From education to employment

Are We All Career Coaches?

Sarfraz Ahmed

In recent years, I feel there has been a shift happening, a kind of evolution if you will, a transformation of the traditional role of Careers Advisers, as being expert career planners and career implementers who help match people to opportunities. This shift happening did not happen overnight but has been a response to global markets and changing in the way individuals provide and receive information, as we as advancements in technology.

In recent times this has been fuelled by changes in the economic landscape and increased migration as well as the impact of the current Covid-19 crisis which has thrown us all into a landscape that is potentially more complex and ever-changing, with the onset of new opportunities and challenges. In years to come they’ll be new jobs that we never knew existed, with the concept of having a job for life a thing of the past, it is even more crucial for young people to be able to manage transitions as a career can mean being able to adapt to change to meet the needs of your organisation, as well as a career path that suits your livelihood needs.

The impact of this essentially means that all of us at some point will have to re-evaluate and re-assess what our wants and our needs are, but also to assess our skillset as well as explore opportunities at several junctures in our life. The demand for careers advisers to adopt a more coaching approach has been huge and has grown momentum in recent years. As career coaches aim to support those to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and effectively support them through making effective transitions and choices. There have been many advocates over the years, who have debated the need for a more coaching style to the work that careers advisers already do, advocating for the need to equip professionals with toolkit that can holistically support individuals.

Advocates such as Hargrove R (2008), Hambly and Bomford (2019) and Beth Kennedy (2018) all have promoted creative career coaching in their own way. That in order

“to meet the challenges of the modern opportunity landscape, clients need to develop career management skills such as positivity, networking, presentation, personal branding, research and information management” Hambly and Bomford (Preface 2019)

Therefore you could argue that to be an effective support to individuals, the role of a career adviser should change to adapt with the times. You could even go as far to suggest that through times of economic crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic that we are facing in 2020, the skills Careers Advisers have will be greater in demand, perhaps more than ever. As governments will look at these groups of professionals to support those who lost their livelihood as well as those who jobs changed and the need to adapt became even more important than ever.

Careers Advisers often work with individuals with a variety of complex needs often with a multitude of barriers that can prevent them from moving forward. It is important that Careers Advisers acknowledge they play and to adopt a more ‘coaching style’ tailored to meet the needs of the client, to adopt a more holistic approach a move between different theoretical approaches and to use a wide range of strategies and techniques to help the individual. A coaching style can include using research as well as theory to inform their practise and to be open to borrow techniques often used by Counsellors, Life Coaches and Mental Health Workers. So how do we make these changes? There are actually many steps that you can take to develop your skills further and to begin to incorporate elements of coaching. This can include:

  • Undertaking formal courses in Life Coaching, Counselling and Mental Health
  • Attending conferences, workshops and training in career coaching, coaching mental health and well-being as well as how to boost your resilience
  • Research and start reading more into career coaching, start thinking what works for you.
  • Get involved in webinars and online streaming and discussion especially around the subject of career coaching
  • Engage with other career coaches, through professional platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Perhaps to subscribe to blogs, as well as start to follow these professionals. You can also ask for advice and information through these channels.

It is important to recognise a career coach’s approach is client-centred; the client is at the heart of the process. It is important also to look at attributes such as empathy, compassion, as well as active listening skills. Another aspect to bear in mind is to be more open minded to extend your repertoire of skills that you already have, allowing you to work with a wide range of clients. A Career Coach needs to be open to ideas to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of the clients. Your toolbox can include using digital skills, using role play, exploring mindfulness and other concepts such as exploring with the client the idea of having a gratitude diary to meet the needs of your clients.

Career Coaches is the natural evolution of the role of a Careers Adviser as professionals, we are dealing with those who may experience periods of isolation, unemployment and loss of income. Through these experiences many become susceptible to mental health issues that may spiral into disorders. I feel Careers Advisers and professionals should be supporting individuals to achieve their goals but also to raise aspiration, to give hope, to help individuals to become more resilient to the changes that they are expected to face.

Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Advisors, Leicester College


Beth Benatti Kennedy-‘Career Re-Charge – Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Burn Burnout, (2018) Capucia LC Publishing

Hargrove, R (2008), Masterful Coaching; (3rd edition) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Liane Hambly and Ciara Bomford (2019) Creative Career Coaching – Theory Into Practise Routeledge

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