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ICF coaching programs added to DOD’s online credential offerings

When 26-year Air Force veteran Dr. Mike Smith left his first post-military corporate job to start his own company, he struggled a bit to find his way.

The former USAF Thunderbird had found success at Berkshire Hathaway, where he worked for Warren Buffett and Greg Able, providing mentoring and leadership training for employees at all levels up to senior executives at the energy company.

Smith says his military connections had led him to Berkshire, but when he decided to leave, he found navigating his career to be quite challenging.

“I was looking for direction and clarity,” Smith said. “A way to have the best impact I could.”

At that time, there were no programs like Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL), which helps service members find information on certifications and licenses related to their military occupation and civilian careers. Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense added the International Coaching Federation’s Associate Certified Coach credential to the COOL offerings.

“For me, if I had the DoD COOL pathway to becoming a coach available to me then, it would have been life-changing,” Smith said. He’s now a best-selling author and motivational speaker.

“Talk about being set up for success right out of the gate,” Smith said. “The ICF credential helps to set a clear path for a coaching career, which is invaluable when making a transition from the military into this new career path.”

COOL began first with the Army in 2002 – and today, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each have their own service-specific programs designed to match military occupations to civilian credentials such as occupational certifications, licenses, and apprenticeships.

The programs also provide resources to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen attain these credentials, which can help give job-seekers an advantage or fill gaps between training requirements needed for certain careers.

Smith says the ICF credentials are considered gold standard in the growing profession. He’s coached a variety of folks – from military commanders to CEOs, banking executives and pastors. He said the ICF training has helped him become a better mentor and teacher.

“ICF’s programs have helped add alignment and clarity around my coaching, elevating my thinking from what I do to why I do it. As I worked toward my ICF credential, I deepened my understanding of the ethics, values, and code of conduct for the profession and practice, which has helped me both in the military and in corporate America,” Smith said.

According to ICF, the addition of the program to COOL comes just as coaching is taking off, with more organizations investing in coaching for their employees. The profession grew by 54 percent from 2019 to 2022, according to the ICF’s Global Consumer Awareness Study, with over 100,000 practitioners worldwide.

Coach practitioners in North America reported earning an average of $67,800 in annual income, and the prestigious ICF credentials give folks a competitive advantage because of the rigorous requirements and high-quality standards in a fast-growing yet unregulated industry.

“It is a huge value add for the individual coach,” said Carrie Abner, Vice President of Credentials and Standards at ICF. “Equally important is the positive impact that coaching offers to clients, and those impacts create a ripple effect, adding value beyond the individual to organizations, communities and society.”

But perhaps the best part of ICF’s programs now being available through COOL, Abner said, is the chance for ICF to in some way give back to our nation’s veterans.

“We are honored to support the exceptional, selfless, and diverse members of the military as they advance their careers or transition to new ones, and we know that the addition of a coaching credential will serve to expand the ways in which they continue to contribute to building a better world,” Abner said.

For more information on the program, visit the COOL website.

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