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Career Coaching - How does it work?

As a coach, how do you tackle the potentially conflicting conversation with a client about their career? The truth is that the role of a coach in helping to develop someone's career is fundamental to the coaching, but how does this work in practice and how might you benefit from career coaching?



Hello, everybody. Welcome to this edition of The Coaching Conversation. The subject I want to talk through is the subject of career coaching; How do you as a coach, tackle quite a difficult and potentially conflicted conversation with a coachee about developing their career?

I'll explain why it's potentially conflicted in a second, but the truth is that the role of the coach in developing someone's career is pretty fundamental to the purpose of coaching. You're there to help the person become the person they want to be and to achieve the things they want to achieve, and that cannot omit the subject of career. The conflict, therefore, arises if you are being paid for your services by the employer, and it could be construed in some way that you are effectively facilitating that talent to leave, which clearly would be a conflict.

So, let's just deal with types of career coaching. First of all, if you're a business owner, possibly a business leader, you may feel that you've achieved what you set out to achieve in your career. But for most people that isn't true; it just has a slightly different nuance to it. If I own a business and I want to continue to develop my business, I want to continue to develop myself, it's just that I am taking more direct responsibility for that career - that career, therefore, is mine. I have more opportunity and more authority, but I need to take it. I need to use it. I need to apply it. And so, as a coach, it's about asking the simple questions of what do you want to achieve at the end of your career or when you finished doing.

What would you, when looking back, like to think that you had achieved? What would it look like? What would you be proud of? What would the milestones be? Then you can plot a course with them as to how that might be established, how they might take steps, and know all of those different pieces we just touched on to improve, grow, to achieve the things that they've identified as being important. So just because you own a business doesn't mean your career is at an end. It's just got a slightly different name.

As a manager, a senior manager, an executive, a leader, or an employee of an organisation that has chosen to coach you; you really need to think about your own personal development in the context of what you want to achieve, both long-term and ultimately, but also within the context of the organisation there's county employee because the reality of life is that's where you are in life is that's your style.

You're very unlikely to be in a coaching program because you're unhappy at work. You're very unlikely to be in a coaching program because your employer doesn't value you very much. The truth is the first and biggest opportunity in front of you as a coachee is probably within the organisation you are currently in.

So then again, the process is not dissimilar. What is it ultimately, you'd like to achieve? When you retire, what would be the things you would say that you had achieved, that what you wanted to achieve? And they're very rarely money - it will be something else – it will be a job title or an impact on society or a role of fulfilment in some. So, it could be international travel, it could be a board position, it could be responsible for changing something. There's a spectrum of things. And for most people that would turn into a very small shopping list, but a very important one.

As we start to unpick that shop at best, we can talk about, ’where are you now on that particular agenda item. What would the next steps logically be for you to improve in that direction?’ And you do those multiple times with the multiple items on the shopping list. That could be a mixture of study of learning. It could be a mixture of experiences. it might be finding outside interests that give you additional learning. As a Governor of a school, a non-executive director hip, or a trusteeship in a charity or a third sector organisation. It could be something else completely like lecturing or teaching and sharing your experiences with other people. The whole point is whatever works for the individual, whatever excites them, interests them, and clearly adds to their portfolio and is a step towards their ultimate games. That will be the right.

Because these situations are highly personal, they are usually unique. So, it's not that there's a one size fits all answer to career coaching. If that's almost never going to be the case and the more senior the position, the more likely the challenges are going to be the more unique. So, it could be a need to learn a foreign language. It could be a need to get experience in a particular sector of the business that I have no experience in. I'm the production director and I need to really understand better how customers are behaving. I could be the finance director and I really do need to get better at managing people - How do I do that? And it goes on.

For career coaching, the first stage is to ask people what career do they want? And then the second question is, so where are you on achieving that? And how do you think you could close the gap? What would those next steps be? And taking those next steps and supporting them through that part of their life, which often involves a degree of risk and of challenge, is the role of the coach.

It's also the role of the coach, to keep them accountable, if they say they're going to try and do something, then hopefully that's what's going to happen. And you'll be there to remind them if I decided not to give it the time and importance that they thought they would.

As a coach, when it comes to career coaching, how do you manage this balance between helping them find ultimately what they want to be and moving in that direction, and staying loyal and committed to their current employer?

Well, the reality is that if they are so determined to leave, if they're so determined to become something that the organisation can ever accommodate, there's nothing you can do about that. And pretending that it's not there and it isn't going to happen is foolhardy. However, what you can do as a coach is get them to examine whether or not the opportunities really do exist internally because they may well do, they're just not apparent to you. Perhaps a conversation with your boss or your boss's boss would unlock that opportunity for you in a way that you think is currently cut off. It may well be that by encouraging you to take the additional learnings, and additional experiences, you unlock those opportunities in the eyes of the people around you.

I said at the beginning of this session, very often the people that are on coaching programs are people that organisations value. And they want you to grow. They want you to develop your talent. And they recognise that in doing that, they've got to provide continual challenge and development.

Often the conflict for the coach is much easier to manage than it might appear. And it's not inappropriate or overly conflicted to be helping people develop themselves because ultimately that's very likely to be to the benefit of the sponsoring organisation right now.


That was the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

If you want to reach out you can send us an email at you can book a free 15-minute coaching session at which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.

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