How to Become a Career Coach

September 13, 2022
How to Become a Career Coach

Table of Contents

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Career coaches offer a wide range of services, from helping clients overcome their professional struggles in finding the right work profiles, to improving their job performance, guiding them through tough work situations/office politics, and helping them address mental & emotional roadblocks that are hindering their career path, etc.  

The career coaching process is all about helping the client get from where they are to where they want to be professionally.  

Career coaching can be a noble venture; helping people out in their profession has a domino effect on other aspects of their lives, helping them feel more secure, self-confident, and happier.   

But for the career coach, it is also his/her means of livelihood and that necessitates a business plan for its success. Becoming a career coach who can achieve that fine balance between the altruistic and the commercial is the golden median that all career coaches look for.  

Let’s delve into how to become a career coach, help clients achieve professional transformations and also how to make a success of your career coaching business.  

a. Qualifications are fine but practical experience is the key  

Having solid educational qualifications are a value addition for any profession. Even as a career coach if you have the necessary learning, certification (preferably ICF recognized) it is only going to boost your credentials in the eyes of your clients. But as such there are no standard requirements for becoming a career coach.  

In fact, many career coaches do not have certifications but are still very good at helping their clients find the right professional opportunities, deal with career transitions or pull themselves out of a slump only because they have something far more valuable and that is practical experience in the field.  

Be it as a Human Resource executive, a recruiter, resume writer, career counsellor etc. these people understand how the career coaching industry works as they have first hand knowledge achieved while working in the sub sectors related to that field. If the career coach themselves have managed to build a good career for themselves, naturally they can utilize that experience while guiding their clients. 

b. Cultivate soft skills   

For any coach, not just a career coach, one of the main requirements to be truly good at your job is to develop certain soft skills. Being a keen listener, without interruptions, judgements and without foisting your viewpoint to what the client is conveying is the basis on how the coaching process will proceed and succeed (or not).  

Active listening: Listening actively means that you understand the client’s thoughts, challenges, desires and inclinations, which will lead you to ask relevant questions. The answers to these questions will reveal the client’s mindset and help you as their career coach to chart out a strategic plan to help them overcome their problems.  

Empathy: The ability to empathize with the client’s feelings is quite beneficial as the client will develop trust in sharing their thoughts and wishes with you. 

Communication: Clear, precise communication that conveys your thoughts without being misunderstood is a great skill to have. The pitch and tenor of your voice, speaking calmly and unhurriedly not only provide a great sense of comfort to the client when you are interacting but is also more likely to have a stronger impact in terms of effectivity.  

Encouragement: Another skill that you as a career coach need to build on or cultivate is the ability to encourage and motivate the client to ‘not give up but to give their best’. ‘Increase the effort, don’t reduce the goal’ should be the mantra on which you need to inspire your clients to get past their mental/emotional roadblocks to achieve their career transformation.  

Attention to detail: Paying attention to smaller details (catching typos, grammatical errors in resumes, spotting a really good fit job opportunity for a client etc.) is always an advantage as it helps you serve your clients better.  

c. Choose your career coaching niche  

You have the credentials, soft skills and the practical experience, so starting out as a career coach should be a walk in the park, right? But there are thousands of career coaches in the market, so how do you stand out in face of stiff competition and carve out your distinct place?  

The first thing to do is to identify who you want to work with… individuals or organizations, young executives, college students, women professionals, etc.  

Of course, even if you are passionate about helping people find their dream careers, gauging the realistic ability of paying clients is also necessary. Working with individual clients (one-on-one customized coaching programs that are planned for each client) will have different demands than working for an organization (building team spirit, career advancement that aligns with the company’s goals etc.). So, determine your target customers, choose your career coaching niche accordingly to market your services 

The chances of making a success of your career coaching business are more if you work to your strengths, so select a niche that best suits your talents and experience. 

d. You are running a business not a charity  

You are committed to making a success of your career coaching business so naturally you advertise your services to family, friends, colleagues, requesting them to spread the word. But in such instances, there are always a few people who will ask for guidance in exchange for a simple thank you, basically free of charge!  

As a career coach, your first instinct will be to help these individuals and turn around their lagging professional fortunes. It is alright for a stray case or two but prevent repeated occurrences of doling out such freebies. Firstly, anything given free automatically loses its worth and intent and secondly, the danger of people taking undue advantage of your kindness is very real. After all you are running a business not a charity, this is your livelihood, and your future depends on it being successful. 

No matter how small a request, that is time taken away from your paying clients. So, develop the ability to say NO, especially in cases where the individual is perfectly capable of paying for your services but is taking advantage of your personal relation to pilfer a free consultation. 

e. You are a career coach not a life coach  

Some aspects of life coaching and career coaching may converge – after all, both are fields where personal feelings, views, and desires need to be understood. But career coaching diverges in a fundamental way from life coaching in that life coaches are trained NOT to tell their clients what to do but to help clients figure out the solutions themselves. Career coaches NEED to tell clients what to do in most instances. In fact, clients expect the career coach to tell them what they are not doing properly, and what they can do to turn around their careers: sprucing up their resume, switching to a role that better matches their skill sets, paying attention to speech and voice modulation during interviews, dress more professionally to make a good impression, etc.  

Life coaches let the client arrive at their answers via a step-by-step process that may well take some time. Career coaches don’t necessarily have that luxury of time, their clients need solutions as soon as possible. So, as a career coach, even though you appreciate your clients’ feelings, the job is always focused on telling your client what may work best to transform their careers. 

f. You are not a head hunter or a recruiter   

Most people often mistake career coaches for job recruiters or head hunters who can deliver their dream job right into their laps. Nothing could be further from the truth… not all career coaches have background in HR or recruitment, they may be legal experts, financial consultants, IT executives etc. who have switched their own professions as they felt that career coaching was more their calling than their previous fields.  

One big difference is that career coaches work for the job seeker, whereas the head hunter/recruiter is employed by the organization.  The career coach has a direct connect and interest in their client’s progress and success, the head hunter or recruiter is only a medium that lets job seekers become aware of a job opportunity. They are not personally invested in the career prospects of the job seeker beyond the fact of how much commission they will gain if the person does actually land the job via their referral. 

g. Conduct diligent research  

A career coach who hopes to succeed must be ready to put in some hard work conducting thorough research – of the market & employment trends, sectors that are likely to become hot prospects in the close future, etc.  

It is necessary to always have the pulse of market listings, prospective lucrative segments, growth opportunities in the industry of focus not just to stay abreast of the current trends but also to help clients make more informed decisions while choosing their careers, and so on.  

h. Access the coaching network  

It may sound surprising but having an in with your fellow coaching professionals is beneficial and not counterproductive. Sharing your experiences or merely talking with individuals who are sailing in the same professional boat, experiencing similar ups and downs, can not only lead to exchange of knowledge and professional tips and ideas bit can also be a source of solidarity and comfort. Joining a coaching network can also help expand your reach, so you can widen both your client network as well as your employers’ network. 

e. Market your services  

No business can sustain or flourish without advertising and marketing. As a career coach you do need to blow your own trumpet, highlight your specific offerings and services, target your potential customer base, all in the hope to widen your net for acquiring clients. Social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, YouTube etc.) as well as emails are great way to keep reminding potential clients of your services. A dedicated website, blogs, vlogs, online workshops are other mediums that you can take advantage of to market and advertise your brand and services. 

f. Don’t lose sight of your original intent & professional development  

In the flurry of establishing and then making a success of your career coaching business make sure that you don’t lose sight of why you became a career coach in the first place. Your passion and natural aptitude for helping people attracted you to this profession and that should be the focus, irrespective of the commercial demands of the business. Don’t compromise on top quality service for the lure of large volumes of clients. Diluting quality for quantity is a serious miscalculation that can boomerang spectacularly in the future. Word of mouth and client feedback is everything in this business and once a reputation is tarnished it becomes very difficult to reinstate yourself professionally. 

While helping clients effect a turnaround, don’t lose sight of your own continued professional development. Upgrade your own skills and knowledge periodically to stay relevant and effective in the career coaching business. Read articles, books from experts who have a been in the business for valuable professional tips, take extra professional courses that expand your coaching repertoire, research markets, trends to keep up to date with job opportunities and promising sectors, etc. 

g. Be patient, don’t expect clients by the bucketful in the first week  

Being successful in any profession, not just career coaching, is a game of patience. Focus on your strengths, stay committed to your course, work hard and wait for the right chance. Even after you invest in a smart website, an advertising & marketing strategy, and content creation, you can’t expect clients to simply line up outside the door.  

Waiting doesn’t mean just sit around twiddling your thumbs, but don’t be hasty and select the right opening to help build your career coaching business and brand. 

You are a career coach and hope to deliver meaningful transformation to your clients that will have long term impact on their careers, not just an instant job opportunity that any of the thousands of recruiters or head hunters can provide at the click of a mouse. Anything worthwhile takes endurance and hard work. 

Becoming a career coach can be a truly rewarding experience, not just monetarily but also in the fact that it provides a great chance to pursue your passion of helping people achieve professional transformation and success.  If you’re thinking of becoming a career coach, we hope this article on how to become a career coach has been informative! 


1. What qualifications do you need to be a career coach?  

Solid educational qualifications, coaching certification, although not mandatory, can only be value additions to the coach’s resume, but there is no set qualification for becoming a career coach – you need to have the passion to help people with their career advancement. Practical experience is key as it lets you understand exactly where the client is coming from.  

2. What does career coaching include?  

Career coaching includes a solution oriented coaching program that is designed to help the client achieve a positive career transformation.  

A career coach enables the client to understand their real professional value, their present realities and desired eventualities and helps them bridge that gap, makes them aware of best fit job prospects and workplaces that aligns with their skills, education and experience, helps them prepare effective job search documents, conducts mock interviews to train the client for the real one, provides valuable support in times of failed job searches, inspires and encourages  the client to not give up and keep up the effort, becomes a trusted confidante while helping navigate serious professional roadblocks, to finally help the client attain their desired career objectives.  

3. How do career coaches make money? 

For career coaches, the most common mode of invoicing is hourly charges, although some organizations do pay on a project-to-project basis.  

The amount of money that a career coach may make depends entirely on their experience, skills and the type of clientele that they cater to. A top career coach can even earn a six-figure income from their coaching business. 

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author

An avid reader with love for books on history, sci-fi and popular fiction, Pallavi is a gifted content writer. She is also a keen listener of Indian semi & classical music. Currently, she juggles her duties of being a full-time mom with part-time content writing.

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