The one thing that stands in the way of people creating the career and work-life balance that works for them is not actually knowing who they need to support them. Usually, when I start talking to parents about working with them, the first question they have is “What is a Career Coach?” and most importantly, “How do I choose one?”

Now, before you get going on this week’s blog, I’m going to do a little bit of educating. The thing is, in the business space that I exist in, the word “Coach” is getting VERY murky and mixed up. ANYONE can call themselves a Coach (and many, many do when they shouldn’t), when in fact they aren’t. Even I sometimes work with a client and I am not being a Coach. Sometimes I am a Mentor, other times a Consultant and often a Trainer (using a coaching, mentoring and/or consulting approach!).

So, before you decide if you need a coach, I’ll  give you a whistle-stop tour on who does what. THEN we can work out how to choose the best one for you! (If you prefer to listen rather than read, then check out my Facebook Live on this very topic!)

What is the difference between a Coach, Mentor and Consultant ?

What is a Coach?
A coach is a person who works with you to achieve your goals, quicker together than you would do on your own! They don’t tell you what to do, they don’t tell you what not to do. They simply ask questions that delve deep into your beliefs, your values and your plans to enable you to find the next step. They offer you accountability and someone to share your successes with!

What is a career coach conversation




What is a Mentor?
This is where the person will share their guidance and experience to help the person develop personally and professionally. They may be further along than the mentee in life experience or have more work experience and often use tools and techniques to help the person work on the areas they have identified. Like a coach, they will hold you accountable for your progress and challenge and question!

What is a Consultant?
A consultant will look at what you are doing, pick it apart and turn it upside and inside out and make suggestions on what can be changed or improved. Many people may have come across consultants from a business perspective; maybe looking at changes or marketing or IT. For my work, that tends to be the CV, LinkedIn, Mock Interview and Flexible Working Request work.

So, there we go – have you spotted the type of person you need?

This is where it can get complicated! I am the first to admit that the type of work that I do crosses all three of these; it is why I often describe myself as a coach-mentor or a coaching-trainer or even a mentor-consultant, as it can be hard to see where one stops and another starts. It is dependent on what is needed by the person and what they need in that session. To be too prescriptive and set in stone would mean people wouldn’t get the results they need.

What is a career coach

How to choose the best Coach for you

The best advice I give everyone is you need to be led by the person rather than their job title. In the world of coaching, for example, whilst there are qualifications (which I have one!) it is the actual results that make someone a coach, not the title! When looking for someone to support you, regardless of their title, this is a great starting point:

1. Be clear on the results you want to get
Decide what success looks like for you. Is it a new job? Is it a new business? Is it a calmer life? That can not only help you when you are looking for someone to support you but will help that individual understand if they can help you.

2. Get recommendations
Like anything, nothing beats a recommendation and referrals. And did you notice that was plural? Yes, more than one. You want to get a feel for who is out there! Ask your friends, family and colleagues who they have worked with. Ask THEM to ask who their friends, family and colleagues have worked with.

3. Get social
If you can’t find any recommendations (and to be fair, even when you do) check out their online media. Find their website by searching for keywords (many people find me as  “Career Coach in Sutton Coldfield” on a search engine) Look at their Facebook Page, LinkedIn, blogs, groups or YouTube. Look at all the content they have put out to get a feel for who they are, who they help, the results they get and what their personality is like. Read the recommendations and case studies.
Feel free to cyber stalk for as long as you are comfortable!

4. Check out their credentials
As I have mentioned, qualifications don’t guarantee that someone will do a good job, but if someone has taken the time to invest in themselves, it says a lot about how they will treat you.
Currently, Coaching doesn’t have a regulatory body that insists on qualifications (although many qualified coaches, like me, would like to see that change), however, by going through their social media and profile you should be able to see why they are qualified to support you. It may be pieces of paper, it may be time served in a job or life experience. Either way, make sure it satisfies what you need!

5. Talk to them
All coaches should offer an introductory call if you are looking to book any 1:1 time with them. This gives you a chance to share why you feel you need support and for you to get an insight into how the person works. This is something that I offer to all my potential 1:1 clients; it usually turns into a mini-mentoring session, to be honest! You can also get an insight into how they are by attending workshops or seeing them talk at events if you aren’t quite ready to and commit quite yet.

When you work with a coach, a mentor, a consultant or (insert jaunty title here) is up to you. It may be something you come to quickly, or a slow burner. Either way, there are lots of wonderful people out there that can support you on your career journey. Just reach out. You may be surprised what happens next!

Want to find out more about how I work? Join the FREE group The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox.

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