In my work as a career coach, I have learned that any change can be challenging. In many cases, changes cause us to reevaluate who we are at a fundamental level. We now live in a period of rapid social, technological, and professional change. Increasingly, people seek guidance about who they want to become and how to exploit opportunities undreamed of just a generation ago. Skilled coaches can support people through this type of personal and professional self-examination.

There are two general categories of coaching: life coaching and career coaching.

  • Life coaching helps people understand their motivating purpose and provides tools to help them accelerate the development of a life that they love.
  • Career coaching includes corporate or executive coaching as well as career change and transitions. People typically seek a career coach to help them make decisions about achieving job satisfaction and improving professional performance.

My History With Career Coaching

At one point in my life, I started to rethink “what I really wanted to do.” The process was both fascinating and somewhat uncomfortable. I knew that I wanted to transition but was unsure of the details of the direction I wanted to take. I was sure that I was not alone, that many others shared my uncertainty about the next steps to take. I decided to become a professional career coach.

My own training as a coach is based on the principals set out by Thomas Leonard, who established the International Coaching Federation. Leonard believed that people seek out coaching for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • To make a significant change in career, relationships, or lifestyle to improve their quality of life.
  • To better deal with uncertainty. In today’s world there are fewer rules and precedents to guide choices, so people seek clarity and support.
  • To make better decisions. As life speeds up and presents a wide array of new choices, the criteria for decision making must be examined carefully.
  • To set better goals. Changing times can make career and life paths less relevant requiring goal reassessment.
  • To reach goals faster. New goals often imply wandering into new territory. Creating structure, tools, and accountability is advantageous.
  • To get ahead professionally. Life-long learning and self-development are increasingly necessary. Coaching can save both time and money in the process of setting plans and timetables.
  • To address an altered reality of employment. Contracting, outsourcing, temporary work, job sharing, telecommuting, and virtual organizations are increasing. Support and clarification help s to understand the new exciting set of possibilities.
  • To be a more effective leader. Energizing a diverse group of colleagues requires understanding the dissimilarity in values of different generations and knowing how to create a compelling vision.
  • To reduce stress by examining how a sense of purpose supports one’s personal sense of well-being.

What Coaching Is Not

Most of us are familiar with the important role that coaches play in the world of sports. What is less familiar is what life coaches and career coaches do. They are frequently confused with other types of professional helpers. While the following distinctions may still be debated, there is an emerging consensus between these professions about their primary characteristics.

Coaching versus Therapy

Therapy focuses on a person’s past. The goal is to identify and heal psychological injuries that may interfere with the ability to live fully in the present. Coaching helps people identify a vision for the future and enables them to develop new behaviors that will lead to their own definition of success. Very simply, therapy looks back while coaching looks forward.

Coaching versus Consulting

A consultant is an expert who gives advice and takes responsibility for the success of a project. Consultants do lots of talking based on their experience. In coaching, the client identifies the results they want to produce and examines the changes they will have to make to reach their vision. The client takes responsibility for progress. Coaches rarely give advice. Instead, they ask illuminating questions.

Coaching versus Mentoring

A mentor is an expert with knowledge and experience in a particular field or organization. A mentor guides others, often younger people. A coach is an expert on the development of people and helps people move forward on their own unique path.

The world is moving faster, and we are living longer, so we all will have several opportunities to recreate ourselves. Coaching helps people to identify goals along the way and ultimately, to function at their best.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.