What is Career Coaching and what benefits can it bring?

Most of us spend a lot of our adult lives working. In fact, a sobering thought is that if you put all the hours the average person works during their lifetime end to end, it would be more than ten years in total. These are average figures – many will spend more than this, and others will be desperately seeking work.

With such a large chunk of our lives spent working, it’s very important for our overall wellbeing that it is an enjoyable and fulfilling part of our lives. Many people find that to be the case, but not everyone is so lucky. In fact, studies show that at least a third of people in the UK are not satisfied with their jobs and some recent reports show that up to 3 in 5 are considering moving jobs following the pandemic.

So it appears that for many, finding satisfying work does not come automatically. For some, it is worse than that – they feel so trapped in work situations that it becomes detrimental to their health and wellbeing. For these people, that ten year working life can start to feel like a life-sentence, stretching out in front of them.

If you are one of those who has become disillusioned or dissatisfied with work, are feeling trapped in your work situation, are not sure about what your next move should be or just feel really daunted by the process of moving, keep reading! Working with a professional career coach can be really helpful. 

What is Career Coaching?

So, who or what is a career coach and how do they work? Simply put, a good career coach (more on this point later) is a highly trained professional, who will combine detailed specialist knowledge of the world of work with advanced coaching skills.

Unlike what most people may have experienced at school, career coaching is not about simply providing career information or advice. For a start, career coaches will work with their clients in a highly collaborative adult-to-adult manner, taking them on a journey of self-discovery about their career priorities, what matters to them about work, what they have to offer and how to communicate that, how their personality and values can sit comfortably alongside their work and talk through any issues which may be holding the client back.

Instilling this greater self-awareness and growing confidence helps the client make much better-informed career decisions, ones which, having established a high level of trust, can also be discussed freely with the coach, whose detailed knowledge about the world of work can be invaluable at this stage. The coach can go on to offer further support in helping the client craft their CV, mount an efficient and effective job search, prepare for interview etc. Having someone who is 100% on your side, with whom you can check in regularly for a completely confidential discussion, who may challenge you on occasion, and who can act as an expert independent observer of the transition you are going through, are other benefits to working with a career coach.

A career coach is also not like a headhunter or recruiter. They will be very different in their approach and there is also a fundamental distinction – headhunters and recruiters are paid by and work on behalf of an employer who has a job to fill, and focuses on doing what it takes to fill that role, whereas a career coach works solely on behalf of you the client, and can help you identify and achieve your own career aims.

The work should have a clear direction – with goals mutually agreed at the outset and kept under review.  The coach may suggest exercises or activities – either during the sessions themselves, prep-work before sessions or follow-up activities. Coaches will vary in their individual approach and use of exercises, but these may include reflective activities and / or psychometric exercises.

Just in case all of this sounds a bit serious, I should add that most clients find that they enjoy and positively look forward to their career coaching sessions! People often comment “I wish I had done this years ago”.  

How to spot whether working with a Career Coach might be helpful for you

“I’m finding it tough to get my career started”  “I feel a bit stuck”

“Others seem to know what they want to do – I have no idea” “I feel as though I am at a bit of a crossroads”

“I’ve never known what I wanted to do when I grow up – even though I’m 50 now!”

“I know that something has to change – but I just don’t know what my next step should be”

“I’d like to do something different but have absolutely no idea what else I could do!”

“I’m panicking – I need to land a good job, but my confidence is at rock bottom”

The above comments are some of those made by clients considering career coaching. There is no such thing as a typical career coaching client. Everyone is individual, but people may often be in one of the following situations

  • Have reached a crossroads or significant milestone in their career or life
  • Feel they have made some kind of previous misstep in their chosen career direction and wish to get back on track
  • Facing redundancy or job insecurity
  • Daunted by the thought of returning to their career after a break
  • Those in a job or with a manager they dislike
  • Making the transition from full-time education and looking to embark on their professional career
  • Have had to move location
  • Done a variety of different things and are struggling to describe themselves professionally to future employers
  • Feel as if they are in a career cul-de-sac
  • Want to try something new but don’t yet know what
  • Simply want to enjoy their work more.

What can you expect to gain from Career Coaching?

The specific benefits gained by individual clients vary widely, but there are certain benefits that are reported by many clients, including the following 3 “C’s”:

Clarity – greater clarity about what matters to them about work and their preferred career direction

Confidence – improved confidence about their career, how to describe their professional identity to others, what they have to offer a future employer and how to attain their goals

Control – a growing sense of how you can shape events and a greater appreciation of the actions you can take to shift things in your favour; it’s not all down to luck and the odds aren’t stacked against you

What to look for when choosing a career coach

I have been describing good career coaching practice. Unfortunately, career coaching is an unregulated field – so literally anybody can claim to be a career coach. Before choosing a particular career coach, take a good look at their website to see how extensive it is, ask about what career coaching qualifications and accreditations they have, and to describe the range of clients that they have worked with. Are they a one-person outfit, or part of a wider organization? Ask them to describe their own career – before and after they became a career coach. Satisfy yourself that they are properly trained and have sufficient and relevant experience and that their company has credibility and a good reputation.   You need to feel very comfortable working with them as this is essential to building and maintaining a good working relationship.

What should I do next?

If you are dissatisfied with your career in any way, confused about your direction, or are feeling trapped in a work situation – help is at hand! Find yourself a good career coach and you will be surprised how quickly you start to feel much calmer, clearer, and more confident about work.

If you’d like to find out how we can help you, then please do arrange a free, no-obligation career conversation with us. Please call us on 0345 686 0745 or fill in the form below and one of our team will contact you.

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    About The Author

    Adrian Marsh

    Regional Director of Personal Career Management, Thames Valley. Fully qualified Career Coach with an MA in Career Development and Coaching Studies, University of Warwick. Former senior executive within the technology sector with extensive international management experience in sales, marketing, general management and consultancy roles.

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