Virtual Career Transition Support – Is it a good thing?

August 15, 2014 Kelly McDougald

There’s an emerging trend these days in the career transition and outplacement world called “virtual transition”.  Virtual transition is career transition support that is delivered remotely. It can be done via telephone, Skype, or other similar technologies, but  clients never travel to a counselor’s location and they don’t actually meet face-to-face.  It’s important to understand that this is not purely “self-serve” or “e-transition”.  While there may be other online support tools offered (resources, elearning, etc.), there are also live conversations with a career counselor. The main difference of this emerging trend is that in-person conversations are now conducted in a virtual program online or by phone.

So is this a good thing?  Can career transition support be effective if it’s delivered virtually?  The answer is yes and no, like all things today, it depends …

For new providers in the career transition space, it’s definitely a good thing. There are very low barriers to entering the market. Hire a few counselors, rent some technology access and you’re up and running.  No need for the traditional real estate hassle of having offices in multiple cities. Counselors can work from anywhere. The cost of providing services is optimized and so there should be a corresponding price reduction for customers. 

But what about the individual receiving the service? 

The Pros:  There are many benefits which come from not having to travel to a counselor’s office. The obvious elimination of travel time and cost, and the ability to service individuals in more rural communities are obvious benefits. Tech savvy workers are adept with conducting business in this manner and expect this type of flexibility. Clearly for Gen X and Y individuals there is often a preference to use this over a more intimate in-person meeting. Additionally, with counselors spread across multiple geographies, access to a live conversation should be available 24 hours a day. Clearly, virtual transition provides significant opportunities for efficiency and flexibility.

The Cons:  Purely virtual arrangements can also have their limitations and drawbacks. A phone call or Skype conversation isn’t always the best arena to build an intimate and trusted relationship. The loss of a job can be emotional and people are vulnerable. In-person meetings can provide the most expedient means of building the confidence and trust required to move forward in a coaching relationship. Additionally, the value of networking should not be under-estimated. Virtual transition focuses on one relationship, the coach/client, while we know that effective job search is all about networking. Opportunities realized through seminars, workshops, and group sessions foster strong networks and information sharing between individuals in transition. And on a more tactical basis, some individuals require a work space to focus and avoid the barking dog at home, or a place to work between meetings.

So ultimately the best type of transition is the one that meets the individual’s unique requirements. We must remember too, that a hybrid approach can also be very effective, leveraging the benefits of both models.

Regardless of the method of delivery though, there are key attributes that define excellent transition support. So whether virtual, in person, or a combination of both, ensure that your transition services offer the following best practices:

  • Programs are defined for the client’s individual needs: Each individual, transition process, and outcome is unique and good programs are designed around the individual.
  • There are dedicated coaches: There is a counselor specifically assigned to each client. Every conversation builds on the last and leverages the accumulated context and relationship. A “coach on call/coaching call center” can help with quick tactical questions, but isn’t optimal for true coaching and learning.
  • The coaches specialize in career coaching: Individuals in transition must learn how to both find and land a job. Career coaches are experts in techniques for both sourcing opportunities and then being the chosen candidate. This is a very different skill than life coaching or leadership coaching.
  • There is local expertise: The transition company and coach should have information about local employers and recruitment firms, and a strong network in the local community which they leverage on behalf of the job seeker.
  • The transition company takes an active role in keeping clients engaged and focused: They reach out to their clients to help manage the process and are not passive.
  • Information is available in different formats (webinars, online, 1:1 coaching, etc): Everyone learns in a different way so multiple formats offer the greatest ability to meet individual requirements and provide access to learning.

Best-in-class transition companies offer all of the above as standard services while designing the delivery methodology, whether virtual, in person, or both, around the needs of the individual.

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