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Feel stuck, but not sure what to do about it? A coach might be able to help you, but what type of coach should you look for?’s FIT FOR PURPOSE blog series explores the main types of coaching out there to help you choose the best coach for your needs.

What is a career coach?

For most of us, our work will account for a significant portion of our time on this planet, second only to sleep. It seems critical, then, that we should find value and meaning, even joy, in the work we do. Sadly, the well-known truth is that most people instead find themselves going through the motions, occupied in jobs that pay the rent but little else.

A career coach specializes in helping clients avoid this dilemma. She works with them in choosing their best job or career and plotting the route towards achieving their career goals. This is not career guidance counseling. A career coach utilizes the skills and aptitudes of a life coach in helping her clients uncover what is most important to them, now and into the future. This process of exploration is then translated into planning and action steps that direct the client towards finding and choosing the career he wants, or the job he wants within that career.

A career coach is an expert trained in areas like resume building, career planning and motivation, and will also assist his client in identifying and acquiring any skills and capacities that need to be developed in order to achieve career success. This applies to clients entering the job market, people with established careers who are looking to change career altogether, or clients managing sudden change in their work situation or work environment.

What should I look for when choosing a career coach?


Unlike other professional fields like engineering, medicine or law, the coaching industry is not regulated. Essentially anyone can call themselves a coach, which has led to justified questions being asked about the credibility about the coaching industry. As a result it is important for potential clients to source a coach that has been certified by a leading coaching body, the gold standard of which is the International Coach Federation (ICF). ICF-credentialed coaches practice at one of three levels – Associate, Professional or Master – with rigorous training and professional requirements, such as hours coached, required to become certified at each level.

Career coaches may possess a specialist certification from a dedicated career coaching training organization, but this fits with, rather than in place of, ICF credentials.

Realistic promises

Be wary of career coaches who guarantee that they will find you a job at the end of your coaching program. Almost no-one can promise that. You may be fortunate and land a position directly after completing your sessions with the career coach, but that will partly be the result of providence and partly hard work. Because in a career coaching program the coach can help you structure and design a career plan, resumes, application letters, but the work is up to you. The more you put in the more you’ll get out.


This is your career you’re talking about, so it’s important that you feel a good connection with the person you are paying to help make it happen. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free introductory session to check if you and the coach are likely to work well together – this is a standard procedure and an automatic part of the package when working through a platform like


The days of needing to be in the same room as your coach are over. The internet has allowed us to connect coach and client regardless of where in the world they are, giving you access to the right career coach for you no matter where you live. This offers you unparalleled choice and freedom, but if you still prefer the traditional face-to-face, use an online matching platform like to find an accredited coach in your vicinity.

A career coach is not…

A job seeking assistant

Career coaches do not find you jobs and apply on your behalf. Instead, a career coach will help you reconnect with what you want and need from work and design the plan and collateral needed to land that first interview. The work is yours to do, and the more effort you put in the better your results will be.

A recruitment officer

Career coaches do not work on behalf of companies and businesses seeking job applicants. Yes, your career coach may be well-connected and be able to recommend potential jobs that she might have heard about, but that is not her primary role. Her business is to prepare you for when you do land that first interview, not to land you the job itself.