How to Become a Career Coach (a simple guide!)

Step-by-step help to start your career coaching business!

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a simple guide: how to become a career coach

Have you ever wondered how to become a career coach?

Maybe you are like I used to be, someone who has a corporate background and who LOVES helping people excel at their work.

Or maybe you just love the idea of helping people find their passion, and you know career coaching is the right vehicle for that.

Or maybe you are thinking to yourself: “I want to be a career coach, but…umm…how?”

Let’s chat! As someone who has spent years in the biz, I don’t pretend to know everything, but I’ve learned a few things on the road to being named a Forbes Top 100 for careers :).

The first step to become a career coach? Think about WHO you want to serve, and how.

So, this may seem obvious, but as a career coach you’ve got two choices:

Choice #1: Focus on individuals who will be paying you out of their own pocket. Tired professionals looking for a new career, job-seekers needing a boost, younger people wondering how to get promoted…you get the idea!

Choice #2: Focus on companies. This still means you will coach individuals who work at said companies, but you might also be coaching teams or small groups as a part of your offerings. You will most likely have a focus on management and leadership, unless you end up helping with transitioning out.

The Difference: One key difference between Choice #1 and Choice #2 is who pays you, and this is important. In the second case, the organization or company is footing the bill for your services, and your client is an employee of that organization.  This is a slightly different business model then the first choice, where the client is paying you directly, and it’ll mean taking a slightly different approach.

Why are we starting here?

This decision will impact how you go about becoming a career coach, and where you choose to invest your time.

Next step: Figure out what problem you *most* want to solve.

I’m going to list some choices for you below, to help you figure out who you most want to serve in terms of career coaching.

Choices 1-3 work best for coaches interested in just selling directly to individuals, and choices 3-5 work best for those interested in contracting with companies as a coach.

Nothing is written in stone here, so don’t get upset if you see a different path for yourself.

Also note that for ease I’m using generalities for each choice, but I think you get the idea :).

(Want to know more about what it’s like to be an executive  coach, including how much you can earn? Here’s a helpful blog!).

Choice #1: Helping people find their passion, or a new career.

Choice #2: Helping people find a new job – this is different from finding an entirely new career, as you are primarily focused on the job search itself.

Choice #3: Helping people get promoted/excel at their current job.

Choice #4: Helping teams become better, more productive, more collaborative.

Choice #5: Helping leaders and executives be amazing, less-stressed, more effective.

Next step, decide what you DON’T want to do.

I hated helping people with their resumes or interview prep, it just didn’t light me up. I did, however, LOVE helping people find work they really enjoyed.

What do you really *not* want to help people with? This is a judgement free zone, so feel free to be totally honest, we are cheering you on!

Got your answer? Awesome! Let’s carry on, shall we?

Now it’s time to get some training or qualifications, or just re-assess your skills!

You probably already have a ton of experience or some relevant qualifications if you are interested in career coaching, as it’s a field that tends to draw those of us who are already well-seasoned.

But either way, learning is always good.

So take a look at your first two choices, and think about what types of qualifications you need, or *if* you need them. If you feel super tied into what you want to do already and have all of the technical skills you need, you can skip to the next step.

Struggling? Don’t worry – here’s some non-exhaustive, but useful, help:

For career coaches who want to work for companies:

Training and formal certification matters more for you, because companies will expect certain qualifications before they hire you. So, if you want to do anything with leadership and management you probably should look into, at minimum, getting certified and credentialed as not only a Certified Professional Life Coach (CPC) , but one with a focus on executive leadership/management.

In addition, you’ll also want to be someone who has coached enough hours to qualify for a PCC, or Professional Certified Coach – it means you’ve got a certain level of hours/experience as a coach on top of being certified, and it’s something companies will look for as a part of the hiring/contracting process.

For information on the PCC and other terms, check out the International Coach Federation over here.

You can do this in two ways:

1) Join an accredited Life Coaching program that offers some additional study in leadership/management and will certify you with enough hours to become a PCC, or

2) Do #1 and also look for some continuing education certification programs offered through good universities for professionals looking to deepen their learning in this area. Google will be your friend here, so get ready to hug it out.

Note, most coaching schools have webinars or in-person free events to help you learn more about them, so you can easily try them on before having to commit tons of money or time.

For career coaches who want to work directly with individuals:

I believe getting certified as a life coach is a great thing to do if you want to go deeper with your learning and skills, so I’d look into getting your CPC as a place to start. It will help you up your game and assist your clients with more of the “life” stuff and not just the technical side of career coaching like resume reviews or interview coaching, because let’s face it – careers are about more than just a great resume!

Note: You don’t have to get your PCC in most cases (unless you want to which is great!), as most real people have no idea what that means and won’t care if you have it or not. What they care about is IF you can help them. See this article for more information on I mean by that. It’ll help you understand why clients buy coaching.

Bottom line: Get some training so you are grounded and confident in being a career coach, and then keep in mind your answers to what problem you most want to solve (and what problems you *definitely* don’t!).

Next, you need to focus on some simple business training

I know, I know! It’s a pain to get even more training, but you are likely going to be a solo-entrepreneur and *not* a full-time employee, though it is possible to become one if you choose to work for a company as a coach. Companies are still a little bit slow to hire these positions full-time however, so many career coaches find themselves as solo-preneurs or part-timers at a company with their own practice on the side.

The reason I’m harping on getting business training is simple: There’s nothing worse than going all-in as a coach, and then immediately going bankrupt because you didn’t learn how to run a coaching business.

But you are smart and you know that you need to set yourself up for success by finding some business help.

“Where do I get this fancy-pants help?” You might be wondering… so are some thoughts!

  1. Find a successful working coach and learn from them. It’s like going to business school but without all the hassle. If you like me, here’s something you should check out immediately, if not sooner. 
  2. Make sure you find someone who runs a program or course that resonates with you, and who has had demonstrable success – there are plenty of people willing to tell you “how it’s done” who have no relevant experience themselves. These people = bad.
  3. Google around and find reviews and references and real-life stories of any courses or programs that make your short list. It’s important to do your due diligence. Don’t be afraid to ask your coaching program or your warm network for ideas.
  4. Take this free training on how to get your own clients. But seriously, this one will help give you the business knowledge you need to get started on this whole “I’m a full-time coach” thing.
  5. Most important, make the time, space, and yes, monetary investment to learn how to do it right. Time now is less failure later!

Finally, you just need to screw up your courage and DO it!

I know it’s hard to make a change in the beginning, but if this is what you want to do, get out there and DO it. Frankly, the world needs more coaches. YOU have people who need your help.

So get out there and help them!

Want more help to figure out what you are really getting into?

No problem. Here’s an awesome free article series detailing exactly why people buy life coaching (and how to get them to say yes!), so you get paying clients. Read it all the way through to get all the details.  Important: No opt-in required! It’s all ready and waiting for you.


How do I become a career coach?





How to Become a Career Coach (a simple guide!)How to Become a Career Coach (a simple guide!)