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What is career coaching? 4 signs you need a career coach

October 12, 2022 - 21 min read
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    Working with a career coach has a multitude of benefits. But the concept of career coaching is still relatively new. 

    Our global workforce is a fast-changing one, with careers pivoting in an instant. Many companies are figuring out how to keep their workforce agile and adaptable. At the same time, employee needs are also changing quickly. In a fickle economic climate, both companies and employees are searching for ways to hit that sweet spot. 

    After reaching one million coaching sessions, BetterUp found important insights about the career coaching process. Career growth is highly personal — yet paths tend to have some common ground. People want guidance as they grow in their careers, especially leaders. And for leaders to produce great teams, leaders need to feel great, too. 

    Career coaching helps both organizations and employees navigate career and organizational development. Let’s talk about what career coaching is and what career coaches do. We’ll also talk about the benefits of coaching — and what to expect from your career coach.  

    What is career coaching?

    First, let’s start by defining what we mean by career coaching. 

    At BetterUp, we think of career coaching as a proactive approach to building your employees’ mental fitness. Career coaching is a future-minded tool to help unlock your workforce’s full potential. 

    Because every career journey is unique, a career coach personalizes their approach to help fit their coachee. According to the July 2022 International Coaching Federation report, there are more than 44,000 certified coaches working worldwide

    Coaches are trained to cover a range of career coaching topics. Let’s get into some more specifics of what a career coach does — and how they can help your organization and your employees. 

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    What does a career coach do?

    A career coach doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all job description. That’s because every career journey is unique and requires personalized support. A person’s career path is like a fingerprint — no two journeys are the same. 

    But when we look at the key responsibilities of a career coach, there are some similarities. At BetterUp, our coaches are trained to cover a number of professional development topics. Here are some things a career coach does: 

    • Navigate career transitions 
    • Provide career advice
    • Help job seekers with job interview skills (including practicing mock interviews) 
    • Examine career assessment results and provide guidance 
    • Assist with career planning 
    • Help to set career goals and long-term professional goals 
    • Explore new career options and opportunities 
    • Advise on how to build your personal brand 
    • Find work-life balance by settings boundaries and examining priorities 
    • Assist in the job search process 
    • Find footing in a new role or new job 
    • Explore ways to upskill or reskill in a current job 
    • Identify new strategies to enhance career development 

    At the end of the day, a career coach helps you or your employees find the job they love. Sometimes, that’s examining a current role and finding ways to upskill or reskill within the organization. Other times, it’s carving out an entirely new career path that aligns with your purpose of work


    Who can benefit from career coaching?

    The short answer? Everyone can benefit from career coaching. 

    The longer answer? Well, everyone has the ability to dig deeper to reach their full potential. At BetterUp, we’re on a mission to help everyone everywhere live with greater purpose, clarity, and passion. 

    And we know that to truly awaken human potential, we need to acknowledge the realities of today’s workforce. Employee coaching is the starting point for tapping into the potential of your organization. With employee coaching, you can boost your employee engagement, well-being, and productivity. 

    We also know that 55% of employees are in a state of languishing. If we know that mental health is on a spectrum, this means that employees are at risk of sliding down that spectrum without the proper support. Let’s talk about the signs that you could benefit from career coaching. 

    4 signs you could benefit from career coaching 

    1. You feel stuck 

    If you’re feeling stuck, you’re not alone. What was once dubbed the Great Resignation signaled to the world that millions of employees everywhere wanted a change. While the job market has cooled, the world of work is still in a state of constant change. 

    But even amid that change, you might feel a little stuck in the mud. If your current career feels stagnant, career coaching can help. 

    2. You’re not sure if you’re in the right career 

    I started out my career as a high school English teacher. But if you follow my career path, I now have more than a decade of experience in marketing. 

    I started out in the wrong career for me. And to be honest, I wish I had a career coach back in the beginning of my career. It would’ve helped to make life-changing decisions earlier on in my career to help get me to where I wanted to go. 

    3. You want better work-life balance and overall well-being 

    Our global workforce is on the brink of a burnout crisis. BetterUp researched nearly 175,000 Members to identify what it really means to be satisfied and feel a sense of well-being in life. 

    The top driver of life satisfaction? Job satisfaction. Not surprising given that we spend more than one-third of our lives at work. 



    But in a state where global languishing and burnout is higher than ever, coaching can help curb the crisis. 

    4. You want to learn new things and grow in your career

    Employees want to learn and grow in their careers. But in order to follow learning pathways, employees need to understand how to better develop professionally. 

    If you’re itching to flex your mind and learn new skills, it’s a sign you’re ready to work with a career coach. 

    Career coaching vs. career counseling

    If you’ve been looking for the right coach, you might’ve stumbled across career counseling. So, what’s the difference between career counseling and career coaching? 

    First, let’s think about what we know about coaching. At BetterUp, we think of coaching as a proactive approach to building mental fitness. It’s future-forward, focusing on things about our careers and our futures. It helps us build the skills we need to get to the next level. It’s a long-term relationship that builds on itself. 

    Career counseling can mirror some of the aspects of career coaching. Both a career counselor and a career coach can focus on building skills and capabilities. But a career counselor might also focus on past experiences and the next immediate goal. For example, a career counselor might help with a mock interview to land that next job interview. But a career counselor, unlike a coach, might not be able to think five or ten years down the road. 

    8 benefits of career coaching

    BetterUp Labs has studied the benefits of coaching in the workplace. Here are just some of the benefits of career coaching. 

    • Better employee retention. And in addition to increased productivity, leaders who are thriving are more like to retain their teams. In fact, our data reports that direct reports are 78% less likely to leave voluntarily with employees who are thriving.
    • Improved focus. Coaching also helps you improve your focus. This is especially important when it comes to reaching and achieving your goals.  

    How does career coaching compare to other types of coaching?

    There are plenty of types of coaching. Sometimes, career coaching services can overlap with other types of coaching. Other times, career coaching can be completely different from other tracks of coaching. Let’s break down some common types of coaching and the key differences. 

    Life coaching 

    A life coach tends to look at all aspects of a person’s life. While some career coaches might be certified life coaches, life coaching is broader. 

    Career coaching focuses on professional development. Career coaches specialize in ways to further a person’s career journey. 

    Executive and leadership coaching 

    Executive coaching is another type of coaching that focuses on developing C-suite-level executives. Oftentimes, executive coaching grooms individuals for high-level leadership positions. 

    It differs from leadership coaching as executive coaching is reserved for C-suite-level positions. Leadership coaching is more broadly available to any leader in the company. It’s an accessible, in-demand need for any organization. 

    Career coaching, leadership, and executive coaching have plenty of overlap. But it’s important to note that not all career coaches are leadership or executive coaches. 

    Relationship coaching 

    Relationship coaching is another type of coaching that is different from career coaching. Of course, there are plenty of different types of relationships in your career. The manager and employee relationship, the colleague-to-colleague relationship, and even the customer-to-client relationship. 

    But relationship coaches tend to focus on personal relationships rather than professional ones. A career coach may still be well-versed in how to navigate and strengthen connections. But career coaching won’t necessarily focus on your personal life. 


    What to expect from a career coaching session

    Be prepared to take a career assessment 

    It’s common that before you have your first career coaching session, you’ll take an assessment. At BetterUp, we use something called a Whole Person Assessment (WPA). Rooted in positive psychology, our WPA measures key capabilities, behaviors, and mindsets. It’s a comprehensive view of your current overall state of being. 

    But unlike many other career assessments, the WPA takes into account something important: your whole self. It measures things you wouldn’t anticipate in a career assessment, like rest, self-compassion, and physical activity. Why? Because these key components help influence how we show up in our professional lives, too. 

    Expect to talk about both long- and short-term goals 

    Your career coach will want to know what sense you have of your goals. It’s OK if you don’t have your career goals outlined for your career coaching session. In fact, that’s what a coach is there for. 

    But they’ll want to get some sense of your career aspirations, even if you’re not sure of what they are. Even if you just talk about the skills and capabilities you’d like to build, that can help get you started. 

    Anticipate discussing challenges or obstacles in your current career 

    There’s likely some sort of obstacle you’re currently facing. It might be an upcoming presentation or a big meeting. Or you might feel like you’re in a dead-end job. You might be ready for a career change or know that you’re not on the right career path. 

    Think about your current obstacles. It’s likely something that you can expect to discuss in your first career coaching session. 

    How to prepare for a career coaching session


    If you’re ready to embark on your career coaching journey, press pause. Stop and reflect on what got you to where you are today. 

    By reflecting on your career journey, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate your current state. Start with a moment of pause to help ground you in your current being. 

    Adopt a growth mindset 

    Let’s face it: coaching is about change. It takes a willingness to grow to make meaningful behavior and mindset changes. 

    Tap into your growth mindset before your first session. It’s likely that your career coach will challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone — and that’s OK. 

    Commit to the work 

    Much like adopting a growth mindset, it’s also important to commit to the work. Any sort of personal and professional development requires intention, awareness, and commitment. 

    As they say, it takes two to tango. Your coach can help provide you with the guidance, direction, and support you need. But you need to invest in the work to build the skills to reach your full potential. 

    The City of Santa Monica, a BetterUp customer, talks about how career coaching has helped employees at all levels thrive. 

    What is career coaching FAQs

    Let’s answer some final questions about career coaching. 

    How much does career coaching cost? 

    What exactly does career coaching cost? That’s a good question. The short answer is that it varies. Depending on a few factors, career coaches charge anywhere from $50 to $250 per hour. Experience, length of session, and certifications all play a role in cost. 

    What makes a good career coach? 

    A good career coach is subjective and depends on the individual’s needs. But generally speaking, a good career coach has the below qualities: 

    • A good, active listener 
    • A strong communicator 
    • Committed to developing and growing 
    • Adopts a growth mindset 
    • Certified by an institution like the International Coaching Federation and/or BetterUp 
    • Provides personalized career advice 
    • Challenges coachees to learn, grow, and commit to behavior changes 

    Does career coaching help you find a job?

     Yes, career coaches can help you find a job. But it’s important to know that working with a career coach won’t be the magic bullet to receiving job offers. 

    A career coach helps you build the skills and capabilities to improve your job-searching skills. They can help you write a cover letter, review your resume, and practice interview skills. 

    Start working with a career coach 

    Virtual coaching can be the difference between flailing and thriving. In today’s workplace, digital coaching has helped unlock the potential of millions of individuals. And with innovations in coaching only expanding, it’s a great asset to have in your professional development toolkit. 

    Consider how BetterUp can help you in your professional development journey. Whether you’re an employee looking for support or an organization looking for ways to upskill your workforce, BetterUp can help.

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    Published October 12, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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