Importance of career guidance for career development

What is career coaching? On the history and future of process-oriented career support

What is career coaching? And how does it differ from career advice or business coaching? In addition to "systemic coaching", professional and career-related advice tends to lead a shadowy existence. And this even though, according to a survey by Christopher Rauen from 2014, 55% of all coaching events are professional. But does it even exist - for professional reasons? Much of what is ultimately dissatisfaction with life is often related to the job. Behind a seemingly simple occasion such as “I'm dissatisfied at work”, however, a wild garden of life issues can also open up.

Professional reorientation as an important topic

Such professional dissatisfaction is widespread, as is a mixture with other topics, such as unsatisfactory partnership or insufficient fulfillment of meaning. In many cases, professional dissatisfaction is also a sign of maturation. During the transition from the E5 development phase (which I call the “correct phase” in “Stop coaching, Kösel 2017)” to E6 (my effective phase), people come closer to themselves and their own inner core. This brings with it irritation and the typical question "Who am I really?" Or "What do I really want?"

In our experience, a large part of the job-related coaching occasions relate to professional reorientation. This can only lead to a holistic view. Because: If someone wants to fundamentally rethink their job or even profession, they can by no means exclude the “rest of life”. It's about existence, about family, about connections. And very often childhood dreams too - and childhood trauma and, of course, social influences.

Professional reorientation can often be quite psychological, as it is about deeply anchored beliefs, developments and personal maturity. Such career coaching is closer to the borderline to psychotherapy than some systematic coaching, but is often offered by coaches who have no psychological training and are accordingly overwhelmed by it.

What is career coaching today - in contrast to career coaching?

In my advanced training course, I define career coaching as process support for professional changes. In my understanding, career counseling is, on the other hand, selective support for career-specific issues. Career coaching is about a process of change that the coach moderates and accompanies. The coach's means are questions and coaching interventions. The topic is holistic and not limited to the professional area.In contrast, career counseling focuses on a specific, delimited topic. It's about punctual help and expert advice.

Career coaching can include:

  • Professional (initial) orientation
  • Professional reorientation
  • Personality and job-related diagnostics
  • Analysis of potential and development of strengths (humanistic approach)
  • Competence analysis / accounting
  • Career planning
  • Career strategy
  • Career development, leadership development, development as and to become a manager
  • Application advice
  • Job coaching / coaching on the job
  • Start-up coaching (if personality and process-oriented in the context of professional reorientation, otherwise it is management consulting)

History: It all started with career counseling

The fusion of professional advice and professional coaching has been established in the Anglo-American area as career counseling (American counseling) for decades. In the English-speaking world, the term is largely used synonymously with the term career coaching. I have not come across a reasonable German definition (perhaps because there is no serious association in Germany) that offers a comprehensible definition that is not politically or commercially motivated.

Therefore I am quoting Mark Pope, a counselor born in 1952 who wrote "A brief history of career counseling in the United States":

Career coaching focuses on work and career or issues around careers. It is similar in nature to career counseling and traditional counseling. (...) Another common term for a career coach is career guide, although career guides typically use techniques drawn not only from coaching, but also mentoring, advising and consulting.

The term counseling could hardly gain a foothold in Germany. If you research Career Counseling, you will find the BVPPT, founded in 1986, which seems a bit outdated. Obviously, the topic of career does not play an explicit role here.

Pioneers in Switzerland and the USA: Free and personality-oriented career choice

The first element of a career in terms of career design is the choice of profession. Careers counseling in Germany has been curtailed for 100 years. From imperial times until 1998 it was the monopoly of the employment office. This monopoly hindered the emergence and development of free advisory services.

In Switzerland, the cantons established an advisory service for apprentices as early as the middle of the 19th century. Today is the cantonal Career advice Established everywhere in Switzerland, which is why there is hardly any private career coaching in the country - the Swiss state already offers a lot.

What is considered worth striving for?

Social conventions also shape the view of work and career. In the USA at the beginning of the 20th century, the realization that a career decision should be free and personality-oriented - which at the time was definitely to be regarded as revolutionary. After the First World War, soldiers began to be placed in civilian jobs in the USA - and so did a firstSomething in between between recruitment and outplacement.

In the USA, humanistic career counseling, which stands between coaching and psychotherapy, dominates the professional context. They also invented outplacement. The first commercial outplacement consultancy was founded in the USA in 1967, and we didn't get it until the 1980s. Outplacement understands itself as a company-financed fusion of career advice, application advice, coaching on the job and recruitment. Career orientation was not so much in demand in this context, because - since the order came from the company - it was about placing people as quickly as possible in alternative jobs if they had been terminated.

A humanistic view of the world shapes the view of a career

With the change in the perception of career and an increasing humanistic image of career as an individual design of professional life paths since the beginning of this millennium also in Germany, professional reorientation came as a further aspect of outplacement. I experienced the upheaval at the turn of the millennium myself. When I got into the subject around 1998, the next job was still primarily judged on the basis of a positive salary change and classic advancement. By 2007 that had changed radically, at least in parts. Topics such as job satisfaction and happiness were added, fueled by findings from positive psychology, which has also come to us from the USA since the beginning of the millennium.

More choices also fuel personal development

Career biographies also changed more and more, upheavals became common, not just once, but often two or three times in life. Closely dovetailed with the first, second or third career decision in life, a strength and motivation-oriented view of the personality was established. This is also where the influence of positive psychology works, which ultimately took up thoughts from ancient Greece - for example the thought of the Arete, "become the best that you can be". As a result, developmental psychological aspects became more important, including a holistic view of family history, which decisively shapes one's own image of the world of work, but also one's view of one's own strengths. That the professional biography is also family biography work - at the latest when the influence of systemic family therapy became greater, this idea caught on.

Competency management versus strengths orientation

While strength orientation is a top priority in the context of career coaching that is predominantly geared towards holistic considerations, companies and personnel developers still rely primarily on learned and learnable skills. Competencies are often used synonymously with strengths - for example, when asked about strengths and weaknesses in an interview - but on closer inspection they are two very different constructs. From the perspective of positive psychology, strengths are closely linked to motives, i.e. drivers and values ​​- and come from within. Competencies, on the other hand, can also be viewed separately from my value system. An introverted sales person can then learn to behave in an extraverted manner and acquire skills that are attached to this behavior, even if it contradicts his or her inner wishes and wants.

What attitude and what trend is a coaching approach based on?

A look at the history of the origins of the terms shows the difference, which is less in the term than in the attitude: Strengths arise from a humanities-philosophical psychology view, competences from an educational-psychological one. Behind this are different basic assumptions about the world and the meaningful human good. One, namely the strengths view, is again humanistic, the other rather behavioristic. From a behavioral point of view, competencies can be managed, from a humanistic point of view this is not possible: It is about people and their individual happiness, which they define themselves. German educational institutions prefer the competency view, which is shown, for example, in the profile passport for career counseling, which has been in use since 2006, as a means of competency assessment. Coaching approaches are therefore always tied to an attitude and worldview - and are subject to current trends.

Social character influences attitudes towards the topic of careers

Humanistic Psychology or Behavourism? It is not always easy to separate them cleanly. Both currents exist in the USA in particular, and some are trying to unite them. In the advisory literature for the masses, humanism triumphed: In the 1960s, with John F. Kennedy, the longing for meaningful work and individual career development entered the hearts of Americans. The climax was in the 1970s, when Richard Nelson Bolle's “What Color is Your Parachute” and Barbara Sher's bestseller “Wishcraft” were published. In Germany, the movement that spawned the career of career counselor arrived 20 years later. It has its roots in the counseling movement, which Carl Rogers founded in 1948 with his book "Counseling and Psychotherapy" as a new form of psychosocial counseling. Thus, decades after Rogers introduced therapeutic approaches to non-therapists with counseling, a new variant of job-related counseling based on a humanistic conception of man emerged. This was also often influenced by Christianity when it comes to “calling”. In the spirit of Satre, I also see existentialistic-humanistic influences, for example in the attitude that people are always responsible for what they want. It is his decision what to do with his life.

Popular approaches versus management thinking

Popular considerations and management literature can drift apart. For decades, management literature has been dominated by a rather behaviorist thought. The so-called management-by-objectives aims at a kind of "employee education" - and does not rely on their free will. Goals are intended to motivate employees to behave in a certain way. There is a reward when the goal is achieved. This is also called transactional leadership. In the agile age, on the other hand, humanistic ideas flare up again, some existentialistic, some idealistic, for example when it comes to the New Work movement.

Social values ​​explain the differences in the approaches

One can understand these developments nicely with the help of Spiral Dynamics: The overarching idea “everyone can find their job happiness and has a right to it” from Bolles and Sher is a green meme, a progressive idea of ​​the post-hippie era. He followed the orange American way of thinking about success, which flourished in the USA as early as the 1940s (specifically for the time: Napoleon Hill's little book, “Think and get rich”!). Since then, “orange” and “green” thoughts have coexisted in parallel. It is only recently that a way of thinking has gained acceptance that neither one nor the other is preferred, but rather the question: What do you need when and which combinations can there be? This is the yellow as well as thinking.

Let's stay with Spital Dynamics: After the war, Germany was marked in blue - blue follows the red striving for power - that is, with many rules, regulations, formalities. The orange success thinking à la Napoleon Hill only came to us in the 1980s with the yuppies. The USA was always a “level” ahead of us, but always interpreted it in a way that is typical of the country. In career coaching, this was demonstrated by the individualistic “do your thing” wave. Self-realization, flexibility, freelance work are all consequences of “yellow” ideas. All of this only came up for us in the post-New Economy period from 2002 - in parallel with the emergence of coaching as a method outside of the management level.

The different coaching waves

The first coaching courses started around 2002. I checked the access of search engine robots to some instructor sites, including the two veterans Dr. Migge and Rauen, have a look: The first movements on their websites started in 2002 - but the whole thing didn't really pick up speed for both of them until 2004. Of course, coaching must have found its way into companies earlier, training as a commercial business model appears before that but not to have given as a mass point of attraction. From 2004 coaching associations were established. From around 2010 coaching also moved into management and became a “management tool”.

From expert to life counseling

There was no special training in career coaching at that time. These have only been on the rise since around 2013. Life-work planning based on the Richard Nelson Bolles method alone has established itself with us. LWP is a kind of framework process for a professional reorientation. Around 2010, numerous books appear on this subject, which referred to similar ideas. It was always about finding real strengths and interests in order to realize them in a new environment. With this, the topic of careers rose even more from the area of ​​expert advice, which primarily focused on questions of the "correct appearance" and application topics. Advice on further training did not take place in this context. Questions of meaning? Everything is more of a recent phenomenon that brings these topics together and integrates them more and more. In general, the path leads more and more away from a “that's the way it is” to a humanistic way of thinking “I determine my worldview and thus also my possibilities”.

Educational counseling is still reserved for young professionals - and by far predominantly diagnostic. Career coaching and career counseling are now also offered in the form of training courses, but are usually either related to typical counseling topics (application, job interview) or to counseling aspects (holistic counseling). There is little in between and beyond.

Career coaching is a special field

But in a working world in which mosaic careers and unusual educational paths are increasing, and professional changes are increasingly being initiated by further training decisions, the career coaching segment needs professionalization. With the further change in the world of work and digitization, other fields are also emerging, such as meaning-oriented, philosophical coaching. Since the topic of team is becoming increasingly important, team coaching is also becoming more and more important. The area of ​​career planning has always been a popular topic in our practice, but is hardly covered in the offers of career coaches. Business coaches who see themselves as process facilitators often lack field expertise. Just as coaching for professional reorientation is holistic and therefore often psychological, career planning is also partly knowledge and experience-related. The coach must know the job market and its trends in order to be able to give advice and to design the framework responsibly. Each of the topics offers enough space for specializations, but not only requires personal but also field competence.

In 2013, 2015 and 2016 I introduced our own advanced training courses “Career Expert Professional”, “TeamworksPLUS” and “Psychology for Consultants, Coaches, and Personnel Developers”. “Career Expert Professional” provides the conceptual framework for structuring your own career coaching methodically. "Psychology for Consultants, Coaches, Personnel Developers" offers background knowledge for people who work with individuals and groups.How do I recognize a therapy case? How can my coaching be adapted to different development phases?

In the past, professional issues were usually thought of on an individual level. But more and more often it is also about teams that, like individuals, can develop in a strength-oriented manner, but in which other laws apply. Our “TeamworksPLUS” training trains participants in process-oriented team development and lateral leadership.

(from 2013, updated 2017)

Svenja Hofert is a management consultant, columnist and author of more than 30 non-fiction and specialist books, which have appeared in up to seven editions. Her current work is called "Mindshift. Make yourself fit for the working world of tomorrow" and was published by Campus in 2019. Hofert deals with the changes in the world of work due to digital transformation. In doing so, she connects different worlds and often opens up surprising perspectives. Hofert founded various companies, most recently in 2015 the Teamworks GTQ Society for Team Development and Qualification GmbH in Hamburg. Teamworks GTQ advises organizations and offers an open workshop program as well as the unique TeamworksPLUS® training in cooperation with a chair at the University of Lüneburg. Born in Cologne, she has a Magister Artium and a Master of Science in business psychology. Booking |