Coach Interview Series: Terry DellaVecchia

by Brandon

Terry DellaVecchia

Life Coach and Career Counselor

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 Terry DellaVecchia. Terry is a Life Coach and Career Counselor based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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

Terry: I have been a coach for five years. My previous career was as an Information Technology director. In that role, I realized after 30-odd years that I was working more with coaching and mentoring people than I was the IT side. Moreover, I evolved more into liking that side of it.

The last role that I had was at the McCormick spice company. I was in charge of all of the operations personnel outside the US, so I was traveling all over the place — China, Australia, France, UK, El Salvador, South Africa, Mexico, etc. And because we’re working with people from different cultures, their skill set is very different than just English-speaking, US people which were the people that used to be part of my department. That was the role that led me to believe that coaching was the right thing for me, so I left McCormick.

I went to iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching) and got certified as a professional coach. I got credentialed with the ICF, too. Because I was in IT, my thought was, “I’ve got 30 years behind me. I’ll be working with the IT people.” Of course, that’s not normally what happens unless you actually bill yourself that way. I wanted to work with a broader range of people.

What happened was that more and more people were coming to me for career coaching, so after six or eight months I decided to become a career and life coach. They kept saying in class, “Your niche is going to find you.” I made the assumption that because I was in IT, I wanted to be a transition coach or a change management coach because if you can’t handle change, you don’t belong in IT. [laughing] I wanted to help people with change.

When my first couple of clients came to me for career coaching, I thought, “Well, maybe I ought to start with some career packages instead of just life coaching packages.” That’s how I ended up billing myself as a career and life coach. And because of my international background, I have had clients from Italy, Mexico, etc.

I do have some IT people that selected me because I could speak their language. There are some clients who are trying to make a career change and the fact that I’ve made a significant career change, does turn them on, but then there are some clients who are so sick of IT that they don’t even want to talk to people in IT, which was almost where I was. My husband said to me, “You’re going to work with IT people?” and my first thought was, “Hell, no. I’ve been there for 30 years. I’m done with IT people.” [laughing]

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?

Terry: Because I decided to be a career and life coach, I know what a resume should look like. I know how to interview people. I know from being the interviewer what would potentially help the interviewee. I do workshops for hiring managers in companies because there are people that just do not know how to interview and get the right people. In that vein, one of the things that I don’t particularly enjoy is fixing a resume, I do it because I know how and it’s necessary to help my clients succeed.

I love doing interview skills. That is my jam. It is so much fun to do because I don’t care how good some people think they are, they can always be better. Having them think differently about themselves and using coaching skills to help them with their interview skills is amazing. It’s when the light goes on and they understand it’s all about your story. How do you make yourself so that you are memorable in an interview? With the other 25 people that came in for that same job, you want them to remember you. I help them do that!

I hate doing the resumes because it’s just a pain in the ass, but I do them. I love doing the interview skills because it’s all about making them think about themselves differently.

The one piece that I have to do in person or video conference is interview skills because I need to see your eyes and your body language, I can’t help you by just listening to your voice during an interview. There are some things you could work on but it’s not nearly the same as seeing someone. They might not live near me so they can’t do in-person but video conference is fine for interview skills.

The one question that you get the deer in the headlights look is, “So tell me about yourself.” And that’s almost always the first thing that people start with in an interview because it’s an ice-breaker kind of question. That’s the one place where you have a license to say anything you want that’s not on your resume.

When you’re asked, “Tell me about yourself” and they start talking about where they went to school and the last jobs they had, I immediately stop them and say, “You know what, that’s on your resume isn’t it? What’s not on your resume? What’s your passion? What are you excited about? Why do you want to work there?” And then they’re like, “Uh-oh.” [laughing]

The thing that I find the most fun, the most rewarding, is always when the light bulb goes on for somebody. It’s different for everybody. It’s when they realize that they don’t have to be Superman or Superwoman. That they are allowed to ask for help and that it doesn’t make them any less. That everybody has a breaking point. That’s always very rewarding and sometimes it’s hard to do. People are struggling with their truth.

I loved doing interview skills. That is my jam. […] Having them think differently about themselves and using coaching skills to help them with their interview skills is amazing. It’s when the light goes on and they understand it’s all about your story. How do you make yourself so that you are memorable in an interview? With the other 25 people that came in for that same job, you want them to remember you. How do you do that?

NCA: Even if you know it’s holding you back, sometimes people build walls and are afraid of crossing them.

Terry: What happens is, at some point, you needed that wall to protect yourself. It’s there for a reason. For many people, though, they’ve outgrown it and it no longer serves them. All it is is a barrier and they don’t realize that. They are so used to feeling that way that they don’t even see it as a barrier.

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

Terry: At iPEC, you’d go for in-person training for three different weekends, Friday to Sunday. It’s intense. The second day of training is when I got my A-ha moment. Our whole group kind of remained in touch over the last five years. We have a Facebook group and we keep in contact there. I think the trainer that we had was absolutely fabulous and helped me to realize what it means to be a coach.

I also have a couple of coach friends that I talk to because if you’re a coach you should have a coach. One I talk to every other week and the other one I speak to weekly because we volunteer together at a non-profit. We talk on the rides to and from. They have been my mentors over the last few years.

NCA: Can you offer some advice for somebody who is in the beginning stages of their coaching career?

Terry: I love helping people who want to become coaches. They’d call me or book a 30-minute free conference call from my website and say, “I am interested in talking with somebody who is a coach on how they open their own business and what they thought about it because I’m thinking about becoming a coach.” I will always take those calls. I love paying it forward.

For my first couple of clients, it just made me a little bit more comfortable to work with people I knew. That probably happens to a lot of people. It can be a good and a bad thing because you know something about them whereas typically in coaching you don’t, so you don’t want any prejudgments.

One of the things that I learned early on is that once you pick your rates, stick to your rates. Do not discount them for anyone because all that’s doing is demeaning you and it means that you were thinking less of yourself when you’re working with somebody. If they say, “Oh, I can’t afford that.” “Fine. Find somebody that you can afford. This is my rate.” Don’t ever discount them. Your rates are your rates.

As I got more and more comfortable with my coaching, I started raising my rates. I heard this from an assistant dean at Towson State when I started telling her I had people that called and said, “Would you discount?” She hit that home for me and it made total sense not to ever discount yourself.

The one thing that I had to get really comfortable with, which nobody thinks about, is stating your rates. I never had to sell myself before. I worked for companies and it wasn’t like that. The first time I had to actually tell somebody my rates, I was so uncomfortable. Who wants to buy from somebody who sounds like that? I realized I had to fix that or I was never going to sell my services.

I started practicing how to sell my rates and get comfortable with it. It was terrifying. That was one of my biggest obstacles. I realized I needed a catchphrase that I was comfortable with. Now, when somebody says, “What are your prices?” I’d say, “Okay, you gotta know going in, coaching is not a cheap date. These are my rates. I will email them to you. I sell by the package, not by the hour, although it equates to an hourly rate.” I come across just the way I’m talking to you now. Just the way I talked to you throughout the whole session.

It took me a while of practicing in front of a mirror and getting comfortable with that and now it doesn’t bother me at all — but it has been five years. [laughing]

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