get you hired, promoted, and given responsibility. Traditional education hasn't caught up. Coaches can give you those skills. Coaches can work with you in real time with personal attention to your challenges, not theoretical ones. With a coach, you can role-play and practice what might risk your job if you tried without practice.

The video above is a webinar I gave at the 2017 World Business and Executive Coach Summit—the world's largest online gathering of business and executive coaches, with more than 20,000 attendees from 150 countries. The video shows an inside view of a current direction for coaching: personalized, experiential, interactive practice. It's still based in theory but delivered through practice, not lecture or case study, so it's actionable.

Barriers to entry remain low, so you should shop carefully for a coach. At the same time, the field's growth has created competition, leading to incredibly effective coaching, leading many coaching clients to professional and personal growth they couldn't have imagined solo. The Columbia Career Coaches Network is a great place to start.

Joshua Spodek, a member of the Columbia Career Coaches Network, is the bestselling author of Leadership Step by Step, and coaches executives, entrepreneurs, and rising leaders, with over a decade of experience coaching and over two decades of leadership and entrepreneurial experience. He is an adjunct professor at NYU, leadership coach for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., and founder of He leads keynote talks and workshops, and holds five Ivy League degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, and studied under a Nobel Prize winner. He co-founded and led as CEO or COO several ventures, and holds six patents.

Check out the complete Columbia Career Coaches Network here.