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What’s the difference between a career counselor and a career coach?

Career counselors and career coaches are similar. Both can assist you with information on industry trends, guide you in the job search process, and empower you, and typically have slightly different approaches. Read on to learn about the difference and select the right type of help for yourself.

Career counselors assist their clients by first building a trusting, confidential relationship, and seek to help clients develop insight into themselves prior to making a career decision. Career counselors also undergo extensive training in using career assessments as a tool to help evaluate your interests, personality traits, skills, and values, and help you connect your traits to the world of work. Career counselors are also trained in guiding discussions around factors that influence your career choice and career satisfaction, including family life, mental health, race, ethnicity, gender, and age. Career counselors will also work with you to identify, and address, factors that might get you stuck in your career development, such as fear and anxiety, low self-confidence, or lack of motivation.

The idea that career counseling is not action-oriented is a myth. In addition to assisting their clients in developing self-awareness, growing confidence, and making career-related decisions, career counselors are able to partner with clients to provide feedback and guidance throughout the job search process, including tricky steps like negotiating an offer.

A career coach functions similarly to an athletic coach: they focus on finding solutions and taking action. Coaches help address specific, short-term career questions such as how to a gain a promotion in a current job. Coaches also help their clients build specific skills, like practicing interviewing, or how to improve a resume or LinkedIn profile. By working with a career coach, you can also gain an accountability partner and recieve suggestions and advice that you might not think of on your own.

Career counselors typically have a master’s degree in counseling or psychology and have completed coursework on career development and assessment. Career coaches may elect to earn a coaching certification and can have widely varying educational backgrounds. A career coach may have specific industry experience upon which they base their advice.

Both career counselors and career coaches are interested in helping you develop insight, take action, and achieve your goals.

When selecting a career counselor or career coach, investigate their familiarity with your industry and situation (for example, have they previously worked with new college graduates or parents returning to the workplace). Review content they have created for their website, blog, or newsletter and assess if you agree with their perspectives. You'll also want to learn about their fee structure, availability, and read reviews of their work from previous clients. Whether you select a counselor or a coach, you are on the road to gaining more confidence and clarity.

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