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Nadia Ibrahim-Taney of Beyond Discovery Coaching: “Really decide if you need a certification”

What I am good at it is connecting with people, listening to my client’s fears and anxieties and holding space for a supportive coaching environment that lets people design and build careers that work for them. You have to know your unique selling points as a coach- what is your why? If you can communicate […]

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What I am good at it is connecting with people, listening to my client’s fears and anxieties and holding space for a supportive coaching environment that lets people design and build careers that work for them. You have to know your unique selling points as a coach- what is your why? If you can communicate why you do what you do, how you do it and how it provides value to clients, you will attract the right people to your business.


The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?

In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Nadia Ibrahim-Taney.

Nadia (she/her/hers) is an experienced higher education administrator and the founder/principal career coach behind Beyond Discovery Coaching. As an American who studied degrees in the US and the United Kingdom, she has first-hand knowledge and expertise on how to effectively leverage American and British education in the North American job market to maximize the chances of landing interviews and negotiating higher salaries. She is currently obtaining an International Coaching Federation designation to be recognized as a professional coach around the world.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?

Of course! I’ve spent my entire professional career in higher education working with students from around the world. I’ve had the good fortune to live in cities like Boston, Massachusetts and London, England, which offer diverse and plentiful opportunities to work in academia. I’m 37 years old now and still feel as passionate about the value and impact of education today as I did when I first started my own academic studies in 2002. That’s how I know I’m in the right industry for me!

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Working in academia is very cyclical- it’s more or less the same schedule year in and year out (except for 2020!). With that, the students stay the same age, and you keep getting older. You have to find ways to keep your motivation high, your interests diversifying and ways to ensure you are continuously learning and growing throughout your career. As a coach, I know the value of personal and professional development and the opportunities networking can bring. I encourage folks to stay curious, continue to network, be hungry for the next challenge and keep pushing yourself to new and uncharted waters. The more you fail, the more you learn. Make sure you are learning from your experiences- be resilient and approach everything you do with a beginner’s mindset.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

I got really lucky- I had a fantastic first boss out of college. I learned how to write a professional email, how to talk with a client over the phone (that was scary for a Millennial coming out of college in 2007) and how to politically navigate the workplace by making alliances with the right people in the right places. Many of these habits I carry with me today. The most helpful habit I’ve learned in my career is to show your colleagues you are interested in them as people- as real human beings. Find something that lights them up and just sit with them and listen. The more someone knows you care, the more they will care about you and your success. You need help in business. Make sure you are building a team of people that are willing and able to jump in when you need them.

This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

I’ll speak about my ability to keep a 0 email Inbox, which seems to be something that plagues many people in the professional workplace causing stress and anxiety. I learned very early in my career email was king. If it wasn’t in writing- it didn’t happen. I copy myself on every, single, email I send. I have a basic folder organization system within my Inbox that isn’t so complicated you need a directory to navigate but at least provides basic demarcation by subject area.

When emails come in, I ask myself if it can be answered a minute, an hour or 1+ days. If the email falls into the one minute group, I answer it right away. If it falls into the one hour or more group, I schedule a time to complete the task in the email within 24 hours. I always hold time on my calendar for “thinking” time where I can work on larger scale projects or more time consuming emails. For me, it’s 8a-10a every day. If an email falls into the 1+ days category- like wow, this is going to be a big project- I send an email right away asking for a phone call with the sender so we can discuss expectations, timeline and goals of the project. If I’m going to spend a chunk of time on a project, I want develop clear expectations with the person requesting my time and expertise. I’ll then schedule it into my “thinking” time over the next few days and have a deliverable in an agreed upon timeline.

The goal of email is communication and keeping things moving forward. Sometimes you need to be willing to jump on the phone and talk things through. I’ve found a 5 minute phone call to be more effective than 25 emails sometimes. Learn your colleagues, figure out how to work best with their strengths and leverage email when and where it makes sense.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Good habits are learned. Try something- if it works, commit to doing it more, if it doesn’t- try something else. Your entire professional life will center on learning and unlearning, get comfortable being uncomfortable and develop a beginner’s mindset. Your ability to evolve and be agile will directly impact your ability to be continuously successful in your career- and not just now- but forever.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Nothing come to mind.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m really excited to share my private practice with more people around the world. I completed one of my master’s degrees in London, England and have been working with other Americans who have studied abroad and are now returning to the US job market. I’m establishing partnerships with British and Irish universities to help get connected to more students and working on creating an online course to help walk students through an entire job search. I also write a blog and am always thinking about what pinpoints clients have when searching for a job or building their career and how my blog content brings them value.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Community- A solid, supportive and honest community as you begin to build your business is key. Your community will keep you honest to yourself and your vision, support you when challenges and setbacks hit- and they will- and will be there to celebrate your wins and successes when they come- because those will hit too.
  2. 2. A beginner’s mindset to accept you don’t know what you are doing: Few people go to school for “how to be a coach”, just trust in the fact there are going to be elements of creating a coaching business you don’t know how to do- well not yet anyways! Give yourself the grace to explore the unknown and get comfortable being uncomfortable- it shows you are growing.
  3. How much is your time worth: knowing when to outsource certain tasks like social media management or website design is a key element to ensuring you do what you do best- coaching! You didn’t get into coaching to be a media strategist or website designer. Focus on the elements of your business that only you can do and outsource out when it makes sense.
  4. Really decide if you need a certification- I have been coaching for years without a certification but I will say, going for my International Coaching Federation certificate has been such a joy. I feel much more confident in my coaching skills, I can connect with people more easily outside of my niche and the continuing education requirements keeps me learning. While you might not need a certificate right off the bat- I would consider looking into one to take your practice to the next level.
  5. Know your Why- Building websites, designing packages, and creating tik toks are all fun and exciting stuff when starting out coaching but remembering your WHY will keep you grounded in the basic practice of your business. I could make 5–10x money if I was willing to host group coaching calls but at the core of my practice is the one to one connection I have with my clients. So for me, group coaching isn’t an avenue I’m exploring right now. I also have a full-time job that pays my bills so my need or urgency to evolve and grow my business rapidly is a little less serious than say if I left my full-time job tomorrow with no savings in the bank.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Too much, too soon! Start with fewer things and get really good before taking on more. I started my private business with an Etsy shop selling downloadable guides. This gave me the chance to learn how to create guides on Canva, how to market my products and the backend logistics of setting up a store. I then moved into Instagram to market my Etsy shop. This taught me how to grow a social media audience, how to sell on Instagram and create engaging enough content that actually motivates people to purchase with me. From there, I moved into building my website, starting my blog on my website and post articles (the same content as my blog) onto my LinkedIn profile. Baby steps is the key here. Start with little things that can build into larger things!

Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.

Be authentic and be yourself-I’m an academic who has never left academia. I’m not a social media influence. I don’t feel comfortable giving Ted Talks or creating Reels. And I’m learning to be ok with that! What I am good at it is connecting with people, listening to my client’s fears and anxieties and holding space for a supportive coaching environment that lets people design and build careers that work for them. You have to know your unique selling points as a coach- what is your why? If you can communicate why you do what you do, how you do it and how it provides value to clients, you will attract the right people to your business.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Go where your perspective clients are! I work mostly with college/university aged folks or young professionals under 40. My clients are on LinkedIn and Instagram, so that is where I show up. I’ve experimented with Clubhouse and Tik Tok with little to no success. My clients are searching for jobs on Tik Tok. Secondly, build partnerships! Don’t go out reinventing the wheel. If an organization is in an adjunct space as you serving the same client base- partner with them! I partner with universities, alumni associations and organizations that help students go abroad for their studies. They already have the market identified, I just come in and provide a companion service that works really well alongside what they are already doing.

Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?

I still hold a full-time job whilst running a business- this definitely requires intentional planning on my part determining when I can work on my business and when I need to be present for my full-time job. I’m to the point in my business journey of bringing on some help to run more time consuming elements such as a CPA for my billing and taxes and a virtual assistant to help with social media. To help balance your wellness and what I call “brain space”- space to take on new things or think big picture about where I’m going with my business- bring in help! If you aren’t in a position to do so yet, think about your must haves in the business vs. the “nice to haves” and focus on the former first and when time, energy and money allows, move into the latter category. This will help keep you grounded, balanced and not feeling guilty about either overworking or not getting enough done.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community that is old enough to have been in my marriage before marriage was legal across the US. I know what it is like to be closeted at work or have awkward workplace exchanges when people learn I’m gay. I would love to start a community of queer professionals to provide mentorship, networking, visibility and awareness to other queer people on what it means to be professional and queer and the education element of onboarding allies.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Not at this time!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can learn more about me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nadiaibrahim/ or my coaching website: https://www.beyonddiscoverycoaching.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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