Career Counseling vs Career Coaching, What’s the Difference?

By Robert Weil, co-founder of Institute for Coaching

So what’s the difference between career counseling and career coaching? If you are like many people these days who are in career transition and up against big career choices, this distinction may come in handy.

The truth of this is that many career counselors and career coaches may be very similar and in both lines of work there are variations in practitioners which may make them more like one than the other.

However, in career counseling and counseling in general—there is an assumption that someone (the counselor) is an expert and has expertise to offer. And this can inherently make it somewhat more of a directive approach. Meaning that the career counselor may gather information about their client’s skills, style, likes, etc and then direct them to a career that the career counselor thinks they will be satisfied with. A career counselor would be more likely to have a list of careers and to know all sorts of resources for you to get career information, pay rates for different fields, etc.

A career coach fundamentally comes from the perspective that you are the expert in your life and it is the job of the career coach to support you to grow, develop and make powerful choices for yourself, including career choices. So, in the career coaching model it would likely be more about self-discovery, finding what career will really light you up, have you excited to go to work each day. And then your career coach would ask you the right questions to make sure you put together a plan that will have you investigating different career choices and pursuing them so that you can come to your own answers. The idea and the key distinction is that if the client comes to the answers on their own, it is potentially more powerful than if they are told by the career counselor a recommendation or prescribed course.

With all of this being said, the most important thing in choosing either a career counselor or a career coach is that you feel chemistry and feel good about the person’s ability to support you in this very important aspect of your life. So, don’t be afraid to interview a career coach and a career counselor (or multiple) to see which is best for you…tell them about yourself, what you like about work, what you don’t and any details about your situation. At the end of the call, ask yourself—do I feel empowered and confident in this person. You don’t need to hire the first person you speak to. Speaking to a handful of career coaches and career counselors will only take a couple hours of your time and can pay off greatly if you find the right relationship to guide you to making the best career choices for you.

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