Coach Interview Series: Adrian Klaphaak

by Brandon

Adrian Klaphaak

Life and Career Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Adrian Klaphaak. Adrian is a Life and Career Coach based in San Francisco, California. In addition to his one-on-one coaching, Adrian has created The Career Pathfinder Coaching Program, which has helped 1000+ people find their calling and take their careers to the next level. It is a profound and practical group coaching program and online course that guides you step-by-step through instructional videos, coaching activities, career assessments, case studies, and unique pathfinding tools to find the right career for you. It is a highly effective and more affordable alternative to 1:1 coaching, with a 90% success rate.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Adrian: We work with people who are wondering what to do next in their careers. Often they are feeling unfulfilled to some extent. Maybe they feel like they’ve plateaued or they’re at a crossroads and are looking for something more meaningful but they aren’t sure what that is yet.

We work with clients to help them discover their gifts and their passions and then translate those into concrete career directions, and then explore and evaluate which career is right for them. What we’re always looking to do with clients is to help them do what they are — not just to find a job. Some people are in situations where there’s a need to find work as soon as possible. That’s important but it isn’t our specialty. Our specialty is helping people discover their true calling and build a successful career doing what they love. It’s not a quick fix.

NCA: What initially got you interested in this career path?

Adrian: My initial interest was born out of my own career and life crisis, although that might be a little bit dramatic.

I had started my first career as a management consultant. Very soon after starting to actually do the work, I was very disheartened by the reality of what it was to be a management consultant. I thought it was going to be strategic and engaging, and it was not that. I had this deep sense of “Wow, I’m not using my gifts. This isn’t me.” I didn’t know what else to do.

I was also quite disillusioned and confused at this career that I had thought I wanted for so many years and had directed my educational path toward. It was quite challenging to even get the job and then it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. I was disillusioned and I ended up quitting that job and not knowing what to do next.

I went and traveled. It was while I was traveling that I started to get into mindfulness meditation. I started asking some big questions about how this had happened. I thought I had found my calling and path as a consultant, then I realized I was just doing what I thought I should be doing. I was going for success and prestige. I wasn’t really listening to who I was, what my gifts were, and how to follow those things into a career.

Upon that realization and doing some deeper reflection of who I was,, what I realized is that I’ve always been somebody who guides people. I’ve always been somebody that others come to for counsel and to share their challenges. That was a very deep and significant realization for me. When I realized my essence and who I am as a guide, I thought, “Okay, that’s what I want to do for my work and my life.”

I didn’t know at the time I would be a career coach, but I did start to explore what careers involved guiding people. I looked at teaching and counseling and psychology. Ultimately through that, I found coaching. Coaching was the thing that felt like the right combination for me of being action-oriented and focused on accomplishing something. I’ve always been a doer but also deeply, deeply meaningful and having to do with helping people in their lives. That’s what launched me.

You don’t have to be excellent right from the beginning to be real and humble about what you do know and what you’re in the process of learning and practicing. The practice and reflecting on that practice and receiving feedback is what helps you grow more than anything.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding part of that process and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Adrian: The most rewarding thing for me is being a part of someone discovering and expressing more of who they are. More of their gifts. There’s a lot of good energy that is born into the world in that process. It’s something that I see as being deeply meaningful to the person, like discovering more of their beauty, their brilliance, their potential, their gifts, and then also finding ways to channel and express that into the world. In doing that, they’re touching other people and getting reciprocal positive feedback from others. That feels like a win-win. I have the privilege of witnessing this whole thing happening.

I receive so much inspiration from the growth and the changes that I see clients doing, as well, and from watching more and more good and positive impact happening in the world through people sharing their gifts and doing good things. It’s a win-win-win in all directions when somebody is discovering their gifts and expressing more of it in the world. That’s very touching for me and inspiring.

It keeps me on my own path of growth when I see clients discovering who they are, listening to what they most deeply feel called to do and going and doing it. I’m always doing that in my own life the best I can. I really appreciate that inspiration and learning from my clients.

Coaching is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, but it’s challenging, also. It’s one of the reasons why it’s held my fascination for 15 years now and I’m still fascinated by it. I think that truly making big changes in our lives is scary to a lot of us.

When working with someone in a process of big change — particularly around careers because it has to do with our security and stability in a lot of ways — it brings up questions of confidence. “Can I do this new thing? Will I be good enough? Will everybody think I’m crazy for making this change?” It can bring up so much fear and doubt. It can be very hard to support somebody in working through those doubts and fears and proceeding with that change despite the truth that we don’t even know how it’s going to go until we actually do it and live it.

I have done a lot of studying and training in various forms of different psychotherapeutic models: Parts Work, Internal Family Systems, and a mindfulness-based somatic psychology training program called Hakomi. I found that building my own skill set in those areas to help people work through their bigger doubts and fears has been quite helpful.

Everybody does want to put those limiting beliefs down. They want to let them go. But often, they are formed a long time ago by challenging circumstances and events of our lives. Once that belief starts to form, we then tend to see our experiences through that lens, so it gets affirmed. Even though there are other lenses to see things through, we start seeing everything through those glasses.

What I’ve learned is that there is a physiology, a neural network in the brain that forms around that particular belief. It’s not just an ethereal thing or a belief; it lives in a place in our brain and then gets reinforced over time.

Part of what coaching aims to do is change those neural pathways. Instead of going in one direction towards, “I’m not good enough,” we start to go in another direction which is “I’m a capable person,” for example. There’s a physiology in the brain that goes along with these ideas.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Adrian: I would say that’s a normal feeling. Not only is it normal, I think it’s real. When we’re starting out as coaches, we’re not as good as we’re going to be 10 years into it. There exists that potential that we’re refining and shaping through years of practice.

You don’t have to be excellent right from the beginning to be real and humble about what you do know and what you’re in the process of learning and practicing. The practice and reflecting on that practice and receiving feedback is what helps you grow more than anything.

You’ve chosen this path for a reason. What is that? What do you bring? It may not be 10 years of experience doing this, but it may be that for your entire life, you’ve been incredibly empathetic. Or it may be that you have 40 years of experience as a manager listening to people and helping them navigate challenges.

Give yourself a lot of space and a lot of room to not be perfect and not have it all figured out. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect right in the beginning.

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