We think of life coaching as something for middle-aged executives, yet 17- and 18-year-olds are increasingly signing up. Is it for career advice or because they help assuage loneliness?

When Josh Dixon was excluded from school for antisocial behaviour, he thought the prospect of a happy life was over. He was in his mid-teens, after a period in which he had been bullied. It felt like everyone had given up on me and that Id either end up in a life of crime, like my other friends who were excluded, or in a dead-end job, he says. Now 20, Dixon runs his own recruitment consultancy, which he says has an annual turnover of 2.5m. He credits this swift change of fortune to an unlikely, but increasingly common, path for young people: hiring a life coach.

The professional marketplace Bidvine recently reported a 280% year-on-year surge in life coach bookings on its site, with 54% made by those aged 18 to 22. In its 2017 Global Consumer Awareness Survey, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) found that 35% of Generation Z respondents (those born after 1995) already had a coach. The service is usually associated with executives looking to advance their careers, so why has life coaching become so appealing to young people?

Lots of young people forget theyre playing a long game … Hailey Yatros.

For Dixon, it was a crucial step in regaining his confidence. He was referred to a local coaching charity by a teacher and began going twice a week. Initially, I was very sceptical. I was worried that whatever I talked about would be shared with the school and I didnt want that, because I was ashamed of my situation, he says. But, after three months, the life coach began getting through to me and she broke it down, showing me the negative things I was doing and where it would lead me, compared with the positives I could gain if I just made different life choices. These included continuing his education. Little successes like finishing college were massive in building my confidence. She also made me realise that I didnt need social media; I didnt need to keep comparing myself with other people and searching for approval, he says.

Hailey Yatros, a 26-year-old life coach, says the internet is a key reason why young people are seeking coaching. This generation leans on social media as their means of connection to other people and they dont really have anything else, she says. A lot of them get a coach to not be alone. I had a client once who had over 7,000 followers on Instagram and she didnt have anyone in her life she could confide in if she needed to.

One of the most common questions Yatros receives from clients is what their purpose in life should be. I laugh when young people come to me asking how they should live their lives, because youre not meant to know that when youre in your teens, she says. Your life purpose is meant to evolve over time and that question should be asked more than once. Lots of young people feel that, if they dont get what they want right now, theyll never get it. They forget theyre playing a long game.

Yatros is one of a new generation of life coaches in their 20s who approach their young clients with a deeper understanding of the issues they face, since they have similar concerns. Coaching is unregulated, so anyone could call themselves a coach, although Yatros took a qualification through a Dale Carnegie training course at 19. When I started, I had clients who were in their 40s, but age has nothing to do with it, she says. Its about your experiences and what youve learned. My clients didnt care how old I was, because we live in a society where people are so thirsty for help: if you can help them, theyll absolutely take it.

The surprised reaction to having a life coach has gone away … Allison Rosengard.

Life coaching is not to be confused with therapy. You go to therapy because something is broken and you want it to be fixed, says the life coach Michael Bungay Stanier, whereas in coaching we have the philosophy that youre resourceful, creative and whole and its about amplifying whats working now. Coaching is often short-term six to 12 months and very positive and goal-oriented, whereas therapy can move much slower and much deeper. Counselling and therapy qualifications are also more widespread than life coaching, with services accessible via the NHS in the UK a provision that does not extend to coaching.

Bungay Stanier is 51 and has been coaching for more than 20 years. He thinks the increase in interest among young people is not only down to the anxieties and loneliness wrought by social media, but also because the idea of actively pursuing a career has been destigmatised. When I started, people would get a coach because they were a bit messed up or were struggling, he says. But now coaching is seen as a helpful space to figure stuff out its almost a badge of honour to show people youre committed to getting the best out of your life. He also credits its popularity to a greater sense of questioning among young people. When I was growing up, it was all about buckling down and working the system. Millennials, though, dont want to put up with the bullshit or jump through hoops; theyre always asking themselves: What do I want? which is a profound and really difficult question. Coaching can offer them different perspectives, he says.

Coaching is almost a badge of honour to show people youre committed to getting the best out of your life … Michael Bungay Stanier.

One year into college, Allison Rosengard, 21, who lives in Boston in the US, found herself asking what her lifes purpose would be. I was anxious at the time, because my whole childhood was geared up towards getting to college, then once youre there youre totally alone. I didnt have much direction, she says. Life coaching felt like a safety blanket, connecting with someone who had been there only five or 10 years before me, with similar experiences.

Rosengards coach was Kali Rogers, the 31-year-old founder of Blush, a service aimed at young women. Women need a safe space, Rogers says. So, it was important for me to build a platform where they wouldnt feel judged. Rogers was also kicking against the stereotypes. People think that life coaching is just for middle-aged men; when I started, all I could find was male executive coaches. I wanted to break the stigma and show that you dont have to be a man making a million dollars a year, sitting in a corner office, to have this luxury. You can be a 22-year-old woman at her first job and thinking: Is this my life?

Rosengard has been seeing Rogers for five years. A good coach is a mentor in all things they show you how to be an adult, Rosengard says. Initially, I would get a lot of questions from people asking whether I was seeing a therapist and why I needed it, but theres a greater awareness now. As self-care becomes more popular, the surprised reaction to having a life coach has gone away. Rosengards work with Rogers has led her into a career as a management consultant.

Increasingly, young people are choosing life coaching itself as their profession. The career is growing rapidly, says Magdalena Mook, the CEO of the ICF. We have 900 new members joining each year, with many Gen Zs training. They will be the future of the profession, as they really see it as a viable career choice.

Harry Langdon, 26, is based in Jersey and has been practising for three years. I became obsessed with personal development and enabling people to get the best out of themselves, he says. Coaching seemed like the only career choice that would add a sense of purpose to my life. I knew I could connect well with younger people and that they would trust me, because Im a millennial myself. The demand has been huge.

With prices ranging from 45 a session to 500 and above, it is cost rather than any stigma that seems the biggest barrier to accessing a coach. Gabby Carpenter, 19, hired a coach two years ago, when she was applying to get into university. I had to use all the money I was making in my summer job to afford the sessions, but I wouldnt hesitate to recommend it to my peers, she says. It might seem a bit woo-woo, but that investment gave me the confidence and structure to get into medical school and will pay off for the rest of my career. It sets you up for life. Carpenter also believes that the skills she learned through coaching will help her as a doctor. Coaching teaches you how to communicate properly and how to prioritise different aspects of your life, which is something that we Gen Zs have struggled with, she says. Weve grown up with technology and distractions we almost have to learn how to look someone in the eye.

With a new branch of his recruitment company having just opened in Manchester, Dixon plans to continue seeing his own life coach. You end up building a really close mentor-like relationship, he says. Shes really helped me get that balance between ambition, purpose and life. Young people just need to slow down; once we do, we finally have the space to figure out what were good at. From there, we can build much better, more considered lives.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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