Definition of a Career Coach

In today's world, the idea of a career has shifted. No longer do people tend to stay in one place for a long time. They have learned that movement is what pays, what fulfills, and what gives them stability, strangely enough.

At first glance, this changing atmosphere does not seem to grant anyone a sense of security. That can be an exciting prospect for some but downright terrifying for others. This is where a career coach can come in.
Just as a sports team needs someone to coach its members on the playing field, many job seekers and business professionals need guidance in helping them make smooth career transitions. After all, finding a job is not as easy as it once was.  
In a world where the economy was stable and training provided a direct path to employment, the job search process was minimal and often only required one successful job placement to connect an employee with the place from which they would retire.

As the job market became more complicated, with more jobs being available, the competition grew. With this added competition, employees needed to work harder to find jobs for which they were qualified and they had more sources from which to find those new jobs: classifieds, networking, and now the Internet.
The job market, though it tends to shrink and expand quickly, continues to fluctuate. It has become a place where some people seem to find exactly what they want for their career, while others seem to flounder around until they simply give up and choose a job that will do for their needs at the time.  

Is that any way to work?  
This is when career coaches can step in. Not only are coaches there to help clients learn how to find the right job for their needs, but they can also help clients begin to decide what they want from a job. After all, a worker who is content at his or her place of employment is a worker who will be able to do the best job possible for the company.
It can be tempting as a new career coach to try to be all things to all clients. After all, you want to make sure you are helping your clients as much as possible. At the same time, there are other career guides out there who might provide the same services that you do when you fail to limit what a career coach means to your clients.

To be an effective career coach, you need to limit your skill set to a series of tasks that can guide your client as easily as possible without overlapping the tasks others might be able to offer.

Your skill set does not include things like:

    Detailed assessments of skills: You want to focus on asking questions when necessary, but simply focusing on questions does not help the client in the present time.  
    Long-term career guidance: You are in a position to help a career coaching client in the present, not as someone with whom you might work in the future, too. While this might be possible, you should not have a long-term perspective.  
    Working with businesses and their employees: You should seek out clients who want to work with you and are highly motivated to make changes in their lives, not those who are being persuaded to see you for help. There are some companies today that are leaning toward hiring career coaches, however, so this skill might be a part of your business.  

A career coach is not going to be a therapist, the way some life coaches can become. Your goals are going to be strictly to help your clients determine what they need to do, watch them take action, and then celebrate your client's success in the process.
A career coach is a person who is committed to helping clients find their own success. This is not a career for someone who might want the glory for themselves. Coaching is all about allowing the client to succeed by:

    asking good questions;
    refining his or her job search;
    listening to the needs of the client;
    being encouraging;
    recognizing talents and skills in a client;
    being organized;
    looking at the larger picture.

You would become the person who allows the client to finally find the job of their dreams, even if this were to mean they stayed at the same company. By listening to what clients need and what they truly do not want in their current life, you can allow them to see the opportunities that are available and then persuade them to act on these opportunities in the best ways possible.

A career coach needs to be a great communicator , someone who is also willing to tell the truth to clients in order to see that their goals are met and success obtained. You need to be ready to sit with the client and discuss not only the things they can do but things they may need to avoid in order to succeed. You need to be willing to be honest, understanding, and direct.

You might sit with a client and develop a plan for a job transition or a plan to find the new job that will work more easily for the goals they have or the lifestyle they wish to secure. You might listen to see if they want more family time or if they are interested in financial security. Most of your clients will want you to help them align their core values with the employers and positions they have in mind.

The process is an interactive one that will require a lot of energy from the coach, as well as from the client. Together, you will work toward a transformation of clients into the employees they want to be for the career they wish to have.

A career coach is much like a traditional coach: someone who takes the time to give the client the tools needed to succeed but then stands on the sidelines to watch how the person uses those tools; and, yes, cheering your client on is essential.

Do You Have the Right Training for Career Coaching?   

Even though you understand what a career coach is and you recognize what ethical concerns you need to avoid, you still will want to consider whether you are the best fit for a career in career coaching.
After all, you want to make sure your clients are getting the best possible services they can. While there are career coaching classes and training sessions available, you might want to utilize skills and experience you already have, whenever possible.


The idea of being a career coach is not as foreign as it once may have been, so there are more career coach training seminars and classes available. The more information you can get your hands on that is related to the specific area where you will be working, the better. You want to make sure you are talking with as many career coaches as possible.

Finding a mentor in the field can help you learn how career coaching works and how you might make it work for your clients.

In fact, many career coaches find it helpful to sign on with a personal career coach to begin to see how the relationship between client and coach will work when the roles are reversed.  
However, simply creating a mentor relationship also can be helpful when you are looking to start up your career coaching career. Set up regular times to talk to your mentor about what you are doing, the questions you might have, and any successes your clients may have enjoyed, without naming names or companies.
Because you will be working intensely with clients and talking about their fears and desires, it can be helpful to have an understanding of how people's emotions work. While you do not need to become an actual therapist, having a few training session in counseling and conversational interviewing will allow you to create a stronger connection with your clients in order to help them with their concerns about the job market.
These training sessions also can be found within the life coaching field. Career coaching is similar to life coaching but more narrowly focused on the prospect of careers rather than a complete life makeover, although life changes may result from career changes as well.

If you have been a recruiter in the past, then you might be perfectly suited to helping a client with the career search part of your coaching service. You already know how your clients will want to approach companies, what they will need to have on their résumés, etc.
Any experience in the world of job searches or human resources can be very helpful for your career coaching plans. The more experience you can gain when it comes to job searches and résumé-building will help you work with your client in the most potent way.

When you are working with a career coaching client, you will need to make sure you are creating communication that is healthy and helpful. A career coach does not necessarily tell a client what to do. Instead, the coach works with clients to decide what they want from their lives and how they might be able to get what they want.

You need to remain as objective as possible in order to create a stronger plan for your client. You need to be able to see and point out possible weak spots in the way your clients are approaching their job search and managing their current talents.
Facilitation training works to help you take more of a leadership role, but it also can help you manage sessions with a client without becoming overbearing. In a facilitation type of conversation, you work together; but the facilitator guides the conversation and helps achieve the tasks that are supposed to be achieved.

Many people are quick to discount the idea of life experience as being helpful for career coaching. After all, if you yourself have managed a difficult job transition, then you might be the best person to help someone else in the same situation.

Think back over the course of your careers and jobs. What did you do in order to get to each of these positions? Take some time to map out the experience of your life and whether you feel that your experiences are something that could help someone else.  

What you need to remember about being a career coach is that everyone has something to offer someone else in terms of career advice. The more training you have, the better you will be able to advance the success of your client.

Right now, if you are feeling hesitant about your skills as a career coach, it might be a good idea to seek out other coaches to see what sort of advice they can offer you, what training they decided to obtain before taking on clients, and any other mentoring advice or tips they wished they had known before helping new clients out.

In the end, the more you know, the more you can help others.



Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Career Coaching course?