5 Hard Lessons I've Learned As A Career Coach

Career coach stands with her arms crossed in front of her clients

I've been a professional career coach since 2002. Over the last 10+ years, I have learned a lot about the industry and what it takes to be an effective career coach.

Back when I first became a coach, the concept wasn't as widely accepted as it is today. In fact, my clients were afraid to admit they were working with a career coach because they felt like it indicated there was something wrong with them.

Today, we now understand career coaching isn't a sign of weakness, but a path to greatness. It's why all the top pro athletes and business executives use them.

If you want to optimize your performance and achieve new levels of success and satisfaction in your career, it's more than likely you'll work with a coach at some point.


If you could do it on your own, you would have by now.

Having worked with literally thousands of people on their careers, I have learned some valuable professional lessons.

In the beginning of my coaching career, I thought I could help everyone. I was wrong. You can only help people who are ready to be helped. I wasted hundreds of hours on people who just weren't ready to succeed. I'm not making that mistake again.

Helping people like Glenn below—that's what makes everything I do worth it.

These are the five lessons I learned the hard way as a career coach.

1. People Only Turn To Career Coaching When They Are In Pain

School teaches us everything except how to manage our careers. As a result, nobody enters the professional world with the right set of skills and abilities to successfully manage their careers.

Unfortunately, it isn't until a person makes a major mistake or has a career setback that they seek coaching. Only then do they have the aha moment that they need to close the gap in their knowledge and abilities so they can get back on track.

2. Don't Believe People Who Say, "I'll Do Anything."

A career coach works with a client on their resume


When in pain, people will claim they'll do anything to feel better. But, when it comes to their careers, it's amazing how many people will procrastinate.

Avoiding feeling uncomfortable is often the reason people put off what they need to do to fix their problem. This leads back to the first hard lesson I learned. They wait and wait until the pain is so severe (i.e., lose their job, out of work for months, running out of money), that they finally seek help.

3. Coaching Creates Change, Teaching Doesn't.

Man receives advice from a career coach


Teaching is when you tell someone what they need to do. Coaching is when you guide someone through the activities of teaching themselves.

When it comes to career development, coaching is what gets people to change how they operate so they can get the results they want. Whereas teaching usually only goes in one ear and out the other.

4. Intrinsic Motivation Determines Professional Success

Professional gets advice from a career coach


It doesn't matter how much someone claims they want to achieve a particular goal. If there isn't enough internal motivation to push them to do the work on a daily basis, they won't succeed.

Self-motivated people consistently get better results than externally motivated people (i.e., people who need incentives to do things).

5. Excuse-Makers Aren't Worth Your Time

Man shakes hands with his career coach


Just like you shouldn't surround yourself with negative people, don't waste your time helping people who always have an excuse as to why they couldn't get something done. It's a clear sign they lack self-motivation and commitment.

They don't deserve your help until they are ready to do the work.

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I love my job as a career coach. Every day, I get an email from someone who has achieved their goal. It is definitely the most rewarding part of my job.

However, I'm not sure I'd even still be in the career coaching profession if I hadn't learned the lessons above. Realizing these truths helped me build a thriving career coaching practice where my team and I are now able to help thousands of people.

If you want to succeed in career coaching, or any other kind of role that involves coaching professionals, I encourage you to consider the lessons above. They'll save you a lot of time and frustration.

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This post was originally published at an earlier date.