What is Career Coaching?

Do I Need a Career Coach?

Professionals may experience career challenges that may seriously impact their success at the company and their lifetime happiness. If these difficulties go unresolved for a period of time they are likely to impact their ability to cope effectively on the job. For senior-level professionals, the impact can be even more devastating because their work usually has a direct impact on overall business strategy and direction. Career coaching is a strategic service that people can use and employers can rely on when work performance, career transition, personal conduct in the workplace and/or culture fit becomes an issue. It encourages people to seek career assistance early to prevent small problems from getting out of hand and creating greater barriers to success. It’s also a way to help a diverse group of people reach higher career aspirations so that they continue to build on their interests and skills and add significant value to their company.

Career coaching has captured the attention of small businesses, major corporations and the media.  It is estimated that 60% of people are unhappy with their work and are seeking to do something that will make them happy.  Organizations are asking themselves what career services they can provide to employees that demonstrate a return on investment and help them reach their career aspirations. Conversely, people are asking themselves what they can do to find success in their career if their organizations are unwilling to help them connect their skills and passions to available roles internally.

What is Career Coaching

Career coaching is the process of working with people to help them assess their talents and make critical decisions about career choice and direction.  Many organizations believe they have developed an internal system to help employees achieve their goals. Unfortunately, people inside an organization acting as “career managers or mentors” have had minimal training in skills specific to career coaching. Many organizations assign career development to the Human Resource Department or Managers and believe they have no use for an external career coach.  The best managed companies with the highest satisfaction rates use both internal and external career coaches. 

Internal career mentors are beneficial due, in a large part, to the knowledge they have of the employee, the culture and the rules of engagement. This information can be useful in dealing with specific factors such as performance and advancement.  When dealing with such factors that are typically departmental, an internal career mentor is usually the right choice. However, we have often seen professionals struggle to put their management biases aside to be the unconditional career coach.

External career coaches are better equipped at introducing an unbiased perspective and can deal with global issues.  They are not concerned about how their advice and recommendations impact their standing within the company. Even if the manager has great self-regulation, the employee may perceive a bias and not fully trust the internal career mentor.  External career coaches have the ability to grant greater confidentiality and objectivity.  Employees typically feel more at east speaking openly to an external career coach and can develop deep levels of trust.What are the Benefits of Hiring a Career Coach?

The benefits of hiring a career coach are endless and that is why more and more people are paying for these services out of pocket, if it is not provided in the workplace. People no longer want to feel stagnant in their roles or be disgusted with the work they do or people they do it with.  They want to find a career that will make use of all of their talents and not just a sliver of their talents. People are not trained to be masters of career transition. They were taught to pick a major in college and then take the first job that fits their requirements.  People are not the only ones who benefit in a positive manner. The benefits of having career coach inside a company may include:

  • increase in employee productivity and supervisory effectiveness
  • retention of valued employees
  • less time spent managing poor performers
  • increased quality in employee performance
  • improved employee morale
  • resource base for professional, experienced facilitators of training and staff development programs

Role of the Career Coach

A career coach is someone educated, trained and experienced in helping people tackle their toughest career problems and achieve their highest career aspirations. Career coaches are experienced in dealing with assessment, performance improvement, career change, career pathing, workplace, and work/life balance situations that plague all of us at one time or another. Career coaches are experts in tailoring strategies and techniques to the specific needs of people or groups seeking help over the lifespan.

A career coach provides services to many different people in the community including executives, managers, individual contributors, groups, new college graduates, retirees and people re-entering the workforce.  Lawyers, teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, graphic designers, sales pros, marketers, and more use career coaches every day. They help these individuals identify jobs and career tracks that work with their natural personality and behavioral style, develop career roadmaps to help people transition from one position to the next, prepare them to conduct successful interviews in the workplace, select majors in university and help people phase out of a career during retirement. 

Groups: Groups can often benefit from working with a career coach.  The career coach does not direct the team, but rather aids the group in self-directed exploration.  The dynamics of coaching groups can be very beneficial because people can typically tackle the tough challenges that are present in the real world and feedback can help change negative behaviors and inspire positive change.

Executives: It is not uncommon these days to hear about the executives having coaches to help them navigate their career.  Executives are interested in assessing their talents to figure out how they can move up, down and across the organization.  They also require assistance building development plans and working out behavioral problems that are limiting their growth. Career coaches are a solid resource for executives experiencing various transitions such as mergers, acquisitions and workforce reductions to help them manage their stress and anxiety.

Managers: Managers are usually stellar performers but have difficulty making the transition from individual contributor to leader of a team.  Managers need assistance developing a plan to gain the people skills necessary to perform.  Often times, they also need help developing a roadmap that will help them gain the competencies they need to advance from manager to vice president in the most direct manner.

How can a Career Coach Help?

  • Career coaches can provide a wide range of services. They will do one or more of the following:
  • Administer and interpret  assessments and inventories to asses work values, interests, skills and competencies
  • Identify alternative internal career options for people in transition that capitalize on individual knowledge, skill and ability profiles
  • Develop specific career paths with experience, knowledge, abilities, and skills defined
  • Help overcome issues such as lack of self-confidence, poor self-discipline and fear of success/failure
  • Create career development plans to help employees grow and learn
  • Maximize person-job-organizational fit and help kick-start a stagnant career
  • Explore and prepare employees for internal job searches, including resume preparation, in-house interviewing and networking
  • Identify and cultivate internal mentor and career advisor networks for personal career development
  • Provide unbiased, objective career counseling intervention/mediation/facilitation for people experiencing job stress, job loss or transition during corporate reorganizations, mergers or downsizing
  • Teach internal career advisors and mentors how to be more effective in guiding employee career development
  • Facilitate employee training and development initiatives
  • Manage outplacement strategies during times of transition

Seven Characteristics of an Experienced Career Coach

Finding a professional career coach with the right experience to handle complex career issues throughout your career lifecycle is a difficult task. We recommend seven characteristics to look for in a career coach:

1.   Professionally trained by a reputable career coaching organization such as TalentGuard (www.talentguard.com).

2.   Experience in identifying and resolving career issues in a turbulent market and/or a background or exposure to the field in which you are seeking employment.

3.   Supportive of your unique career needs and dedicated to helping you overcome obstacles along your path.

4.   Consistent in following a proven methodology with a reputation for success.

5.   Realistic planner to assist you in setting SMART goals now and in the future.

6.   Honest communicator who is willing to tell you what you need to hear.

7.   Professional who keeps current on the latest career trends and issues.

You Know You Have the Right Career Coach When…

1.   You and your career coach have made a connection and feel comfortable working together.

2.   Your coach has spent a significant amount of time getting to know you.

3.   A specific career plan has been created especially for you with clear goals, dates, and in which developmental needs have been clearly identified and agreed upon.

4.   You experience positive feelings about the progress you and your coach are making toward your goals.

5.   You and your coach recognize and respect the legitimacy and value of different and contrary opinions.

6.   Your coach understands the importance of emotions in your communication and decisions.

7.   Your coach is an active listener and provides solid feedback.  

8.   You can communicate clearly, openly and honestly with your career coach.

Getting Started with a Career Coach

The best place to find a career coach is through friends, colleagues and family.  You can also ask your manager or supervisor for a referral.  Be sure to ask those who refer a coach about their experience.  Inquire about their reason for hiring a career coach, decision criteria and if they are pleased with their results and the relationship they’ve established with their coach.

Once you’ve gone through the process of selecting the right coach, the next step is to schedule your initial meeting.  The initial meeting will take one to two hours and you can expect to discuss your background, education, and career goals in detail.

How Does Career Coaching Work?

Career coaches usually have a place of business or they will visit employer organizations in an office with a door to ensure confidential discussions.  Most people usually require 6-12, one-hour sessions but this depends on the nature of the career initiative.  People typically make appointments with the career counselor and develop a meeting schedule based on availability.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about the field of career coaching, we invite you to further explore information on TalentGuard (www.talentguard.com) website.  TalentGuard is the creator of the Professional Career Manager coaching system, a coveted designation offered online and at Universities and training facilities throughout the world.