Blog post header image showing mirror with woman's profile and words saying 'Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall'. Posted by Charlotte Whitehead, UK Career Coach at Career Practic.

“….Who is the best career coach of all?”

Not me, that’s for sure. That may sound like an odd thing to say in terms of self-promotion but lots of people do describe themselves as ‘top career coach’, ‘best career coach’, ‘award-winning coach’ etc. However, these titles can be misleading. What you as an individual need is the best career coach for you. 

In this article I’ll explain what you really need to consider when looking for a career coach. But before we get to that…

What does ‘award-winning coach’ actually mean?

With regard to the title ‘award-winning coach’, this needs to be viewed with some scepticism because professional awards are often ones that people have to self-nominate for. 

My own professional body, the Career Development Institute, has such a scheme. It’s called the UK Career Development Awards and each year, we as members are encouraged to put ourselves forward for it. 

I’ve always held back from submitting an application. This is because it wouldn’t feel right (were I to win) to promote myself to prospective clients as ‘best UK career coach’ or ‘award-winning career coach’ knowing that only a fraction of the 250 or so CDI members who describe themselves as ‘independent/self-employed’ have entered the competition. That would hardly make me ‘the best’ career coach in the UK, would it?

That’s not to say that colleagues who do enter the competition for ‘Private sector Careers Coach/Consultant of the year’ aren’t high calibre. They truly are: I’ve attended the awards ceremony in previous years and the work undertaken across all the different categories of award is incredibly impressive because of the positive difference that these people are making to people’s working lives and how they’re doing that. 

It is also fair to say that having an award scheme in place gives career development professionals something to aspire to.

However, it’s not quite the same as being selected on the basis of evidence submitted as part of, say, a chartership scheme. The CDI hasn’t yet applied for a Royal Charter but if or when it does, the process of applying for chartered status as an individual practitioner would require submission of evidence to show that that one’s professional practice meets the required standards.

The assessors of those submissions would see a wide range of work each year and, consequently, could potentially shortlist a few of those candidates for ‘career coach of the year’.

If, out-of-the-blue, one was shortlisted through a scheme like that and then went on to win an award, it would be a genuine honour and would demonstrate to colleagues and prospective clients that the candidate had achieved a high level of professional competence.

We’re not at that point yet but the CDI looks to be heading in that direction.

So who might be the best career coach for you?

The bottom line is that careers professionals come in many shapes and colours. They may specialise in:

  • post-18 education and career choice for young people 
  • mid-career change and development
  • supporting neuro-divergent clients
  • helping military service leavers transition to civilian life
  • supporting academic career development (& those leaving academia)
  • developing young people with complex needs (SEN, behavioural, etc)
  • guiding ex-offenders back into the world of work
  • helping carers to combine work with caring responsibilities
  • supporting those with disability to develop careers
  • planning for retirement
  • leadership development
  • etc.

I recommend that if you need career support, you consider looking for a career coach in the same way that you would look for an accountant or doctor or legal professional. I.e. find someone who specialises in the sort of issue you want help with, and, ideally, speak to two or three so that you can get a feel for how they work.

Additional things to keep in mind are:

  • the backstory to why the careers professional is doing what they do (including why they care about the type of career challenge you’re dealing with)
  • the training that qualifies them to do what they do
  • whether you like & trust them (i.e. do you think you can work with them?)

How to find a career coach

The Career Development Institute has an online, searchable register of qualified career coaches who abide by a code of ethics & maintain their expertise by undertaking a minimum of 25 hours CPD each year.

There are similar directories in the USA, Canada and Australia:

National Career Development Association (USA)

Career Professionals of Canada

Career Development Association of Australia

All of the people on these registers will have completed nationally recognised qualifications. And most of them will offer free 15 minute ‘discovery’ calls or introductory taster sessions.  

What I’ve found in my own practice is that a 45-60 minute taster session works best as it provides you with an opportunity to have an in depth and confidential conversation about your current situation with someone impartial (possibly for the first time) and really talk through what sort of support might be helpful given what you’re seeking to accomplish. There’s no obligation to work together thereafter but you should leave the session with a clearer understanding of what your next steps might be.

If you’d like to arrange a taster session with me, please get in touch. You might also find it helpful to read my brochure on ‘How to choose a career coach‘.

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