A meaningful career is critical to leading a fulfilling life. Career coaching is not just for students, a career coach can help with every aspect of career; decisions, change, development, progression.  A basic definition of career coaching is the process of collaborating with a client to help that client analyze their current career situation, define goals for themselves, and move towards those goals.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each aspect of career coaching:

Analyzing Your Current Career Situation

The first step of career coaching for many people is for the client and the coach to get a clear-eyed appraisal of the client’s current career situation. This may involve the coach asking about the client’s current work situation, their past job experience and education, as well as the work, structure, culture, and key personnel at the place where the client currently works.

It may also involve the coach helping the client more specifically articulate and understand issues they are currently having at the job. This might look something like going from the client saying “I really dread going into work every day” to realizing and articulating that “I don’t like my job because I am overworked, and the work I do doesn’t align with my personal values.”

Defining Your Career Goals

Once you and your career coach have a firm handle on your current career situation, the next step is often for the coach and the client to work together in defining and clearly articulating the client’s career goals. This may be as relatively small as the client seeking to change aspects of their current job to make their job more satisfying or establish a better work-life balance. Or it might be as big as the client entirely changing the field they work in. This may be the most open-ended stage of the career coaching process, because each individual client’s goals are going to be unique and individualized. A good career coach will make this a very collaborative process.

Moving Towards Your Career Goals

Once you’ve defined your career goals with your career coach, then the work of making them a reality begins. Your career coach will likely help you break your goals down into manageable pieces. They will also likely encourage and support you along the way as you accomplish each of those pieces and move towards your goals. Types of support career coaches may provide include things like:

-Helping you craft and revise your resume, cover letter, portfolio, and other application materials

-Giving you tips and suggestions on the right kind of networking that might help you advance your career goals

-Helping you practice interview skills

-Helping you process and learn from setbacks as you work towards your goals

-Help you manage the typical stress and uncertainty that often comes with career changes

-Provide you general moral support and encouragement throughout your process

Things Career Coaching Is Not

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at what career coaching often is, it’s also important to be clear about what career coaching usually is not. It’s important that potential clients go into career coaching with realistic and reasonable expectations about what kind of help a career coach is able to provide.

Career Coaching Is Not A Form Of Mental Healthcare

It’s important to state upfront that — as with other forms of coaching — career coaching is distinct from psychotherapy and is not a substitute for mental health care. If a career coach suspects a client is suffering from mental health issues, they will likely recommend the client seek mental health care in addition to — or before — engaging in career coaching. Career coach Donna Sweidan, in an interview for Forbes explains:

There are certain factors that can impede the utility of the career-coaching process from the outset, like unchecked anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, fear or general resistance to change. I will often ask, “Do you think that you may be depressed?” And the person will acknowledge it—often for the first time. I had one client whose spouse didn’t even recognize the severity of his depression! I recommended that he seek medical attention, and within about a month, he was truly motivated to focus on his career.

Career Coaching Does Not Mean The Coach Will Find A New Job For You

As much as a good career coach will want you to succeed in finding a new job, if you decide that is what you want, career coaches almost always can’t find you a new job for you. Career coaches are focused on supporting clients in doing their own job searches, but career coaches are not job placement services. Most career coaches are very upfront about the fact that they are there to help, but the client has to put in the work to reach their goals.

Career Coaches Typically Will Not Tell You What To Do

Most career coaches seek to engage in collaborative work with their clients. So, rather than telling clients what to do, many career coaches seek to support clients in exploring their own goals, strategies, and solutions. This may take longer than the career coach simply telling a client what to do, but it almost always results in a better outcome for the client and is typically more observant of the client’s autonomy and individuality.

Career Coaches Typically Cannot Guarantee Results 

Again, a good coach is going to be rooting for you and doing everything they can to help you. But most career coaches are not going to be able to guarantee you’ll find your dream job.

Career Coaching Is Not A Quick Fix

Career coach Sweidan in Forbes explains, “There’s also the popular notion that you only have to attend a single career-coaching session and your job challenges will be resolved. It actually takes about eight to 10 hours of counseling for the typical client to begin internalizing the key benefits of coaching.”

So. there you have it: An overview of career coaching — what it is and what it is not. We hope this information is helpful to you. And we hope to facilitate your connection with a career coach who can help you realize your professional goals and live a life you love.