Career Coaching: Practice, Training, Professional, and Ethical Issues

Article excerpt

The authors address the practice, training, professional, and ethical issues of career coaching and propose recommendations regarding the professional organization, training, certification, code of ethics, research, and multicultural issues related to the field.

Referred to as "consulting for the '90s" (Bell, 1996, p. ID), career coaching is a relatively new practice that increasingly is being used by managers and employees in a variety of work settings. It combines the concepts of career counseling, organizational consulting, and employee development. There are currently an estimated 10,000 full-time personal and career coaches in the United States, a large increase from the 1,000 in 1995 (Coach University, 1999). In the near future, career coaches are expected to be as much a part of life as personal fitness trainers (Coach University, 1999).

Despite its increasing popularity, the concept of career coaching has been addressed only sparsely in the career development literature. Consequently, the relationship between career coaching and career counseling and the various issues related to the development of career coaching as a profession have not been adequately addressed in the current literature. The purpose of this article is to discuss the practice, training, professional, and ethical issues of career coaching. Several recommendations are offered for the professionalization of career coaching.

Practice of Career Coaching

Definitions

The general goal of career coaching is to assist clients' personal development within the context of work and career so that clients can (a) better identify their skills, (b) make better career choices, and (c) be more productive and valuable workers (Hube, 1996). Career coaches serve as personal consultants for any work-related concerns such as balancing home and work, learning interviewing skills, developing better managerial skills, executive personal and career development, and even managerial training to help managers become career coaches to their employees. Career coaches help their clients get more of what they want out oflife, whether it be business success, financial independence, academic excellence, personal success, physical health, interpersonal relationships, or career planning. Therefore, career coaches have been described as sounding boards, support systems, cheerleaders, and teammates combined into one (Bell, 1996) and as "consultants who mentor their clients through career challenges and motivate them to achieve realistic goals" (Strempel, 1999, p. 5). Because the practice of career coaching overlaps with two other specialties that deal with career planning and adjustment, we discuss in the following sections the relations between career coaches and (a) career counselors and (b) career development facilitators (CDFs).

Career counselors. There is substantial overlap between career coaching and career counseling. In fact, career coaches have been accused of practicing career counseling without a license. Both deal with career planning, implementation of career choice, career adjustment, and the interplay between personal and career issues. However, the two specialties also differ in some significant ways. First, career counselors are trained as professional counselors with a specialization in career interventions. There are nationally recognized bodies that accredit counselor training programs (e.g., Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs), national certificates or state licenses for counselors or counseling psychologists (e.g., National Board of Certified Counselors), and relevant professional codes of ethics (e.g., American Counseling Association [ACA], 1995; American Psychological Association, 1992; National Career Development Association [NCDA], 1997). On the other hand, the field of career coaching is largely unregulated, with only a few coaching institutes that offer their own certificates and ethical codes. …