Professional Coach: Definition, Duties and Advantages

Updated July 21, 2022

Knowing your professional goals is the first step to achieving them. To determine what your goals are and what course of action you need to take to accomplish them, consider finding a professional coach who can offer support and guidance. Rather than advise you with general ideas about success, a professional coach works alongside you to create a personalized plan. In this article, we examine what a professional coach is, discuss the benefits of using a professional coach, explore different types of professional coaches and explain the difference between coaching and mentoring.

Related: How To Set Professional Goals for Career Advancement

What is a professional coach?

A professional coach is someone who supports professionals and guides them in pursuing personal or professional goals. An individual might hire a coach when seeking professional development, or a business might hire one to encourage better teamwork. By empowering individuals or groups toward self-sufficiency, strategizing improvements in performance and improving outlooks on personal and professional prospects, coaches aim to help their clients reach their full potential.

Professional coaches do not solve problems for their clients but can guide and motivate clients to solve their own problems. Coaches can help clients at any stage of their career development. For those seeking employment or a new career, a coach can suggest techniques that increase the self-confidence needed to persist and succeed during the job search. In comparison, individuals who want to develop in their careers might benefit from coaching strategies that focus on improving skills such as time management, conflict resolution, productivity and communication.

For example, imagine an employee at a finance company who is considering a career change into the field of financial journalism. A professional coach would first listen to the client's reasons for wanting this career change. Then, they might list the advantages and disadvantages of changing careers, the obstacles the client could face, the steps needed to improve their chances of success and a realistic time frame for completing these steps. After speaking with the coach, the client has a clearer perspective and can decide whether to proceed with the career change.

Benefits of using a professional coach

A professional coach can support clients in several ways. Some benefits that coaches can provide include:

Determining and achieving goals

A coach can help a client determine realistic professional and personal goals. Coaches often explore their clients' aspirations and options, and together they set out a plan for achieving the goals.

For example, with a client who wishes to take on more of a leadership role in their organization, a coach might discuss the qualities that leaders often have and advanced positions they might consider pursuing. Next, they could outline the steps for developing leadership skills, such as enrolling in a public speaking course to strengthen their ability to communicate and give direction.

Related: 7 Ways To Improve Your Leadership Strengths

New perspective and self-awareness

A professional coach is someone with whom you can discuss sensitive matters, but they are also an impartial third party outside of your organization. A coach is likely to offer insight into possibilities for your growth that you may not have considered. Also, having worked with a diverse range of clients, they can draw from their knowledge of what has worked for others in order to guide you.

A coach's impartiality also allows them to be honest with you. They may point out flaws you can work on or instances in which you might have done or said the wrong thing. This honesty can help you identify new qualities about yourself and ways to improve upon them.

Accountability and motivation

Coaches often provide continual feedback and encouragement so that you're more likely to meet your goals. When they know your goals and how you plan to achieve them, they can acknowledge when you're on track and remind you when you may need to correct your course of action.

For instance, if an employee wishes to take more initiative at work but passes on new opportunities, a coach might note, "You had the chance to take initiative there, but you didn't take it." Realizing this, the employee may be more likely to take the next opportunity that arises. Frequent reminders of your goal and the steps you have committed to take can hold you more accountable for your actions and motivate you to persist.

Related: 9 Ways To Take Initiative at Work

Support for development

Professional growth often requires trying new things, which can sometimes feel uncomfortable. A benefit of a professional coach is that they help you feel connected and supported throughout your growth process. Their duty is to be present for you so that they can listen earnestly to your concerns and provide honest feedback about them. Their support is constant, and knowing that you have that support can put you in a more secure frame of mind that is conducive to learning and developing.

Types of professional coaches

There are many types of professional coaches, many of whom focus on a specific type of professional or personal goal. Some examples of professional coaches include:

  • Personal coach: Individuals who worry about maintaining a work-life balance or the impact of their personal lives might work with a personal coach. Personal coaches work in a broader specialty and can likely offer support in any facet of your personal or professional life.

  • Career coach: A career coach often focuses on clients who want to make short- or long-term career changes. They may provide guidance with your job search, resume writing, interviewing and professional development.

  • Organizational coach: To support business owners or entrepreneurs, organizational coaches work with clients to strategize about business matters such as starting a business, facilitating growth or encouraging employee productivity in an effective and well-received way.

  • Performance coach: Performance coaches work with employees within organizations who wish to improve their workplace performance. The client of a performance coach may wish to pursue a promotion or have an improved evaluation on their next performance appraisal at work.

  • Leadership coach: Focusing on individuals who wish to strengthen their leadership capabilities, leadership coaches often work with supervisors, high-level managers and individuals looking to take on more responsibilities at work.

  • Team coach: Team coaches work with a group of people within a business to help determine their goals and purpose, pinpoint the strengths and preferred roles for individuals within the team and improve the interpersonal relationships among team members. Team coaches can be beneficial in companies that value collaboration.

  • Executive coach: If your main professional responsibilities include managing teams and projects and making important decisions for your organization, an executive coach can provide guidance with skills that are integral to an executive role, such as critical thinking and personnel management.

Related: Life and Business Coach: What's the Difference?

Differences between coaching and mentoring

A mentor is an individual who can guide and support you in your personal or professional life based on their own wisdom and experience. Although there are many similarities between coaches and mentors, their strategies for helping you improve differ. A mentor offers guidance through advice and counseling. They often help their mentee through situations they themselves have experienced, relying on the past to guide the present. A mentor might be a friend, colleague or supervisor who you relate to or look up to.

A professional coach, in comparison, is in equal partnership with their client. They do not advise or counsel in the same way as a mentor. Instead, they hold conversations with their clients so that they may both understand how the client can achieve their goals, and then they give feedback based on current performance. Together, they analyze the present situation in order to move forward more effectively. This relationship may not last as long as a relationship with a mentor, and the process is typically more structured and professional. Also, the outcome is often more measurable and specific.

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