Career Coaching vs Career Counseling 1/05

It’s been 12 years since admission to the bar, and I think it’s sinking in that I was not meant to be a lawyer, at least not one who carries on a solo practice. Much of my caseload has consisted of advocacy for indigent people via CPCS, and I’m ashamed to disclose my annual income. I really need to find a new direction, either somewhere within the legal field or elsewhere. One of my colleagues has recommended career counseling, while a close friend is pushing the idea of career coaching. What’s the difference, and which is better?

Neither coaching nor counseling is better than the other, but they do address the issues in different ways. In reality, many practitioners combine both approaches, and there are so many versions of coaching that it often seems as if no two coaches are alike.

Career counselors are more likely to use standardized measures (such as tests of interest, aptitude, and interpersonal style) to help you zero in on a well-matched field of endeavor. A counselor might help you consider variables such as optimal work environment, degree of creativity, desired/required income level, proportion of job devoted to tasks such as writing, customer contact, etc. There may be an educative element to counseling, such as learning how to construct a resume or cover letter that targets a specific type of position. Many career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited university.

Career coaches, on the other hand, have usually received some kind of training and certification through any of a number of coaching institutes. These programs are generally less extensive than those attended by counselors, so the kind of input one might receive from a coach may also largely reflect their particular experience and talents. Some coaches, however, may in fact have a graduate degree from a previous field, or its equivalent in their own prior career paths. Coaches are more likely than counselors to work with the emotional aspects of career change, help a person get “un-stuck,” develop a clearer image of his/her career “mission,” and develop and sustain the drive toward change. Many individuals also employ career coaches in an effort to perform or cope better in a current job. They might look at concerns such as time management and prioritizing skills, as well as more effective ways to interact with bosses and/or subordinates. Some coaches do much of their work by phone.

In style, a counselor might take a more objective stance as a service provider, while a coach’s posture might be more like that of an athletic coach, providing both corrective feedback and boosting morale. In our experience, their hourly fees tend to be slightly higher than those of psychologists and social workers, and health insurance does not apply. We have also met some coaches who charge much more, sometimes a one-time advance fee covering a period of months.

Both of the above descriptions are, unavoidably, stereotypes. In reality, there is much overlap between coaches and counselors, and like therapists their behavior may vary as much by individual personality as by training. If you begin the process by coming for an evaluation at LCL (at no cost), we will do our best to match you with the most fitting resource.

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