Starting a Private Practice -- Colleagues To The Rescue!

By Patricia A. Van Haste

In late summer 2008, Karen Chopra, a career counselor in the Washington, D.C. area wrote two articles for Career Convergence about launching a private career coaching/counseling practice. As a recently minted global career development facilitator who had a dream of starting a "for real" private coaching practice, I was delighted to read them! In her articles, Karen suggested contacting colleagues in your area and asking for help... and so I did, emailing Karen herself as I was anticipating a move from my home in Connecticut at the time to the Washington, D.C. area.  This month's article will discuss my adventures in beginning a private practice since reading Karen's articles and contacting her, and will tell the story of successes and almost successes so far. I am happy to say that I am  "off and running", with thanks to colleagues like Karen Chopra, and to illustrate that help is out there in places where you might least expect it.

HOW DID I GET MYSELF INTO THIS? In 2006, I enrolled in a GCDF class, with the vision of starting my own business, after spending several years working in a public secondary school's college resource and career center. Could I transfer my skills to adults?  My certification as a GCDF then led me to another position, where I was able to immediately practice my new, upgraded skills working with a very diverse adult population, so the answer I found was a yes. That position was offered to me by a colleague at the time, a fellow classmate. She has since served as a reference.  I continued to improve my skills by securing distance certification, and teaching presentation skills at a local university in Connecticut. Now I had lots of education and some experience. It was time to find some clients!

WHAT COMES FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG? I needed a website and found a webmaster, with whom I bartered some career transition work in return for a free site. I had no office (and no desire to set one up, as a move from Connecticut to the Washington, DC area was in the offing)! An answer to that problem was the library of the university where I was then teaching; I was a faculty member who the library staff recognized, and my first private client was well satisfied with the arrangement. Later on in the year, I was asked to give a presentation on goal setting to a local organization, and the librarians at the university helped me pull it together...another instance of colleagues to the rescue.  I finished out 2008 with my last Connecticut client, a young man one year out of high school about to start community college with no idea what his career interests were. I found him (and his parents) through a local entrepreneurs' networking group. Never underestimate the power of a colleague.

MORE COLLEAGUES TO THE RESCUE!  Fast forward to February 2009. I am now settled in Alexandria, VA. I emailed Karen upon my arrival and she welcomed me by sending me several of the client forms that she uses. She added my information to her website referral list, encouraged me to become a Master Career Development Professional (MCDP), and introduced me to a local organization of career coaches and counselors and to an area mental health professional, to whom I could refer. I volunteer at the local one stop center, belong to a new entrepreneurs' group that I found through my insurance agent and now have two more clients! In fact, the idea for writing this month's article came from yet another colleague. When she asked me how I went about starting out, I told her and her answer was "you should write an article"!

FINAL THOUGHTS -colleagues can be a very useful and powerful tool when going into private practice, so remember to:

  • Welcome any newcomer to your area and offer help, even if it is just a cup of coffee
  • Make new colleagues aware of local networking groups and professional associations, such as NCDA
  • Listen first -talk later. Learn as much as you can from someone new 
  • If possible, offer to collaborate.  It just may mean increased business opportunities.


Patricia Van Haste Patricia A. Van Haste, MA, GCDF; DCF; MCDP, is a distance credentialed global career development facilitator now in private practice as a career coach in Alexandria, VA.  Prior to her move, she started and ran a college resource and career center at Seymour High School in Seymour, CT as well as taught at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. She began private practice in Connecticut in 2007 and moved to Virginia in late 2008. Her website is www.vanhaste.com and she can be reached at pat@vanhaste.com .

< Back | Printer Friendly Page