Dear CJ,

I'm interested in becoming a career coach. I have a few questions:

·    What role does a career coach play for people who are employed?

·    What qualifications are necessary?

·    Do career coaches know about starting a business?




I find that my clients are interested in two areas for career coaching:

o    Career advancement. A client may be stuck at a certain level in the organization and can't figure out how to make it to the next level. Some times these clients have difficulty with their boss and are worried that their boss will be an impediment to their promotion until they can figure them out. Other times, clients are not aggressive enough about doing self-promotion or too aggressive and turn their bosses off.

o    Career transition/change: A client who wants to do everything from a small shift, lateral move within the same company, or something completely different.

Depending on the client's needs, there are some basic skills needed to coach and you can get qualified through signing up for a traditional coaching program or reading books. These skills involve listening, reframing, observing body language and energy and more. The role that a coach serves is no different than any coaching engagement (facilitator, reality testing, etc). However, the specific qualifications or skills needed are slightly different.

For career advancement it's helpful to understand the promotion path for different types of organizations. For example, the way an employee in a university, government agency, or corporation gets promoted can be very different. It helps if you've worked in these types of environments, as you will likely have a better appreciation of the people, the politics, and the process involved for promotion. But, this experience is not necessary. You can learn about how these organizations work by two or three one hour conversations with people within that industry or through clients over time.

Last, it's helpful to understand how to gain rapport, trust, and ultimately influence over a boss. Personally, I think neuro-linguistic-programming offers good training tools. There are also traditional books like Dale Carnegie's, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and other books on this topic.

A career transition involves a very structured process that gives a client personal awareness about their strengths, personality, and interests. Every coach will have their personal favorite in terms of personality and strengths assessment tests, such as Meyers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder and others. I took a bunch of these online and then hired someone who was a professional in all of them. I found them to be marginally useful and not as valuable as real life experience and knowledge that the clients already have. But, for some people, they are reinforcing and those that are awareness junkies love these reports.

In terms of your own training on these reports, I'd pick one of these that you find valuable so that you can speak to its merits and get a training class so you understand how to fully mine the data for your client.

There are a bunch of tools available for career coaching that will help a client understand how their job fits within the rest of their life, and how it mirrors their strengths and weaknesses. All of the above tools and training are to help the client gain awareness and clarity on their interests and ideal job. The next part of coaching to help with networking and doing informational interviews. This phase is about accountability coaching and you can read more about this on the web and may find some useful tools.

Last, it's helpful if you can review the client's resume and cover letter and help them practice interviewing and negotiating their salary.

Best wishes,