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Ultimate Guide To Becoming a Career Coach & Selecting a Certification Program

Do you dream about being your own boss while helping others? Excited to get in on an industry that is growing at a very high rate? Do you want to do work that you are truly passionate about? Want to sharpen your career coaching skills?

If these are some of the reasons you have considered becoming a certified career coach, then you are not alone. However, like anything, there is a big jump from saying you are ready to be a “career coach,” to actually going through the process of becoming a quality coach that is sought after by job seekers. Like any profession, proper training is required to really be successful. While you may have a career of experience, that doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good coach. There are many facets of the profession and business to learn. One of the best ways to enter this field, is to start off with a Career Coach Certification Program. This Ultimate Guide’s goal is to answer some of your questions about what exactly a career coach does and how to begin the process of selecting a certification program that is right for you.

What Does a Career Coach Do?

Career Coaches help clients, primarily job seekers, with all things related to their professional career, like helping choose a new career path, finding a new job, and helping navigate the ecosystem of a large organization to meet their professional career goals.

Each client’s situation is unique, so there is no “one size fits all” checklist of what needs to be done. But in general, a Career Coach helps with the job process, from identifying the right job or career, coming up with a strategy to support the goal and then execution. Execution can run the gamut from interview prep and resume writing to introductions to recruiters to just being a support person until they get a position that makes them happy!

Is this a Profession with Growth Opportunities?

Personal coaching (which Career Coaching falls under) is a very hot industry and has seen tremendous growth over the last few years. It is estimated to grow at about 7% a year* for the next few years. All this growth means more coaches are needed. There are many reasons for this. In any industry, whenever there is change, whether it be because of technology, consolidation, new laws or other outside societal changes, there is opportunity. For instance, currently we are going through a change in the workforce probably not seen since this Industrial Revolution. Technology is making loads of jobs obsolete. Whether it’s self-checkout stations at the supermarket or computers that think for themselves (AI) and are starting to replace programmers and loads of other roles, there are millions of people being replaced by technology that need to reinvent themselves, and their careers. There is a good chance they don’ t know how to pivot and this is one great opportunity for career coaches.

Career Coach vs. Life Coach - What is the Difference?

Before we jump too much further into Career Coaching, there is often confusion about various personal coaches...Life and Career Coaches. In general, Career Coaches are job specialists and Life Coaches tend to be self-growth focused, but let’s take a quick look at how they differ:

Not All Certification Programs Are Created Equal

One of the bigger problems in the coaching industry, at least as viewed by some, is there is no standard of what constitutes being certified. Many other professionals have either accrediting organizations that offer certifications (think a Board Certification for doctors or a CPA for accountants), however, the coaching world does not. As a result there is a huge discrepancy in the quality and content of the programs that are offered.

Career Coach Certification programs run the gamut from pay $50 and get a certificate to comprehensive programs that teach you the ins and outs of how to be a successful coach and build a successful coaching business. As you can imagine, in most cases you get what you pay for. If your sole motivation is to get a piece of paper that has no substance behind it, there are plenty of programs out there that will offer what you want. Will you learn the skills required to be successful? Maybe, but not too likely. However, if you truly want to excel in the profession, then you need to be selective about which program you go with, and understand the curriculum and teaching methods, just like any other training or certification program.

Is Certification Even Necessary?

Technically no as coaching is not a regulated industry. This means anyone one who thinks they are an expert can create a website and claim they are a coach. However, there is so much to learn about Career Coaching, even for professionals who have been in HR or similar industries their entire careers, that it would be very hard to be successful without the proper training. The proper certification program, with experienced Master Coaches who have actually coached people, will teach you all things that go into being a career coach. From selecting clients, writing resumes to how to build your business. The cost in time and “figuring things out as you go” versus the investment of getting started with the knowledge can easily mean the difference between success and failure.

What Do the Programs Cover?

Since there are no standards, every program is entirely different. As we discussed earlier, there are very basic “programs” that might involve an hour or two of time and taking a test, to very comprehensive programs that can last weeks to months and cover every facet of becoming a successful coach.

Before you consider any program here are some questions you should get answered to help find the best fit and make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

How Do I Compare Programs?

Does the program teach you how to...

  • Help clients answer the question, “What should I do when I grow up?”

  • Define their careers through telling a clear story?

  • Write concise résumés and cover letters that stand out from the crowd?

  • Navigate off and online job hunting resources?

  • Become an expert at using Linkedin so your client’s profiles can be found by recruiters?

  • Learn the ins and outs of understanding the next generation of hiring technology such as remote video interviews, AI bot recruiters and even ways companies use to detect fraud?

  • How best to negotiate the best job offer for your client?

  • Strategy and execution techniques for business and marketing plans?

Does the program teach the material in a way that is how you best learn...

  • How is the material presented? Videos? Books? Onsite only?

  • What is the measurement of mastery? Is there a test? Or, other forms of demonstration?

  • How often do tests occur? Only once at the very end? Throughout the program?

  • What is the minimum requirement I must have before I can enroll in a program?

  • Am I required to obtain a client as I learn through the program? If not, how else can I obtain hands-on practical experience?

  • How much time do you need to commit to the program? Are you currently working?

  • Am I studying alone? Or am I part of a group learning together?

And finally, consider who is teaching the material...

  • What are the credentials of the instructor?

  • Is that person a master trainer and know about adult learning theory?

  • Does that person have a thriving coaching business today?

  • Will the person stay connected with you in the future if you have questions later on in your practice?

  • Is the teacher coaching people now?

Building a Career Coaching Business

Like any industry, starting and building business takes time and hard work. A Career Coach business is no different. There is no golden path to be a success, but there are definite steps to take to give you a higher chance of success. Going through a quality career coaching certification program is a great step. Beyond that, having built an amazing personal network, while not a requirement, can give you a great leg up on the competition when it comes to helping your clients. Advertising, building a quality website and all of the other elements that go into any service business are also essential. Coaching is often about building a brand (either around you, as the coach, or your firm) so it is essential to learn how to build a brand.

* Blog, Feb. 2018

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