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Developing as a Career Coach

You have now got a sense of the skills and knowledge that underpin career coaching practice, but what sort of person makes a good career coach? Note down some thoughts in response to that question before you carry on with this section.

A Coaching 'Way of Being'?

In his book 'An introduction to Coaching Skills', Christian van Nieuwerburgh follows discussion of coaching skills and coaching processes with a section called 'Way of Being', which discusses a series of principles for effective coaches to work in partnership with others.

Chapter 14, being human, has been scanned and is available as a course extract via this link.

Van Nieuwerburgh draws on the work of Carl Rogers, founder of person-centred psychotherapy, and has adapted Roger's 'necessary and sufficient conditions' for coaching:

1. There must be a good relationship between the coach and the coachee.

2. The coachee must want to make a change.

3. The coach must be authentic in her interactions with the coachee.

4. The coach's positive regard for the coachee must be unconditional.

5. The coach must demonstrate empathy. (van Nieuwerburgh, 2014: 150)

Do you believe all these conditions are necessary? How can they be ensured in career coaching practice?

Do you believe they are sufficient? In career coaching, are there any additional conditions?

Reflective Practice

A theme through this module is how we reflect on our practice, generating our own feedback as well as hearing that from others (colleagues, clients, others who have observed your practice) and then use that to improve our practice. We will use a 'structured debriefing' process as a guide to reflection after our practice sessions. This is developed by Gibbs and is based on David Kolb's work on experiential learning. The model is available here (click on the image to enlarge) and can be downloaded as a word document here so you can customise if necessary and use yourself.

Structured debriefing

Reflective practice is a an important aspect of professional learning. It is used extensively in teacher education, nurse education and other subject areas to help practitioners become skilled and continue to develop. However, in his influential work 'The Reflective Practitioner', Donald Schon was not just outlining a blueprint for professional learning, he was discussing a wider social phenomenon: a new 'contract' between individuals in society ('clients') and the work of the professional.

He provides these two models which contrast traditional and reflective practice, from both the practitioner and the client perspective.

Table 1: A model of traditional and reflective professional practice (Schon, 1983, p.300)

Expert Reflective practitioner
I am presumed to know, and must claim to do so, regardless of my own uncertainty. I am presumed to know, but I am not the only one in the situation to have relevant and important knowledge. My uncertainties may be a source of learning for me and them.
Keep my distance from the client, and hold on to the expert’s role. Give the client a sense of my expertise, but convey a feeling of warmth and sympathy as a “sweetener”. Seek out connections to the client’s thoughts and feelings. Allow his respect for my knowledge to emerge from his discovery of it in the situation.
Look for deference and status in the client’s response to my professional persona. Look for the sense of freedom and of real connection to the client, as a consequence of no longer needing to maintain a professional facade.

Do you think that you operate towards the expert or refelctive practitioner end of the spectrum? How is this shaped by client expectations?

Given the focus on contracting in coaching skills and processes, the second table is particularly pertinent to our work:

Table 2: A model of traditional and reflective client practice (Schon, 1983, p.302)

Traditional contract Reflective contract
I put myself into the professional’s hands and, in doing this, I gain a sense of security based on faith. I join with the professional in making sense of my case, and in doing this I gain a sense of increased involvement and action.
I have the comfort of being in good hands. I need only comply with his advice and all will be well. I can exercise some control over the situation. I am not wholly dependent on information and action that only I can undertake.
I am pleased to be served by the best person available. I am pleased to be able to test my judgements about his competence. I enjoy the excitement of discovery about his knowledge, about the phenomena of his practice, and about myself.

How is this represented in our own contracting?

Ethics of Career Coaching

Reflective Practice is also central to the development of our own professional ethics.

Career Coaching practice raises a range of ethical issues and developing our own practice requires us to consider our own stance on a range of questions.
Many professions also have collective ethical codes which are used to promote a shared professional identity. These codes are a useful starting point to consider our own position on what consitutes ethical practice. The Career Development Institute has such a code for its members (click on the image to link to it online).

CDI code

Is there anything here that surprised you? or anything you think is missing? Which elements resonate with you the most? Anything that you are not sure about and need to think about further?