Major Career Change 1-2-3


Last month fellow Regent College alumni Nathan Olson approached me to write an article for his website. He is running a series on people’s stories of how they chose their career. Funny thing: a major part of my career is helping people find a career. The story originally ran on his website here.


I don’t even like the term “life coach” – coach maybe, but to me “life coach” has an odd new-age and ambiguous ring to it. Technically anyone can slap this title on a business card and voila – a new career. In fact, coaches of all kinds are popping up everywhere! Sleep coaches, personality coaches, dating coaches. It’s all the rage. Nothing grates on me more than this label. Yet, here I am: a certified life coach. How did this happen? Why did it happen?

At first glance, the story of how I became a coach is simple. I was looking for a career change, met a guy who told me about coaching, went to coaching school, got certified and the rest is history. There was no loud divine calling or long-winded decision-making. But as I began to look more closely, I realized there was something going on!

When making decisions like a MAJOR CAREER CHANGE, three steps are needed. I don’t mean, it’s as easy as 1-2-3. But before any action happens, you will need to (1) Look back, (2) Look ahead, and (3) Look inside. You must remember where you’ve been, where you want to be, and what you’re made of.

Looking back

When I look back I realize that I spent the majority of my adult life doing two things: coaching swimmers and working at a small faith-based non-profit in the inner city. For the most part I loved and was good at both of these careers. But for reasons I don’t need to get into, I needed a change from both of them.

Looking back involved evaluating what I was and was not good at and what I liked and did not like about both careers.Helping/encouraging/empowering people – yes! Working with kids and parents (and addicts) – no! Pastoral care/administration/helping volunteers fit in – yes! Completely inconsistent working environments/working in the evenings – no!

When looking back, don’t forget to look at areas of your life outside your career. Volunteer work, friendships, travelling – all of these things shape us. I love when young women from my church would seek me out for advice or unofficial pastoral care. I love leading a team to get a task done at our church. I love encouraging people and calling out their gifts and talents. I don’t like the idea of working full-time because I want to be home with my kids and, of course, work on my domestic goddess skills.

Looking ahead

You must also look ahead. Where did I want to end up? I wanted to work on my own and with people. I didn’t want to work full-time. I wanted a combination of caring/helping/encouraging people and organizing/administration/writing.

Looking inside

Lastly, I looked inside. What got me really excited? Did anyone have a job I was really jealous of? Was God calling me somewhere?

When I was in seminary a friend told me about a job at her church that she thought I would be really good at. It was a pastoral position at a big church where you would help new people find out where they fit and how then wanted to serve, etc. She mentioned the words “personality test” and I was chomping at the bit – ready to go. This job wasn’t a realistic option for me at the time, but I never forgot about it.

So there I was, ready for a change, doing some soul-searching or as my lovely husband called it, “searching for my vocational wholeness.” It was then that I met a former pastor, turned coach. His brief description of coaching sent me straight home to research my next move. I knew where I was headed.

After a whopping 15 minutes I picked a reputable, in person, coaching school. The training took about a year and I now have 7 more letters behind my name. Technically, and only if I was trying to win an obnoxious contest, I am: Jane Halton, BA, MDiv, CPCC, ACC.


Now as a self-employed coach, I work mainly with Christian women who want a change in their lives. Changes like: a new career, a healthier body, a different parenting experience, a spiritual revival. The people who hire me have typically never worked with a coach before – although this is NOT required to work with me.

We build a relationship. We figure out how to work together and what is important for the client’s success. I ask thought provoking questions, listen, and offer encouragement and accountability. Together we find actions steps to get you moving! I like to describe my coaching with the phrase, “pastoral care meets your to-do list.”

As I look back, forward and inside, I can see God at work and how I’ve been prepared to do the work I now do. I may have dropped the “life” part out of my job title but I sure love coaching!


The Unique Role of a Coach



What is the difference and when would I hire a coach?

Confession: I have been trying to write this post for a while.  As difficult as it was I knew I had to keep going because “What is the difference between all of these people and why would I hire a coach?” is the million dollar question for a coach working with Christians. The reason I found it difficult to write this post is two-fold. First there are no absolutes – every pastor, mentor, coach etc. will handle scenarios differently and each person will benefit from the relationship in unique ways. Second, even though I am a coach, I don’t want to downplay the importance of any one role. Each role plays a unique and vital part in every relationship. I have benefitted from them all!

There are some obvious differences between the roles, especially in the training etc. but that doesn’t always make it easy to decide who to talk to (and many times we talk to more than one person).  The similarity between them is that, unlike a good friend, these relationships are all considered non-mutual. Non-mutual people are sought out because they are set apart in your life as trained professionals. It doesn’t mean they are better people, more spiritual, closer to God, or the greatest thing this side of the Mississippi. It just means they are different than you in some way and they all have something unique to offer.

My hope is to teach you a bit more about coaching because it is what I do and it is one of the least known roles in Christian circles.  

The following is a fictional scenario about a woman looking for some help with a certain situation followed by the potential outcomes from each person.

Scenario: Katie is a 27 year-old Christian stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old and the hope of having another child in a few years. She has always been a writer at heart but never earned an income as a writer. She has a popular blog and has even had a few articles published in online magazines. One of her biggest life goals is to write a memoir. She has an amazing story to tell but feels stifled, unfocused and knows there is something keeping her from moving forward.  She isn’t sure what it is. Writer’s block is really upsetting her out and she is losing the bit of confidence she had that she really could write a book.


Her first thought is to talk to her pastor. After all she likes and respects her pastor and sees her as someone who is wise and approachable.  Her pastor offers her encouragement and prayer. Katie is reminded that she is loved and created in the image of a creative God.  She leaves feeling heard, encouraged and inspired.


Katie contacts a spiritual director on the recommendation of a friend.  She sets up an appointment and spends an hour with a wonderful woman named Shirley. Shirley asks formative questions that point Katie to Christ and listens well. Shirley helps Katie see where God is already working in her life. She empowers and encourages Katie to give her struggles with writing to God. Together they pray, listen and seek God together. Katie leaves feeling refreshed and renewed.


Katie decides her sadness about feeling stuck as a sign she should return to her therapist. She decides to go see the therapist her husband and her visited for their pre-marital counselling.  They discuss how it feels and Katie is given permission to feel sad, to cry and simply ‘be’ however she is feeling.  Eventually her and Dave start talking about other things that are making Katie feel sad (she is lonely and misses her extended family). They then explore this place of loneliness and look into where it has come from and how it relates to her writing. Dave helps her uncover other areas that have hindered her confidence from her past.  Katie leaves feeling tired but hopeful.


Katie wonders if talking to someone who “has been there” would help. She finds Dan (who has written a memoir similar to the one she hopes to write) on twitter and contacts him about the prospects of being her mentor.   Luckily, he is willing. They set up a skype date so she can ask some questions. It turns out Dan has a lot to say and Katie has gleaned some helpful ideas. He tells her all the things he did to get published.  She is grateful for his time yet her memoir is no closer to getting done.


Katie’s sister Barb hired a coach when she was looking for a new career. Barb assured Katie that her coach could help even though the topic was different. Katie was skeptical because the coach wasn’t a writer but trusted her sister’s recommendation.  She was sure she wanted a Christian coach because she wanted someone who shared her faith because it felt strange to work so closely with someone who didn’t.  Katie hired her sister’s coach Zoe. Zoe didn’t ignore or glance over Katie’s sadness she encouraged Katie to sit in that feeling and to be present to it. Yet instead of focusing on all the past reasons why she was sad she helped Katie cast a vision for the future – what would it be like to have a published memoir? What is the next step Katie needs to get it done? What is standing in her way? Zoe didn’t go backwards like a therapist. Instead she took Katie forward into the realm of what is possible. She didn’t impart her knowledge or experience on Katie like a mentor. Instead she walked alongside her and together they made a plan for Katie’s success.

Zoe encouraged Katie, saw her strengths and helped move her forward.  Katie was given some thought provoking ‘homework’ to which Zoe held her accountable. Katie felt encouraged, validated and heard. But most of all she had a new perspective on writing her memoir – one that made the book feel not only attainable but exciting!

Now that you have read the scenarios you can see the benefits of each non-mutual relationship and understand the unique approach coaches take. You could imagine that if Katie was someone who didn’t want to write a book, but instead was struggling with an eating disorder a therapist would be the answer. Or if Katie needed encouragement in her prayer life perhaps her pastor or a spiritual director would be the best option.  Katie could benefit from all of these relationships but a coach was the best fit to help her with her goal of writing a memoir.