What Is Career Coaching and What to Expect

what is a career coach, what do career coaches do
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February 3, 2022
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The maxim, ‘if you truly enjoy your work, it doesn’t feel like work’ hits the nail on the head with how an individual must ideally approach their career for best results. When the skills and values align seamlessly with the job one does, it can become a rather fulfilling professional journey.

But reality diverges for many professionals, where career frustrations can have an impact, not just professionally but also personally. After all your career is one of the most important pillars which directly affects the quality of your life – mentally, emotionally and financially! This can look something like the following: work and personal interests not converging, turning up for work only due to financial compulsions and that which compromises personal ideals, lack of good opportunities to climb the career ladder, becoming trapped in a lower capacity work that does not correspond to experience/talent, being overlooked for that well-deserved promotion, difficulty navigating office politics, simply getting stuck in a career rut, getting benched or worse, losing your job altogether.

Especially in the past two years, with the global pandemic, the job market has seen plenty of instability and fluctuations. Add to the mix the fact that WFH (work from home) has become a fairly important factor in how people are approaching their career opportunities, challenges and transitions. It is a desperate situation for those who are out of work and a tough one for those who do have a job but not their dream careers.

So, what is the solution for this career dilemma? This is where professionally trained career coaches can make a difference. Career coaching is one of the most sought-after professions where skilled, experienced career coaches support and guide their client to focus on their current situation, help assess their professional strengths and limitations, identify their future aspirations and chart a systematic road map to achieve those career objectives.

Read on to know what career coaching is, what to expect from career coaching, what do career coaches do and more.

What Is Career Coaching? 

An average professional spends anywhere between 8-10 hours working, so it would be fair to say that a job takes up a large percentage of their day. And it’s natural that the work takes precedence because after all your livelihood depends on it. And if you live in the practical world, money does matter and a good paying job does reflect on the quality of your life!

Ideally, we all want a terrific, top-paying job that also enables us to balance work along with having a fulfilling personal life, but in most cases, reality is quite different; often the job becomes the focal point around which all other aspects of one’s life revolve. So, if an individual is spending a large portion of their day focused on their occupation, then the work has to be something that they enjoy, something that is a good match to their skillsets, which aligns with their core values and also helps achieve personal goals.

But many people often get stuck in a job that they don’t like, one that they literally dread going to every morning! The reasons can be many: the work is beneath their qualifications, the office environment is not conducive, team members are non-cooperative, there’s lack of motivation due to monotony, the boss is always unappreciative no matter how much effort is put in, etc.

Despite all the negative factors, many people often are reluctant to change their careers due to personal responsibilities (those EMIs, bills, school fees, etc.). The thought is ‘so what if it’s a job that I hate, at least I have a job that pays the bills.’ But sticking around a job that leaves you truly unfulfilled can lead to professional frustrations in the near future.

In such a scenario, an individual can hire a coach for help and guidance in recognising which professional direction to take next, what steps will bring them closer to a career that they can enjoy or if any adjustments (such as in attitude, upgrading skillsets, improving communication, etc.) can be made to make the current job more interesting.

Career coaching helps an individual get better at their present job, understand their skills, knowledge, strengths as well as limitations, provide insight into career ambitions and goals, recognise the right career opportunities that align with their competences and values, help them take responsibility for their professional development and implement systematic processes to achieve career objectives.

Basically, a career coach provides a fresh, uncluttered, empathetic perspective that encourages an individual to take stock of their present professional situation in an honest manner, aids them with various tools & techniques to boost future career growth and success as well as ensure job satisfaction.

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Is Career Coaching Different from Career Counselling? 

Often, people who seek out career coaching think that career coaching and career counselling are interchangeable, as in that both are just different names for the same assistance. But that’s not the right interpretation as career coaching is different from career counselling. Both are based on the same principle to assist an individual to figure out the correct professional course, but career coaching and career counselling differ in their approaches towards that goal.

Career coaching is focused on the present professional situation of an individual, where the career coach helps the client look at where they are and where they want to be. The coach supports them to identify the right career direction, their objectives, design actionable plans, and provide accountability – all of which results in career progression.

So, career coaching is a result-oriented approach, that allows an individual to assess and redefine their professional situation in an open, honest way and take specific steps towards achieving career goals.

Career counselling, on the other hand, focuses more on the behavioral or mental/emotional aspects of an individual that are proving to be roadblocks to achieving professional success. Career counselling is more of a method-driven approach that tries to go to the root of the barriers that cause difficulties for an individual in their career advancement while addressing their lookout for a better opportunity or even struggles in their present job.

A career counsellor will focus more on the beliefs, talents, hobbies, interests and skillsets to determine what aspects of their social or psychological makeup may be hindering professional progress and attainment of desired career goals.

Career coaches assist in developing abilities of their clients whereas career counsellors help their clients overcome their inadequacies. 

Those trying to engage with a career coach must understand that they are not counsellors or therapists who can get them out of depression or personal problems. For those issues individuals must get professional counselling, as career coaches don’t instruct an individual on how to live & what to do with their lives.

For a career coach to have the desired impact, the individual who is being coached should be fully invested in the process and truly want to make the recommended changes. Individuals who opt for career coaching must go in with an open mind that accepts change & constructive assessments and implements decided-upon action steps to achieve their career objectives.

What to Expect from Career Coaching? 

Career coaching is a professional service that is aimed at helping individuals from different backgrounds, positions, knowledge & experience find the best career path. The requirements may be different for different clients, ranging from all-round professional development, career transition, mid-career changes, etc.

The main purpose of career coaching is to help individuals gain confidence in their professional sphere, help them gain insight into what they want professionally, identify skillsets that they would need in order to reach goals, encourage them to develop new capabilities, inspire them to stick to action plans and finish tasks to ensure a more satisfying and successful career.

Here’s what one can expect from the career coaching process:

1. Information gathering

Career coaching involves one-on-one meetings between the coach and client, with weekly sessions (some individuals prefer once every 2 weeks or once monthly) that last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. The first couple of sessions are generally dedicated to introductions and information-gathering that creates a comfortable space for the client to open up about their career aspirations.

These initial sessions enable the client, through detailed discussions with their coach, gain clarity about what their current career situation is and what they want to achieve professionally in the near/long-term future. The data collected also assists in creating a personalized career plan during subsequent sessions.

2. Assessment 

Post the initial sessions and information gathering, the next step is to assess the values, skills, goals, strengths & limitations. A career coach can help their client understand their career options and evaluate work challenges via multiple methods such as personality & aptitude tests, exercises that bring to the fore previous job achievements, analysis of job description, listing of hobbies & interests, etc. These assessments help the career coach and client zero in on best fit career choices and workplaces.

3. Customized actionable plans

Now that the career coach and the client have grasp on the current professional realities, the next important step is to formalize an action plan that can set the client on a developmental path and get them closer to their career goals.

Professionally-qualified career coaches use multiple tools from their repertoire – such as listening attentively, helping conduct research on the client’s career options, promoting novel thought processes, encouraging the client to move out of their comfort zone and embrace change, identifying their barriers and actively working towards reducing them – to gradually integrate the client’s preferences, talents, experience, and knowledge into a systematic, customized action plan that will help them achieve their professional aims.

Once an actionable roadmap is in place, the career coach at the end of a session, ask their client to commit themselves towards the decided upon steps and complete the assigned task before the next session. After all, no matter how terrific a plan is on paper, unless it is executed properly by the individual being coached, it won’t give the desired impact.

4. Tools & techniques 

Career coaches are generally people who have comprehensive qualifications in the field of career development which enables them to guide their client towards the best career path. During the process career coaches help their client utilize various tools and techniques at their disposal to improve the client’s chances of zeroing in on better career opportunities. These include:

  • Guiding the client to make optimum use of online platforms (employment websites, professional networks such as LinkedIn, etc.) to conduct a detailed but precise job search as well as build up a solid professional network that reaches the right people, gets the right interviews and helps find best job matches
  • Preparing the client before a crucial interview by giving them important tips on how to effectively answer questions, present a quietly confidant front to make the best impression and more
  • Assisting the client in sprucing up their resumes, portfolios, online profiles as well as cover letters that can make a good first impression on their prospective employers
  • Encouraging the client to continue to upgrade their professional qualifications to stay abreast of current market demands via certification programs, professional organizations and higher learning

5. Accountability 

As stated earlier, career coaching delivers an impact only when the coachee is fully invested in making the process work. The coach’s responsibility is to make certain that the client stays committed to completing the decided action steps and finishing assigned tasks before/after every session.

Some people operate under misconceptions, such as assuming that a single session can eliminate all issues and deliver that career jump. Or that career coaches themselves will find them a great job. Or that only sending out a well-worded resume will result in a long line of great job opportunities at their doorstep.

Please remember, a career coach is not a magician who can instantaneously deliver results and provide a 180° turn around for someone’s career, but that commitment, accountability, responsibility and regular follow ups, are vital factors essential for any individual who expects to get the desired outcome of career development and progression from career coaching.

Who Should Opt for Career Coaching?  

The scope of work for a career coach extends well beyond helping with a job search. They contribute valuable advice, guidance and resources in helping their client with career transitions, improving their performance in their present job, identifying the correct industry and jobs that gel with their client’s skillset, experience and expectations and much more.

There are many reasons why individuals opt for career coaching, some of which have already been stated earlier:

  • Experiencing career standstill
  • No promotion or added responsibilities
  • Unfulfilling current job
  • Loss of job
  • Anxiety about future prospects in current employment
  • Confusion about being in the right job/sector
  • Looking for opportunities that better align with personal value system
  • Better work-life balance
  • Professional transition in the middle phase of career
  • Looking for solid, effective but professional advice from a neutral viewpoint
  • Upgrading skills and knowledge for career advancement under the guidance of an expert in the field

Does Career Coaching Deliver a Solid ROI? 

There are some vital pillars that hold up a person’s life, family, health and career. If there are problems in personal relations, we discuss and talk it out to find solutions to maintain peace and happiness in the family. Any health-related troubles are immediately referred to medical specialists. In the same way, any hiccups on the professional work front need to be addressed swiftly; after all it is one of the three main pillars that gives meaning and quality to one’s life, not to mention keeps one in a sound financial position!

No wonder so many people invest in career coaching as it helps them stay ahead in the corporate game. Hiring a career coach is most definitely a proactive measure that implies that an individual is expending enough money, time and resources to ensure that their professional life is as fulfilling and successful as other areas.

How can an individual measure the cost of being in the wrong career or making a job change without proper guidance? Taking into consideration the hidden costs of these incorrect professional moves, any investment towards career coaching will give far better results than its initial cost.

The real ROI of career coaching is in its ability to be a catalyst for internal change within an individual that can bring about greater professional clarity, better grasp on choosing the right career and workplace, confidence boost, a shift in perspective and attitude, accepting responsibility for own professional growth, creating a solid personal brand, upgrading knowledge as well as increasing earning potential.

Although exact figures will vary from client to client, if the coach and client have together put in the work then results will definitely exceed the cost. Career coaching engagements are generally of a flexible nature with most engagements conducted between 5-10 sessions. Coaching rates are mostly on an hourly basis and depend on the experience, qualification and skill of the coach.

Finally, career coaching will be the go-to service for any individual who seeks to improve their job prospects, wants to embrace positive change, stop being in a stage of inertia and actively engage with a professional who can guide them to a satisfying and successful career. After all, some of the most successful people in the corporate world have benefited tremendously from career coaching.

FAQs 

1. What is the purpose of a career coach?

The main purpose of a career coach is to empower their client by helping them make an informed choice about their career trajectory. It is a result-oriented process that focuses on assessing strengths & weaknesses, talents & knowledge and enabling the client to find the best fit job and workplace that can result in a satisfying and fulfilling career. Career coaches help an individual grasp the reality of where they are and where they aspire to go by creating a personalized action plan that can help them achieve their career objectives. Career coaches are qualified experts who can help an individual in better career planning, building a strong resume, imparting vital tips for acing job interviews, as well as helping them understand their own worth to negotiate an appropriate remuneration package.

2. Can a career coach help a person find a job?

Career coaches can assist an individual in their job search. The actual process has to be done by the individual themselves. A career coach can guide their client on which online platforms and employment websites to upload their resumes, help fine tune their CVs and cover letters to create a stronger impact, prepare them for job interviews by giving vital tips, conduct mock interviews, help them understand how to negotiate the best salary and benefits, provide encouragement when the job search does not return the desired outcomes and more.

3. What does career coaching include?

Career coaching is about bringing about internal change in an individual’s mental and professional make up, making them aware of their current job reality and guiding them towards implementing decided upon action plans to change the present career trajectory and achieve their desired career objectives. Career coaching is a solution-driven process that helps people adapt to and better their career prospects via one-on-one meetings that guide and assist them in finding a new job, improving chances of a promotion in the current employment, handling career transitions, and much more for best results.

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