We spend most of our waking hours working. Apart from weekends and evenings, many of us spend about 25% of our week at our desks.
Where we spend our time matters — our careers need to pay the bills, but we should also find ways to make them rewarding, educational, and meaningful.
No matter how clear our professional trajectory seems, we’ll likely hit a roadblock or grow bored at some point. Some of us may feel stuck in an unfulfilling role, while others may have their dream job but need a substantial raise to start a family or go back to school.
Anyone who wants to make a shift in their career, whether that’s aiming for a promotion or changing industries, can benefit from the help of a coach. Change isn’t easy — especially when we lack confidence or motivation or don’t know where to start. Career coaches act as guides and mentors, pushing us toward our professional goals and equipping us with the tools we need to succeed.
Below, we’ll explain what a career coach is and how they help their clients. This information is valuable for both those seeking professional guidance and the aspiring coach. If the latter is you, you may have the unique opportunity of enjoying your ideal career while helping others find theirs.
What does a career coach do?
If you’ve never worked with a coach, you may wonder why hiring a career coach would help. And if you think coaching could be your future career, you likely want to know what the tasks of a career coach are.
Good career coaches help people make the most of their work, finding satisfaction and rewarding challenges. These coaches help clients identify career goals, make action plans to reach them, and navigate roadblocks and difficult situations in the workplace. They nudge people toward a career path that suits them better and help them advocate for themselves.
Here are some examples of ways career coaches help their clients develop professionally:
- Looking for new jobs: Coaches perform a career assessment with clients to understand what doesn’t satisfy them about their current role and the kind of work they’d prefer. They help clients identify their satisfaction levels and find what’s missing. From there, these coaches guide clients toward the tools they need for their job search, like interviewing and negotiating skills or how to put together a compelling proposal. They encourage clients to further their education or help them find the motivation to improve their resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter.
- Advocating for themselves: Career coaching clients may seek help because they want to take on more responsibility or ask for a raise, but they’re unsure how to do it. Coaches help their clients prepare for difficult workplace conversations by honing communication skills, harnessing confidence, and learning how to negotiate.
- Learning to navigate conflict: If you’re having trouble with team dynamics and collaboration, coaches can help you examine conflicts with an objective point of view to find a path forward.
- Improving skills: In any company, responsibilities change. You might find yourself with new management duties or working with unfamiliar software. Coaches can help you find ways to upskill, making sure you’re at the top of your game — and comfortable there.
- Getting motivated: Coaches help clients experiencing a low point in their careers find the will to work by identifying the reason for this lack of motivation. Perhaps the work no longer satisfies the client, or they feel stagnant in their role. They’ll help the client shake things up and make a career change that excites them.
What career coaches don’t do
Before considering becoming or working with one, we’d like to clear up any misconceptions about this profession. Career coaches aren't:
- Only for the unemployed. While a career coach can guide an unemployed client toward finding satisfying work, these coaches don’t only work with job seekers. Career coaches help clients at any stage in their careers improve their relationship or efficiency with their work.
- Fortune tellers. Career coaches can help their clients identify what’s off in their professional lives, but they can’t predict the future or make promises about potential success. Coaches can only equip their clients with the skills they need to find more satisfying careers and motivate them to make changes.
- Managers. Coaches don’t do the work for their clients, and that’s a good thing. Personal growth lies in the hard work it takes to change. Coaches can’t secure job interviews or offers, but they can guide clients toward choices that’ll improve satisfaction or help them find new careers.
Working with a career coach
Career coaching can help a range of people at virtually any point in their professional journey. Here are some examples of people that may especially benefit from working with a career coach:
- Recent grads looking for a meaningful career and a first job that will set them on the path toward satisfying future roles.
- People who want to make a career transition because their current line of work or role doesn’t fulfill them.
- New managers or people taking on leadership roles for the first time.
- Entrepreneurs who want to define a business idea and create a unique professional or personal brand.
- People who want to chart a route forward, make sense of their careers, and set meaningful goals.
Becoming a career coach
If you came to this article because career coaching piques your interest as a potential line of work, we can’t wait to help you get started. Read our comprehensive guide on starting your own career coaching business, and check out testimonials regarding Practice user Yiorgos Boudouris’ services for inspiration. We’ll leave you with one stand-out review highlighting his skills (skills that any great career coach can possess).
"Yiorgos helped me identify areas I could improve on my resume and what I could do differently in interviews. His recommendations and insights were extremely helpful. The one-hour chat was worth a million, as it helped me analyze areas to improve in all the different stages of an interview process."