Advice from Career Coach, Deb Elbaum

I’ve always been intrigued by people who are Career and Life coaches, and at any given time I would welcome advice from someone who specializes in helping to guide people toward his or her goals. Many of us revisit our lives in January with the start of a new year. With that in mind, I had a great conversation with local career and life coach, Deb Elbaum. So whether you’re happy in your career, contemplating a change or are full-tilt ready to jump into something new, I hope you enjoy this interview with an expert in life change.

–This time of year, many people reflect on making changes in their life and career. Do you have specific advice to share on how to know if and when it’s the right time to make big changes?

Yes, it’s such a great time of the year to reflect. The truth is that only you know when it’s time to start exploring something new. But this exploration doesn’t have to be a huge leap. Instead, I recommend that if you are thinking about making a big change, that you start with baby steps. That way, you can gather data and get clearer about what’s next. For example, if you are thinking about making a career change, try doing one of these action items: ask someone in a field you are interested in for an informational interview; update your resume; or do some on-line research about a company that intrigues you. As you take action, you’ll keep learning, and it will point you toward your next steps.

–How did you get into being a life / career coach?

I always knew I wanted to help people feel calmer, happier, and more confident. When I was younger, I thought that would be by becoming a doctor, and so I went to medical school. During my post-graduate training, however, I realized that practicing medicine was not for me. I then took a bit of a detour, and built a career as a medical writer. Although this work was fine, it didn’t feel purposeful. There came a time in my life when I wanted my work to be more fulfilling; I knew I needed to work with people. I explored my “next” career by doing all the things I encourage my clients to do: I networked, read, and researched. When I learned about coaching, something inside of me clicked. I got trained and certified as a coach through Coaches Training Institute, and love being a coach. And I’m continuing to learn! I’m currently in an advanced coaching program to get trained in neuroscience to bring brain-based tools to coaching.

–Is there a “right time” to contact you, depending on where someone’s at in the process of considering life changes?

Any time is the “right time.” Regardless of where you are in the process of contemplating change, there is always an opportunity for more calm, clarity, and confidence. That’s what I help people with. To be our best and do our best thinking and planning, we need ways of calming our body and brain when we get overwhelmed. When we feel indecisive, we need strategies to find clarity — to know what our next steps are and why. Lastly, to make shifts in our life, we often need to embody confidence — to believe in our strengths and purpose, so that we can take risks, meet new people, and try new things.

–Are there any exercises (mental, not physical!) that a person can do to help get back on the right track?

Actually, there are both mental and physical exercises to help people feel calmer and clearer about what’s next! I am a huge fan of Amy Cuddy’s work and “power posing.” Standing in a powerful position helps to lower your stress and raise your confidence, especially before situations you are worried about, like networking and interviewing. You can watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk here

Mentally, I have lots of strategies to help people feel calm, clear, and confident about what they are doing and the choices they’re making. Here is an easy exercise that consists of three questions you can ask yourself when you feel stuck or unsure about what to do next:

  1. What are my choices right now? The truth is we always have choices — even with all of the constraints we face.
  2. Given my choices, what am I choosing to do right now? This reminds us that we have agency over our lives.
  3. Why? Remembering our “why” is helpful for reconnecting with our values and priorities.

–Are most of your clients people who currently are in a job but are trying to change careers? Or do you have mostly stay-at-home-mothers/fathers that are considering getting back into the workforce? (Or both)

Both. My clients include industry leaders, career changers, job seekers, and women and men returning to work. In addition to working with people who are focused on career transition, I work with men and women who need support to re-balance and re-prioritize their life.

–What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to change his or her job?

When I work with clients, I rarely tell people exactly what the right job for them is; after all, I don’t have a crystal ball! (Even though I sometimes wish I did.) Instead, I ask lots of questions that help people get clear about who they are and what they want.

Some of the first questions I ask are, “Why are you making this change or considering this change? What is the underlying value or priority you have?” Often, people want to change jobs because their priorities have change at this point in their lives. Understanding the reasons you are doing something is critical, because transition can be hard. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing will help you stay more focused and motivated.

–What kind of workshops do you offer?

I speak at organizations and venues in and around Newton, and offer workshops both for individuals and organizations. My upcoming events can always be found here on my website. I have a few upcoming events and I’d love your readers to join me at any or all of them!

1/10 @6 pm in Needham, I will be a coach panelist for Boston Women Connect and will guide participants through an exercise to clarify their priorities. Click here.

2/21 @7 pm, I’ll be speaking at the Newton Free Library as part of the Job Seekers and Career Development Series. Two other coaches and I will discuss our chapters in the book Coaching for Powerful Change.

3/7 @7 pm, I’ll be teaching a class at Newton South High School through Newton Community Ed called “Network With Confidence”.

3/17, I will be presenting a session about Setting Boundaries with two amazing colleagues named Rachel Rice and Amy Rebecca Gay at the Bryant University Women’s Summit in Smithfield, RI.

3/25 @ 9 am – 5 pm (Westwood) Rachel, Amy, and I will lead an all-day transformational workshop about Setting Boundaries.

–It must feel so gratifying to help people transition out of a frustrating, blocked place in their lives. Have you ever felt stuck yourself?

Absolutely. I have great empathy for people who feel stuck and unsure, because I know what it feels like. After I left my medical residency, it took me a while to figure out what to do next. To be honest, during that time, I felt like a professional failure. Objectively, I know that wasn’t the truth — it was just the (very unhelpful) perspective I had at the time. Over time, I was able to find a different perspective and create my next career. When I help clients change their perspective from one that is unhelpful into one that is empowering, amazing things happen.

–How can people contact you for more information?

You can learn more about me and coaching on my website You can also email me at or call me at 617-213-0858. I always offer a complimentary initial conversation, so people can better understand what coaching is and if it’s right for them at this time in their life.

Thanks, Deb! And may we all have exciting, fulfilling transitions in 2017!

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Author: Holly

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