I recently shared some honest perspective on why Millennials are getting fired. I also shared why Baby Boomers are getting fired, too. Seeking out private, outside coaching could have saved some of these individuals from being let go. But, coaching only works if someone is ready for it.

There are two types of people who need coaching:

1. Confident professionals frustrated by their inability to move their careers in a more satisfying direction

2. Uncertain professionals frightened by their inability to control their careers and income security

Which one is more successful when they seek coaching?

It may surprise you to learn neither type is significantly more successful. I’ve worked with thousands of people and have seen both types use coaching to take their careers and their confidence to new heights. But I will tell you this: those who DON’T succeed all share one common trait.

No. 1 reason some people aren't coachable 

They don’t really want help--they want validation.

Within my first year of private practice, I learned quickly how to spot individuals who weren’t ready for coaching. These folks claimed they needed help. But when I asked them a series of discovery questions about their situation, their answers told me a different story. This is called “behavioral interviewing,” and it’s the same technique many HR professionals are trained to use in job interviews to determine if a candidate is self-aware and telling the truth. It works. Here are two scenarios I commonly see in which professionals aren’t ready for coaching:

Example No. 1: Tell me I wasn’t wrong.

This involves professionals who have a very good career track record, but something has happened (e.g., they didn’t get a promotion, didn’t get the dream job, their company changed compensation packages, etc.). Something in their careers didn’t pan out they way they planned it, and they’re angry. These individuals want to find a way to “right the wrong.” They claim they’re open to coaching, but as we discuss their situation, it’s clear what they really want is for someone to tell them it’s unfair what happened to them. They want someone to validate the idea that they did everything right. Yet that’s not the case in careers. Your career is a game where the rules change daily. We need to know how to anticipate the changes when we can, and get help adapting when things change without our consent.

Example No. 2: Tell me I’m a victim.

These are professionals who feel their careers never really took off. They look back and see failure after failure, all due to circumstances beyond their control. They say co-workers and management repeatedly took advantage of their vulnerability. These individuals also want to find a way to “right the wrong.” They argue they’ve always tried their hardest but were never appreciated. As we discuss their situation, it becomes clear they want someone to validate the notion that they’ve been a victim of circumstance. They want to be absolved of any wrongdoing in their career failure. But that’s impossible. We all must take accountability for our actions. None of us are perfect. We all make career mistakes and have things happen that let us down. However, it’s the ones who can learn from those experiences who are able to move forward.

Now, who does well with career coaching? (Good news, it’s YOU!)

The funny thing is, if you chose to read this post, then I already know you are coachable. The fact you wanted to click and find out shows you seek ways to make yourself better and aren’t focused on trying to escape criticism.

You’re a professional who sees your career for what it really is: a never-ending road you need to pay attention to and navigate with care. You don’t expect others to fix your problems. You see a coach as an objective resource who can help you get a clear picture of what’s in front of you and how to drive forward so you hit the least amount of bumps in the road. Coachable professionals also use career coaching to help them get back on track when their career takes an unexpected hit. Even then, they believe in themselves enough to know they can find the career success and satisfaction they want--but they recognize they can’t do it alone.

I bet you probably have a mentor or two in your life. I also bet you’ve solicited help from coaches online or in-person at some challenging point in your career. Good for you! Coachable people get results. I have several coaches in my life, too. I couldn’t make it without them.

Bad career coaching? Or wrong choice of coaching tools?

I know some of you will read this and say, “I tried coaching once and it didn’t help.” And, in some cases, I’m sure that’s true. Yet more often, I see people investing in the wrong kind of coaching. For example, I’ve heard many stories of people paying $2,000 to have their résumés re-done, only to get zero results with the so-called new-and-improved format. First, I think it’s crazy to spend that kind of money on having your résumé done. Second, a résumé writer is not a career coach. That’s just throwing money at a problem and hoping for a quick-fix solution.

Rule No. 1 when using coaching: The coach should teach you a skill you can use now AND in the future. Think about pro athletes. They use several coaches to help them improve their ability to perform.

Takeaway: Invest time and money in coaching when you A) know you have the proper mindset and are truly ready to be coached, and B) have found the right coaching resource. Be smart about it, and you will get the ROI you want and deserve!

Published on: Aug 24, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.