Career Coaching Basics

By Kathy Miller on September 9th, 2013



In a world where purse strings are tight, organizations are flat, and uncertainty abounds, how do we help our employees grow and develop?  This is not an easy assignment for managers.  Even when we recognize the concerns of employees, perhaps we’re also feeling challenged with our own career growth.  Nevertheless, if we expect to keep our valuable employees and feel assured they are happily engaged in their work, we simply cannot ignore their needs. A sizeable number of managers tell us they do not feel equipped to provide career development coaching for their employees, even though the competition for talent is fierce.


  • What is it?  It’s very simple: Coaching is about letting people know they matter to you.  It involves engaging your employees in conversations that enable them to think about the contribution they are making to the company.  This type of coaching helps them grow in their current jobs and identify where they would like to go with their careers in the future.
  •  Why career coaching?  Because it boosts employee engagement, increases productivity and improves retention of talent.  And, by the way, it is part of your job as a manager.
  • How does it differ from performance coaching?  The two types of coaching go hand-in-hand.  However, while performance coaching focuses on tasks and outcomes for the short-term, career coaching concentrates on what is best for employees in the long-term.
  • When and where should you coach your employees?  Any time, any place!  Career coaching is not an event.  It is a process. You are most likely to be effective if you coach in short, ongoing conversations rather than in formal, once a year coaching meetings.  Look for opportunities to coach on the fly. Take advantage of occasions when you notice an employee demonstrating strength; or conversely, times when you see the employee struggling.  Find ways to weave career coaching into the ongoing flow of work.


coaching blocks medium

Tips for Career Coaching


  • Ask don’t tell.  Your role is to inspire, encourage and challenge.  By asking the right questions, you can generate self-reflection that will lead your employees to clarity concerning their own interests, values, strengths and weaknesses.  Self-insight is a necessary part of an effective career plan.
  • Encourage them to get feedback from others.  Growth comes not only from self-insight, but also from understanding the perceptions of others.  Urge them to ask others how they are viewed.  Support them in finding out what others see as their strengths, their weaknesses and their blind spots.
  • Help them gather information about their interests.  You don’t have to come up with all of the answers!  Assist them in finding others who might hold positions that interest them.
  • Inspire them to look towards the future.   Obviously no one knows for sure what the future holds; however, looking at trends can be useful for planning.  Help them understand the big picture.  What is happening in the company, the industry, the world that has implications for them in the future?

Career coaching, while requiring your commitment, is a worthy investment in your company’s future!

Want more information?  Take a look at our career coaching training for managers!