What is career coaching and can it help you?

What is career coaching? Nikki Nir from Careers with Confidence gets lots of questions about coaching so Workingmums.co.uk asked her to provide a guide on what coaching is and how to decide if coaching is right for you or your organisation.

Career Progression


What is coaching?

Coaching provides the space for you to stop and think and really focus on what’s important to you. Your coach will support you to take action, focussing on specific goals and moving you out of the comfort zones that get in the way of you achieving your goals. There is no standard definition of coaching, but descriptions used by coaching bodies and industry experts include:

“Coaches work with clients in all areas including business, career, finances, health and relationships. As a result of coaching, clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and more fully use their natural strengths.” International Coach Federation

“Coaching is helping someone see their situation clearly and calmly so they can make better decisions about what they do.” Work Foundation

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” John Whitmore, in Coaching for Performance.

What is the difference between coaching, mentoring and therapy?

A: Coaching deals mostly with a person’s present, helping them to clarify goals, to get more out of their life or career. A mentor is typically someone in a senior role who draws on their own experiences and expertise to advise their mentee on specific work and career issues. Therapy deals with a person’s past and trauma. Traditional therapy focuses on the roots of the problems and causes.

What sorts of things do people get coaching on?

People have coaching for all sorts of reasons. They may wish to enhance their leadership or management skills, change career, grow their own business, reduce their stress levels, improve their work-life balance, increase their confidence, get fresh perspectives on challenges or improve their communication and decision-making skills.

People can find themselves at career crossroads and want to make a change but feel stuck or that the future seems like a blank page. People may be newly promoted in their role, returning to work after a career break or experiencing redundancy.

What can I expect from a coaching session?

You decide what you would like to focus on in the sessions and using coaching tools and questioning you and your coach will explore possible options and set specific actions for the way forward to enable you to achieve your career objectives, whether it’s becoming more successful in your current career or changing careers.

Your coach will help you to reflect on your particular situation and will work with you to develop options that work best for you. You will gain insights and clarity on what your next steps are.

How would I benefit from having having a coach?

The personal benefits of coaching are as wide-ranging as the individuals involved. Numerous clients report that coaching positively impacted their careers as well as their lives by helping them to:

  • Manage change more easily like returning to work after a career break and changing roles and career
  • Gain more job and life satisfaction by doing what more of what they love and creating a better work life balance
  • Expand their thinking and reframe their attitudes translated as ‘a coach will help you get out of your own way!’
  • Contribute more effectively to their team and the organisation
  • Increase their ability to identify solutions to specific work-related issues
  • Improve relationships and communicate more easily with their boss, direct reports and peers
  • Become more self aware and open to learning and personal development

How do I choose the right coach for me?

Check that your coach is qualified and a member of a professional body. The Association for Coaching (AOC) is a reputable body. Recommendations from friends and colleagues are a useful way to find a good coach and don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials.

It’s also important that you feel comfortable with your coach and you can speak openly and honestly to ensure you work well together. A good coach will also suggest a referral to a more appropriate professional if your needs are beyond their scope.

Is coaching in person better than phone coaching?

It depends on a number of factors. Your company may want a coach to work with a number of people in your organisation on the same day each month so the coaching may be at your workplace. Other people like to get out of the workplace to avoid any possible distractions. For other people phone coaching is most time efficient. This can be done on a landline or Skype.

How does coaching work?

Coaching goals are agreed in the first session and in the following sessions particular areas are focused on, options are identified and an action plan is created. Progress is reviewed against the action plan and at the end of the coaching sessions future actions and support required is identified.

Coaches often use a range of tools chosen specifically for your situation. These can include personality tests, self awareness exercises or practical tools to support your career dilemma.

Do I need to do any preparation?

To prepare for the coaching, it’s a good idea to write a list of the areas you want to work on before you start your coaching sessions. Think about which parts of your life or work do you want to focus on? What has been preventing you from moving forward? Have there been specific things that kept you from achieving more? What do you want to walk away with when the session is done?

The clearer you are, the easier it will be to achieve your goals. Also make sure that you are fully engaged with the process to get the most out of it. Don’t expect the coach to wave a magic wand. You do need to put in the work in between the sessions and to create some head space for you to think and self reflect.

How long would I have coaching for?

Sessions typically last an hour and we recommend working with a coach for a minimum of three months to ensure you get maximum value for money and a longer lasting impact. Some people with specific short term objectives may achieve their goals within a few sessions, while others may take longer.

How often will we meet or talk?

Sessions can happen once or twice a month. During the first session, we would establish the schedule, format and location of sessions together to best meet your needs. Between sessions email can be used to communicate questions.

My company is paying for the coaching, so what about confidentiality?

Your coaching goals will have been agreed with your line manager and sometimes they may want an update of what’s been covered and the action steps agreed. You and your coach will agree together what will be reported back. The detail of what is discussed in the coaching sessions is kept confidential.

How can I know it will work?

In the first session you’ll set out what you want to achieve and the timescale. The coach will have this in mind throughout the coaching and will encourage you to take steps to achieve your outcome. Examples of results that have been achieved include improved self awareness and confidence, increased clarity and motivation to take action, reduced stress, more consistency and direction in life and increased job satisfaction.

*Working with one of Careers with Confidence coaches, you will receive the support to make informed career choices, find a career you enjoy or make the most of your current job. We’re offering 10% off any of our Careers with Confidence services if you mention Workingmums. What’s your career dilemma? Please join our new group Career Dilemmas and get the best career advice and insights from career experts and members.

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