Coach Interview Series: Denise Fowler

by Brandon

Denise Fowler

Career Happiness 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 Denise Fowler. Denise is a Career Development Specialist and Career Happiness Coach based in Washington, DC.

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

Denise: I am a positive psychology strength-based career coach with training in positive psychology, strength, and career coaching.

I work with clients at all career stages – from people who have no idea what they want to do to people who are looking to make a slight shift transition to people who have been forced into making a decision. My work includes career exploration, job search and networking strategies, resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn, interviews and salary negotiation. I also work with clients who are looking to use more of a strength-based approach in their jobs. They don’t want to leave but rather do their job better and advance in their career.

In terms of the client base, I work with clients at all stages in their career, experience levels within many different industries. One niche based on my own background and the nature of living in DC is clients from all sectors who are public service and mission focused.

NCA: Can you explain a little about how you came to this particular niche? What led you to this corner of the coaching world?

Denise: I had spent the first part of my career in public service and what I loved the most was the individual coaching. I was almost finished with my Coaches Training Institute program when a poverty alleviation grant I was working on ran out of money. The university said to me, “Well, there’s this position in career services. It seems like you’ve done a lot with this field. Would you want this job?” It was the perfect time to make the transition.

My website says, “It’s not about the job you want. It’s not about the career you want. It’s about the life you want.” When I coach, I integrate the whole life within the grounding of careers. In addition to my coaching business, Career Happiness Coaching, I’m also the Director of a graduate school career center at GW, so I live and breathe this work every day.

[Career coaching] challenges both sides of my mind — the really pragmatic side of the career and then the coaching, which is big picture, process-oriented.

NCA: Can you describe the degree/certifications that you needed to complete to get to this point in your coaching career?

Denise:  Since my Master’s is not in counseling, I have done a lot of additional certifications to make sure that I have a strong foundation in career development. My master’s in Public Policy Management is helpful in fields I focus on in public service. I am certified in Resume Writing and am in the process of getting certified in social media profile writing. I also have certifications in Global Career Development Facilitation certification, applied positive psychology and Gallup StrengthsFinder.

I love this field because you constantly get to work to be better . Every day I’m like, “Oh I could’ve asked this question. I could’ve approached it this way.” What’s great about being both in the career and coaching worlds is I am continually trying to get better as a coach while simultaneously staying current in the career space. It challenges both sides of my mind — the really pragmatic side for careers and the coaching side which is bigger picture, process-oriented.

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career and on the flip side, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Denise: Throughout my life, my core value has been to inspire people to see their potential. It’s affirming to leverage positive psychology and strengths to help people let go of old stories to shape their view of who they are, not what they think they should be. Particularly around careers, when they find work that feels really meaningful in that space that really matches their strengths, their values, and purpose, it lights me up. I love getting feedback from clients who have found their career happiness. This drives me!

The hardest aspect is balancing my full-time job and side coaching business. Fortunately, they’re both similar lines of work but maintaining balance in my life is tough. With my business, I’m constantly relying on my own values to make sure I am taking clients and work that really speaks to my heart.

NCA: What would you say to a coach who loves coaching, it’s their passion, and they know that but they are really scared or really hesitant to jump in as an entrepreneur? They might want to join an agency and then kind of go that path. What would you say to a coach like that in those shoes?

Denise:  Since I have both a full-time job and a coaching business, I am able to make decisions based on what I want to do rather than need to for revenue for my business. I would recommend for a coach looking to build their business is to do it slowly and allow things to unfold organically.

The same is true when you are deciding to work with clients since by going slowly, you can choose to focus on work that’s in your “wheelhouse.” This allows you time to grow to a level where if you feel ready to take that leap, you are ready to go full-time. Questions you’ll want to ask yourself are : Do you have enough of the client base? Are you comfortable as a marketer/businessperson to grow your own business independently? Would you prefer to have a steady part-time job and coach on the side? My feeling is you’re going to know more about yourself if you do it in an incremental, organic way versus to jump all in. I feel like it helps in doing calculated risk-taking.

It’s important to remember that there are a lot of coaches out there and you have to know your distinct value. I’ve been fortunately that growing my coaching business has been fairly smooth. I think it’s because I’m very authentic when I talk to potential clients and don’t have a hard sell. I explain who I am because I want them to find the right fit. And if I’m not the right fit, I want them to find another coach and will often refer a client to someone else. I think that authentic style allows clients to feel really safe with me to trust whether or not I’m the right fit.

You have to know whether or not you have that entrepreneurial energy. I have some friends that have this mindset and maintain multiple revenue streams for their business. They are pragmatic to ensure they have money coming in from coaching, training, consulting and other avenues.

Particularly around careers, when they find work that feels really meaningful in that space that really matches their strengths, their values, and purpose, it lights me up. I love getting feedback from clients who have found their career happiness. This drives me!

NCA: Can you think of one mentor who was the most vital to your success as a coach and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive?

Denise: There were two people who were vital and are a few “chapters” ahead of me professionally. They both are grounded about life so I have been able to turn to them for a pragmatic advice. They are very comfortable with their work and generous with sharing information. There are two pieces of advice that stand out. One of them said to me, “You have to first learn what you want to say Yes to then it’s easier to know what to say No to,” which is a flip to the advice people usually get and shifted how I thought about my career.

The other one when I asked about what was next for her career said, “At this point in my life, I’m less concerned with the heights of my career than the depth.” And I love that framing of depth versus height. Everyone is trying to get their next book out, or a TED talk, or be the next cool thing that’s going to be on Oprah. And here is this woman, a phenomenal trainer and phenomenal individual, and she’s focused on the depth in how she is impacting things in her world. Both of those pieces of advice have stayed with me and I’ve repeated so many times with my clients.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who was in your shoes when you got started? Somebody who’s just starting out and they might not know exactly what niche they want to occupy but they know that they have a passion for coaching. What advice would you give somebody in those shoes?

Denise: To stay focused on who you are because it is so easy to get caught in comparisons. “This person’s website is better. This person’s a better coach. They have a better business. They are better at this or that.” I’ve been doing coaching for 15 years and I still struggle with that.

But it helps to know your gifts. Know what makes you “you” and then build a business from that place. You’re likely going to keep comparing but try to catch yourself and ask, “What’s true for me?” This allows you to approach this work from a place of authenticity and build your coaching from a place of inner happiness. You’re being true to yourself.

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