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What is career coaching?

For anyone who’s had some professional coaching, it might seem blindingly obvious. But for those without experience, it can be a mystery – a process too often wrapped up in jargon, confused with emotionally-rooted therapy or mixed up with specific skills training.

Here, we shine a light on our career coaching services: with an expert view on what it’s for, how it works and what a coach does – while also dispelling a few myths and knocking a few misconceptions on the head.

How and where does Career Coaching happen?

Your coach may ask you to fill in a questionnaire before you get started, but the first session will almost always be a blank slate. It’s their introduction to you – a chance to learn about your career to date and your aims for the future. As a result, it can feel like a brain dump, but it’s all about identifying, prioritising and attacking your career goals.

In the first instance, any quiet meeting room will offer the ideal venue. After that first phase, sessions tend to concentrate on discussing progress, setting new tasks and refocusing on aims. As the process continues and becomes less formal, sessions might move into different settings, like a coffee shop, or can even be handled over the phone.

The Career Coach

There’s no such thing as a typical career coach. While many come from an HR or training background, it’s not unusual to meet a coach with long experience of sales or of senior management. What is common is for coaching to be a second career, built on the experience of another role.

Their role is simple: they’re there to get you moving. But within that, there’s room for a plethora of different styles, not just depending on the coach in question, but also on the client’s needs. If you need a confidant with a sympathetic ear, that’s fine. But maybe you need a planner who can set out a clear set of tasks, a mentor to offer a few words or a motivator to give you a (friendly) kick up the backside.

Whatever the approach, a huge part of their job is listening. The world of recruitment and the jobs market offers some obvious goals and a clear framework, but your coach won’t come to the process with a set agenda – you decide the terms of your career progression. A coach might give you advice on how to achieve your goals, but they don’t make difficult decisions for you.

What Career Coaching isn’t

First off, let’s get the silly stuff out of the way: there’s nothing spiritual or deeply emotional about career coaching. If you’re looking for ‘the new you’, you should probably look somewhere else. There will be no epiphany. Nor will there be hugging.

What TCMO offers is a world away from therapy or counselling. It’s a professional service for setting and achieving professional goals. It’s true that, in the process of identifying those goals, you may discuss matters personal to you – like your family life or even your health. But the coach is there for your career, and nothing else.

The process is not a substitute for common sense, or for ambition. While it can help people felling stuck in their jobs, this is not a service designed to give the aimless or feckless some direction in life. It should give you the focus you need to forge ahead in your career, but it’s neither a shortcut to success nor an easy option.

The Career Management Organisation