It may sound counterintuitive, but the challenges faced by women in their early careers are not so different to the challenges they face at senior level.

In fact, in my coaching sessions, recurring topics include being able to manage conflict, building confidence and resilience, being able to say “no” and exploring how best to influence decisions. These themes are highlighted across all levels, not just in entry level or leadership positions.

In the face of these common challenges, access to coaching early on – and especially at the beginning of a woman's career – can play a pivotal role in her professional development.

As we emerge from a global pandemic, evidence shows an increase in the desire among women to have more flexibility and achieve a work-life balance that enables a healthy and meaningful life. The female leaders that I coach want to sustain their career, but not at the expense of their health or their personal relationships. They want to be able to say 'no', to feel in control of their workload and manage expectations. These are the aspects that we explore and strengthen in career coaching, helping female leaders set boundaries and create strategies for staying within them.

Overcoming challenges early

One of the challenges during the early stage of a career is being able to do set healthy boundaries without authority. At a senior level, authority is a given, but if those behaviours haven't been nurtured and developed from much earlier, a lack of confidence can end up making a leadership experience unnecessarily stressful and challenging.
Coaching is often introduced at this stage to accelerate those development needs or to develop performance and can have an undercurrent of immediacy as the leadership role demands it. In these cases, it is key to coach the person, not the problem. To recognise that any insecurities or characteristic deficits may have been present for a long time. That's why working with a coach from the start can be most beneficial to promote self-awareness and highlight development areas early on, allowing women to grow and develop in tandem with their careers.

Realising early career aspirations

As a coach, I've noticed a real shift in career aspirations for many young women, a drive to put wellbeing and making a positive difference above being a leader in the hierarchal sense.  

Women in this new generation tend to be more culturally aware and make employment choices that lean more heavily on ethical reasons than on financial rewards. The traditional expectations of employers must change in line with those needs to attract women and develop them into confident leaders with the right skills.

We know now that the best leaders are well attuned to the need for emotional and cultural intelligence. Skills like self-awareness and a sense of acceptance of uncertainty rate higher than annual promotions and job titles.

It starts at the beginning

What if we introduced coaching at a much earlier stage? I work with children as young as nine and the common themes are just the same: building confidence, building resilience, and dealing with conflict. Developing positive behaviours at an early age creates a future with a more equal and empathetic boardroom.

Despite the fact that our employee coaching involves less playtime, the outcomes remain the same. Coaching from the ground up helps early careers women recognise their strengths, challenge their weaknesses, and develop skills that will help them better understand and control their behaviours. That surely makes for a more equal and empathetic world.