What is career coaching?

Let’s take a look at career coaching and what it is about. To get matters clear it’s good to know that the terms career coaching, counselling and guidance can be used interchangeably.

What is coaching? Based on what I know and my own experiences, I come to the following definition: coaching is based on the idea that each individual can motivate himself or herself. Coaching is based on an open relationship based on mutual trust between you and the coach. Your capabilities, creativity and resourcefulness are taken as a starting point. At the beginning of the meeting you define the career question you would like to investigate during the session. During the coaching process your coach will show understanding, challenge you and motivate you in finding ways to reach your objectives.

In the past career coaching was more focused on guidance with regards to which occupation to choose. Thus, choosing a career was seen as more of a static and one-off process.

These days we find ourselves in a dynamic network economy where knowing how to steer and motivate yourself is vital and the distinction between work and private life becomes increasingly blurred. Thus career coaching has evolved to a process which stimulates you to think about yourself and enables you to make career choices that fit with who you are.

When experiencing a career transition, recognise these five phases that you may go through before moving on to your next career step:

Accepting the situation you’re in
Taking a closer look at yourself; your personality, capabilities and qualities
Deciding on which direction you would like to go
Orientating yourself on potential opportunities
Realising your next career step

To illustrate career coaching I am highlighting some coaching conversations I have had with some clients.

“I am not sure whether this is the right job for me”
We discussed where these doubts came from and ordered and evaluated them. The client and coach decided on a plan which included changes she could make in her current role and other companies and jobs that interested her. She tested her ideas with people in her network and made enquiries. She remembered the director she once met of a company she was interested in. Despite the fact she found this rather scary, she called him again and managed to set up a meeting. Eventually she got hired by him in a job that suited her skills.
“I want to work abroad but I don’t know how I can go about it”
We discussed why the client wanted to go abroad and what he wanted to do there. We looked at what the dream of going abroad meant to him, while at the same time analysing what he would do if that dream would not be feasible for the moment. Then we discussed all the options he had, made a plan so he could start to test the plan with people in his network. He then decided on the route he wanted to take.
“I am about to graduate but I have no clue yet on what I want to do”
The coach invited the client to take a step back to assess the situation. We looked at the doubts, what they were and if he knew why they were there. We looked at his background; how his parents made a living and what their expectations were of his future. The client took a career test and we discussed the outcomes, his personality, his skills and the best scoring career paths. We made a plan on which career paths he wanted to further investigate and how he was going to do that. During the research process he met an alumnus of his university who recommended him to the recruitment department. That is how he found his first job.

As you can see, the coaching process sometimes generates a new step, eg finding a new position. But this is not always the case. The research process by itself may suffice and may generate a newly found balance. Something along the lines of ‘Ok, I have investigated it but have decided to leave things the way they are for now.’ Or new ideas may pop up, small changes you can make in your current job that make your job more rewarding. Every coaching process is different and comes with its own dynamic.

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