Career coaching has become a popular form of career development services since the mid-1980s. The International Coach Federation has estimated that there are currently more than 10,000 career coaches in the United States. The general goal of career coaching is to assist clients’ personal and professional development so that they can (a) better identify or develop their skills, (b) make better career choices, and (c) be a more productive and valuable member at work.
Career coaching is a contractual relationship between the coach and the client for a wide range of career services, depending on the needs of the client and the expertise of the coach. Career coaches can be hired as personal consultants for any work-related issues, such as balancing home and career, job interview skills, managerial efficacy, long-range personal and career planning, business success, financial independence, academic excellence, personal success, physical health, interpersonal relationships, and training managers to become career coaches to their employees. Many coaches identify themselves as coaches, personal coaches, or life coaches rather than career or job coaches, mainly because their consultation is not limited to work issues.
Career coaches come from a variety of vocational backgrounds, such as accountants, athletic trainers, academics, lawyers, clergy, psychologists, business executive officers, theater directors, and homemakers. A survey of International Coach Federation members found that more than 70 percent of the members were former consultants or managers. Career coaches usually advertise their services through Web sites and professional and personal networking. Their contact with clients often takes place via the Internet and telephone, at the clients’ homes or workplaces, or in public places, such as coffee shops. Career coaching can also be conducted using a seminar-based program in addition to the one-on-one fashion. The reduction of overhead cost (e.g., office space and administrative support), along with a potentially lucrative income ranging from $75 to $300 an hour, make career coaching an attractive career option. One special form of career coaching is called executive coaching. Such career services are typically provided by licensed psychologists and delivered to high-ranking managers, such as chief executive officers. This kind of consultation often involves a long-term contractual relationship to assist the manager in strategic planning, organizational and employee development, and productivity improvement.
Barry Chung and M. Coleman Allen Gfroerer have discussed some distinctions among career counselors, career development facilitators, and career coaches, the three major providers of career development services. Career counselors are counselors or counseling psychologists by training. They have at least a master’s degree in their respective disciplines and may practice only with a state license or under the supervision of a licensed counselor or psychologist.
Career development facilitators often work under the supervision of career counselors to provide career services that do not require professional training (e.g., resume writing and job interviews). Some major professional organizations offer training programs for career development facilitators (e.g., National Career Development Association, National Employment Counseling Association). The Center for Credentialing in Education, a subsidiary of the National Board for Certified Counselors, awards certificates for Global Career Development Facilitators.
Currently, there is no nationally recognized body to regulate the training, credentialing, and professional conduct of career coaches, nor are there state licensures for the practice of career coaching. However, major coaching institutes do offer training programs, certificates, and ethical codes (e.g., Coach U, International Coach Federation). Formal training can be a two-year program with at least 250 hours of direct service. Seasoned career coaches also provide seminars and workshops in major cities across the country to train other career coaches. The National Career Development Association charged its professional standards committee to explore training and consumer guidelines for career coaching. CoachVille offers international coaching licenses in a number of countries outside the United States.
Whereas career development facilitators perform a subset of career services conducted by career counselors, the work of career coaches overlaps substantially with that of career counselors (e.g., career decision making, job search, work adjustment). Generally, the work unique to career counselors requires professional training in assessment, psychological intervention, or sometimes diagnosis, whereas career coaches may have more expertise in organizational dynamics, corporate and managerial development, and work productivity. Furthermore, career coaching is unique in that career coaches may work with clients in settings nontraditional to career counselors, such as the client’s homes, workplaces, and public places.
The boundary between a career coach and client often is not as rigid as in a counseling relationship. Clients may introduce their career coaches to coworkers and allow their coaches to observe work behavior and organizational dynamics in order to advise the clients on how to improve productivity and workplace climate. However, the aforementioned distinctions between career coaching and counseling are not without exceptions, because many career coaches are counselors or psychologists by training. These counseling professionals choose to provide career services using the title of a career coach. Some advantages for this decision include more flexibility in the consulting relationship and less negative stigma attached to coaching than to counseling. In fact, some people believe that hiring a career coach is as fashionable as having a personal fitness trainer.
- Career counseling
- Executive coaching
- Performance appraisal and feedback
- Three-hundred-sixty degree (360°) evaluation
- Chung, Y. B. and Gfroerer, M. C. A. 2003. “Career Coaching: Practice, Training, Professional, and Ethical Issues.” Career Development Quarterly 52:141-152.
- Eng, S. 1996. “Do You Need an Executive Coach?” San Jose Mercury, March 13, N.p.
- Hube, K. 1996. “A Coach May Be the Guardian Angel You Need to Rev Up Your Career.” Money 25:43-46.
- McCuan, J. 2004. “Got Game?” Magazine 26:71.