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What You Can Do With A Career Coaching Certification

Updated: Jun 3

A certified career coach speaking with a client

What You Can Do With A Career Coaching Certification

If you’re considering getting certified as a career coach but are unsure about the value of that certification, then this article is for you.

We’ll go over the different ways you can use a career coaching certification, whether it’s worth getting certified for those already coaching, and what you should know if you’re considering becoming a career coach.

The 6 Ways to Use a Career Coaching Certification

Just like there are a lot of directions you can take a business degree, there are lots of directions you can take a career coaching certification. Here are the six main ways you can apply a career coaching certification to your career:

  1. Work for yourself as a career coach. You’ll get paid to work 1-on-1 with clients and help them with their careers. You can do this work virtually or in person. And you can make it your main job or a side gig.

  2. Work for coaching organizations. There are organizations, like BetterUp, where you can work as a coach on their platform.

  3. Work in talent or HR for a company where you’ll work for a company and uplevel the employees.

  4. Work as a college counselor and help students, new graduates, and alumni find career direction.

  5. Use the training to help bolster your services as a life coach. If you already work as a life coach or wellness coach, then training in career coaching can help fill out your skillset and offerings.

  6. Use the training for your own professional growth. You might not want to offer career coaching services at all, but the training will benefit your career advancement.

Let’s dive into each of these.

Work for yourself as a career coach

Most (but not all) people who get certified as a career coach choose to work 1-on-1 with clients. 

As a career coach, you can set up an office space like a therapist might, or, increasingly, you might work from home. In the age of the internet, career coaches come from everywhere.

You can also build up your coaching practice into your full time job, or you can make coaching your side gig.

Not everyone has the psychological wiring to deal with a side hustle, and that’s OK. But if you tolerate (or thrive on) having multiple irons in the fire, there’s a lot to be said for career coaching as a sideline. Side-gig career coaching can augment your skillset and your savings account. It’s low-risk and high-reward.

Coaching on the side can have so many benefits: you get exposure to the profession while maintaining the stability of your primary job; you get to do something you find fun and fulfilling as an antidote to a job you need but don’t love. 

It’s also possible that your career coaching niche might mirror your primary job: you could be a marketing exec who helps marketing professionals find the perfect job for them or an IT worker who specializes in placing cybersecurity experts.

And if you want career coaching to be your main income source, we have some tips on finding clients later in this article.

Work for coaching organizations

Other folks who get certified might work for organizations like BetterUp or The Muse as contractors. You might not get the highest rates on sites like this, but they can still be an excellent springboard.

You’ll have to go through an application process, but this can be a helpful option for coaches who could use support with (or simply don’t enjoy) marketing.

Work in talent or HR for a company 

Career coaches might work in talent or HR teams for a specific company. They are very much like in-house counsel: they are employees of the company who use their specific expertise on the company’s behalf. 

As an in-house career coach, you might be involved in upskilling to help employees climb the management ladder or training teams to work together more harmoniously. 

The in-house career coach is likely to be part of the HR organization and might also have other HR responsibilities.  

This can be a great option if you prefer working for an employer and don’t fancy the uncertainty that comes with solopreneurship.

If you already work in HR, you might be interested in this in-house career coaching training, which will help you develop career coaching capabilities within your organization.

Work as a college counselor  

College career advising services are also a great place to investigate—for some people, there is a special excitement around helping people who are totally new to the workforce. 

You could find employment within a university or work as a private counselor. If you open a private practice, then keep in mind that for marketing, your target demographic (the people who will pay you) will likely be the parents or caregivers of the students.

That said, college counselors can work with people of various ages. Many students go to school as adults, and counselors also support alumni.

If you work in this role, you can build long-lasting relationships with clients where they come back year after year for help as their career grows and they climb the corporate ladder.

Use the training to help bolster your services as a life coach

If you’re a life coach, you have a significant crossover skill set with a career coach, so you’ll find the certification process easier (and if you’re not certified in your current coaching niche, I have to say, the certification mantle of authority is helpful for your overall credibility). 

Career coaches have some serious differences from life coaches too, so you will not find the training process duplicative or boring. It will almost invariably make you better at whatever kind of coaching you started out in simply by expanding your coaching toolkit. 

If you have a client who could benefit from some extra structure, the career coaching process, which is more structured than most other coaching styles, will likely help you better structure your sessions with that client.

But also, I’ve seen coaches migrate most of their wellness coaching client base to career coaching! 

As it turns out, there is a specific tactical advantage to helping people get through career transitions. Most of us have moments in our working lives where we’d benefit from some kind of career support, and career coaching has a huge and tangible ROI, so clients tend to be very open to it. 

If they already see you as their stress-management go-to, be assured they will want you to help them manage the stress of landing a new role. 

Use the training for your own professional growth 

Getting a career coaching certification can help you in your current position, even if you have no intention of leaving to start a coaching practice. 

You will inevitably find ways to bring your career coach expertise to your existing position, whether that’s in sales or software development, biomedical engineering, or fundraising. 

As you develop a reputation for having an ear to the ground in the job search space, you’ll find at the least that you gain credibility as a mentor, even an expert, in career development. 

This can be validating. It can also be more: it might earn you a promotion or a pay raise if you can bring your skills to bear on your team’s performance. 

If You’re Already a Career Coach, Is It Worth Getting Certified?

If you already work as a career coach and are wondering if it’s worth getting certified, in most cases, the answer is yes.

There are four major benefits of certification to consider:

  1. Credibility. If potential clients know that you trained with a reputable program, then it will make your services seem more official and trustworthy.

  2. Skillset. It’s definitely possible to work as a coach without formal training. However, taking a certification will fill in your blind spots and undoubtedly increase your skills.

  3. Network. Many trainings are cohort-based, which allows you to meet a group of other professionals who can become colleagues and even people who refer clients to you down the road.

  4. Confidence. Increasing your credibility, skills, and network will also boost your confidence as a career coaching professional. And confidence will make you a more appealing option for potential clients.

If You Want to Become a Career Coach, Here’s What You Should Know

If you’re considering making a shift and becoming a career coach, here are some considerations to help you get started.

Working as a career coach can help you change lives

Many career coaches find it to be a deeply fulfilling career. 

There are tons of jobs out there that help people, but where the actual day-to-day feels very far removed from the positive impact. For example, even if you work at a company that is curing cancer, if you spend your workdays typing numbers into a screen, the job might not always feel that fulfilling.

As a career coach, you’ll work face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) with other people and help them achieve their goals. You get to help them find clarity, teach them skills, and find their dream job. You get to see your impact, viscerally, on the person right in front of you.

And you can make an impact right away. As soon as you find your first client. 

You can make coaching work as a side gig

You might be wondering if it’s possible to make coaching work without quitting your full-time job and diving in head first.

The answer: it sure can be! 

If you can dedicate five hours a week to your side gig, you could have a nice client flow with no particular impact on anything but your Netflix-binging time. 

Expect to have only one or two clients at a time, though; it becomes a lot after that. If you want coaching to be your side gig, and you get to four and five clients, you might struggle to keep it all organized. At that point, you can raise your rates or seriously look at tapering back your employment hours.

For those who are investigating career coaching out of disgruntlement with your current profession, it can help make your 9-5 more tolerable. Working to help others get the results they hope for is a massive source of warm fuzzies! 

You’ll feel so much more connection, agency, and competence. 

And, of course, many coaches make this work their full-time job. So that is also an option for you.

It’s useful to choose a niche

If you choose to get certified as a career coach, it can be very helpful to pick a niche for yourself.

A niche essentially refers to the ideal client you’d like to serve and what you’d like to help them with.

Lots of career coaches wince when they are told to niche down because they want to help everyone. But niching is helpful because it allows you to write marketing copy that speaks to the pain points of real people. Plus, having a niche makes it a lot easier for your network to understand who to refer you to.

The good news is that your niche doesn’t need to be permanent. It will evolve over time. 

But it can be helpful to start out by asking yourself who you want to work with and what you want to help them with.

Here are a few niche ideas to get your gears turning:

  • Industry-specific coaching. This is where you help folks develop their careers in a specific field (likely one in which you have experience). That could be tech, healthcare, finance, or anything else.  

  • Executive coaching. This niche involves working with high-level execs and senior managers to uplevel their leadership skills, manage stress, and improve decision-making.  

  • Career transition coaching. This type of coaching focuses on clients who are coming back to work after a long break or who are going through a big career transition.  

  • Young professionals. Some coaches like to work with folks new to the workforce who need help finding direction.

  • Encore performers. On the flip side, some coaches like to work with folks at the end of their career journeys to find work that is more fulfilling than what they've done decades before.

There are lots of ways to find your first client

If you want to coach long-term, you’ll eventually want to narrow in on a marketing strategy that can introduce you to a consistent stream of clients. But there are plenty of strategies to help you get clients right off the bat. Here are a few.

Ask for referrals

Once you get certified, you’ll feel equipped and ready to take on clients. One way to find someone to work with is to reach out to your network and let people know you’re seeking a client.

Text your siblings, old friends, and colleagues. Post on LinkedIn. Let them know you’re embarking on an exciting new venture and are seeking clients. 

Be visible

When you work as a coach, it’s helpful to be as visible as possible with what you do. If the world doesn’t know that you are a career coach, then clients won’t be able to find you.

One of the simplest ways to become visible is to simply talk about it.

When you meet someone new and they ask you what you do for work, don’t shy away from talking about your coaching. Say it loud and clear—what you do and who you help.

Tell the person you met at the snack table at the party. Tell your hairdresser. Tell the barista. 

The more often the words “I’m a career coach” or “I help people navigate career transitions” come out of your mouth, the better.

And just because you’re proudly talking about your work, it doesn’t mean you're trying to turn everyone you meet into your next client. You actually don’t have to try to sell people.  

The more you talk about what you do, the more people will associate you with being the career coach. Then, if they, or someone they know, is ever seeking career guidance, you will pop into their mind.

Offer free coaching

Another method for finding clients is the “Prosperous Coach Method.”

The idea here is to offer as much free coaching as you can. Because while many people know what coaching is, most haven’t experienced it. And they definitely haven’t experienced your coaching. So, the more people that know what it’s like to get coached by you, the better. 

This is a very popular way to build awareness of your service. But with this method, you’ll just offer a single free coaching session—not a whole package. 

Some of those free sessions might turn into people who want to pay you for your full services. Or they might refer you to other clients down the road. 

It is an excellent way for new coaches to gain confidence and land clients as they don't quite have the credibility yet

The steps to this method are to:

  1. Connect with as many people as possible. Set up conversations with the goal of getting to know each other.

  2. Invite them to a free coaching call. If something naturally comes up in your conversation that you feel like you could help them with, then ask if you can offer support in a free coaching call.

  3. Create a powerful coaching experience for them using your coaching skills and knowledge.

  4. Propose working together. If it feels like there’s good chemistry and like they benefited from the session, then ask if they’d like to work together.

This method can be a great way to find clients, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 

Some people prefer not to offer their coaching services for free. Others don’t like this approach because it can feel too “sales-y,” where literally everyone you meet can become a sales target.

That said, it’s also a great way to put yourself out there and get practice reps.

Lead workshops

Another tactic for finding clients is to lead workshops related to your services.

For example, maybe when the new year rolls around, you run a year-review/goal-setting workshop and throw it up on Eventbrite.

After you finish the workshop and deliver an amazing experience to the participants, they have now all become warm leads. And at the end of the workshop, you can let people know you also offer 1-on-1 coaching.

Join a coaching directory

One last great way to find your first client is to get on a coaching directory. This way people can find you without you having to do any work. The directory is generating traffic for you.

This is one huge benefit of getting certified—many programs will then list you on their website.

It Starts With Certification

At the end of the day, being properly trained and credentialed is the best way to launch a career coaching practice.

It can help you start a solo practice, work for an organization, or just improve your career wisdom.  

If you are interested in getting certified, check out our training here at the International Association of Career Coaches.

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