Do You Need a Career Counselor or a Career Coach?

You may hear different titles tossed around out there if you are looking for someone to help you with your career: career counselor, career coach. It can be confusing to figure out which one you need, particularly because job functions for these titles can overlap. In general, a career counselor helps you with the big picture, asking what or why questions to help you discover who you are, your skills and abilities and your possible career options. A career coach helps you get from point A to point B in your career and helps you clarify your career path by asking how questions such as how can you obtain certification that will help you get promoted. I would go to a career counselor if I were entering the work force for the first time, if I wanted to change careers or had to deal with a complex issue such as sexual harassment at work. I would work with a career coach if I needed help navigating a career path that I have chosen.

Career Options: You may explore career options with a career counselor, relying on the counselor’s expertise in specific career fields. A career coach may point you towards career resources and focuses on narrowing down career choices to the one with the best fit for you.

Internal issues/External Solutions: A counselor may focus on ferreting out issues that keep you from being successful such as procrastination, poor professional image, or fear of success. Both a counselor and coach may focus on developing an action plan to remove these barriers to success. External solutions that both may use include having you keep a running list of deadlines, setting up an appointment for a professional makeover, or writing a list of what scares you most about being successful.

Skill Sets: A counselor uses several tools such as interest inventories, personality tests and card sort activities to identify your skills and which ones you like to use. A coach may focus on resources that identify needed skills and promote your skill development.

Goals: Formulation of broad career goals exploring several different career paths is one outcome of career counseling. A career coach pushes a client who has already chosen a career path to refine these career goals and break them down into actionable steps.

Both career counselors and coaches may assign “homework” between sessions. Homework for a career counseling session is more likely to be assignments focused on thought processes such as listing skill likes and dislikes, while coaching “homework” may be more actionable such as calling four companies for informational interviews.

Support and Accountability:  Support and encouragement to explore and set career goals is one function of counseling. You set the pace for the outcome. Coaching pushes you to make changes in your career development, to break goals into steps and to act on them. The coach demands action on these steps and holds you accountable for progress.

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