A deep-dive series on career coaching mentality: #1 Coaching vs advice

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In July 2016 Gateway Careers Management (Gateway Careers) conducted some research. This series of reports and blogs will focus on the initial research that was conducted.

In Series one: Coaching vs advice we will look at what drives people to look into working with a coach and what the difference is between coaching and advice.

In the feedback we received from the survey a number of people didn’t understand what a career coach was and felt that they could get similar advice elsewhere. We want to show you exactly why working with coaches like us is so beneficial and the ways that we can help you achieve your dreams.


Advice vs coaching

A hot topic from this series is the discussion of where people go when they are unsure about their careers.

From the research we gathered, very small numbers of people actively sought out a mentor (33%) or a career coach (11%). In fact, most people went directly to their family (61%) and friends (56%).

In most situations in your life, your family and family are going to be your centre point. They are the ones (usually) closest to you and the first people you think of when you are unsure about a point in your life – especially when it comes to your career, relationships and financial advice.


What is the difference?


Advice is information, solutions, action steps that someone gives to you when you do not want to think for yourself. That sounds quite harsh but when you seek advice from someone, they are giving you their solution to a problem irrespective of what the specifics are in your particular case. Advice is by no means a negative thing, in some situations it is in fact beneficial – if you seek advice from someone in a similar situation or you trust the person you are going to for advice.

However, advice can also not be the most useful thing because as the information above implies, you need to be in a very similar situation as the person you are seeking advice from. If the situations are not the same – for example, you are asking someone who is much older than you, they work in a different industry or they do not (really) have your best interest at heart, they may lead you down an entirely different path to the one you wanted.


Coaching usually happens with people who have had some degree of success, whether it’s with a business or with their career choices, but are now ‘stuck’ and need help moving forward.

Coaching ultimately is a co-creative approach. Coaches help people to accomplish life, career or work goals that involve you 100%. They are not therapists, they don’t tell you what to do, instead they work with you – to understand where you are, what you want to achieve, and help you to design that future.

Coaches do not claim to know your industry or your business 100%, instead the beginning part of a relationship with a coach is taking time to actually understand that and where you want to be. They help you to get to the end goal whilst keeping you on track with the wider questions such as – what does that mean to you, what are your strengths, what is manageable to you and how can YOU achieve that.


When would you use a career coach?

From our research the top 5 reasons our respondents would seek the help of a career coach are as follows:

  1. If I was stuck in a career rut
  2. If I needed the confidence to move into a different industry/role
  3. Being unsure about the strength of my CV, cover letter, interview technique
  4. Feeling unsure about the job market in the industry I wanted to be in
  5. Being made redundant.

We then asked what specifically would you need help from a career coach for in the future. The top 5 reasons are below.

  1. Changing career direction
  2. Setting up a new business
  3. Kick-starting a job hunt
  4. Reviewing the job market
  5. CV

Using these drivers for using a coach, we will explore now the difference in response to getting career coaching compared to advice and you can see the difference in approach.

Coaching Advice
Situation: If I was stuck in a career rut
We would explore the job you’re in, why you like it and why you don’t. Understand your strengths and how that can translate into different jobs and industries.

We would do some personality profiling to understand who you are, what drives you and your motivations.

Then we would work out a plan to move forward.

Someone would give you their opinion on what you were doing and where they think you may suit.

It would be based on their experience of feeling stuck or frustrated in a job.

It would not tailor to your specific set of skills or mind-set around who you are and what you want to do.

It could be very useful, or it may seem quite frustrating!

Situation: If I needed the confidence to move into a different industry/role
We would work on how you would navigate the move. Looking at different mentalities, how your personality fits within that industry – again recognising your strengths and talents.

We would work on a 90 day plan for when you start your new role to ensure that you are making the most of your first few months and ensuring you had the support you need.

If needed we can work on networking, contacts and interview technique.

Someone would be giving you advice based on how they perceive you  – perhaps they know you already.

You may have gone to someone who had already done that move, or worked in that company/industry. It would be based on their experience – sometimes this interaction can be negative or sometimes it can give you heaps of motivation.


Situation: Being unsure about the strength of my CV, cover letter, interview technique
We would work on understanding what you were applying for, who you were

applying to and what skills and work experience you had.

You CV would then be tailored to meet your needs and the needs of the role.

This would be the same for you cover letter.

We would spend time either re-writing your CV or making suggestions on the format and content for you to work on depending on your learning style.

With interview technique we would review the ways that companies interview, what you need to do to feel more confident going into that situation. This can be done throughout the interview process.

You may have a friend review your CV for you based on their experience of

working in the industry or perhaps they work in recruitment, so it will be useful to you.

For cover letters and interview technique the advice might be very generic as they may not fully understand where you are and what you are doing. If you do not feel confident about the process, the interview questions or the role, they may not have the full expertise to deal with that. Although of course, they will give you their most sound advice.

Situation: Feeling unsure about the job market in the industry I wanted to be in
We could help you develop your brand, your identity in the job market. We would be able to do research for you on the job market and find agencies or companies for you to engage with.

We can ensure that you are fully prepped ready to launch yourself into a new role.

We can explore your reservations and make sure that whatever they are they are identified and tackled. We can do preparation for applying for jobs, cv work, interview technique as well as personality work to help work out your drivers and what is important to you in a role – that you couldn’t compromise on in a competitive job market.

Someone might give you advice about how they got into their role, or put you in touch with someone who did it themselves.

They may be able to give you the behind the scenes look at the industry and perhaps introduce you to someone they know.

Situation: Being made redundant
In a truly stressful period of time it is so important that you get the support you need.

Perhaps it’s time for a career change or perhaps it’s given you an awakening after a few years stuck in a rut.

We can help you with all of that – helping you to identify your skills and strengths, motivations and drivers.

If however, you want help with just getting back into a similar role, then we can help you with CV, cover letters and interview technique.

This is a hugely stressful time so it’s important to surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you and support you.

Advice from people around you will be wide ranging from – get back into a job to use this time to think about a new venture. Both are great options, but ensure that you are doing what suits you and not what is their opinion.

The people around you will be vital at this point, so definitely a situation to take that on board, but ensure that the advice given is objective and relevant to you.

Situation: Setting up a new business
We can help you to become more self-aware to develop a product or service that fills you with excitement and therefore has a better chance of being successful. We can help you understand your market better and how to market to them successfully. We can help you develop your brand to encourage people to work with you. We can work with you to ensure that all next steps in your business are positive and clear to meet your goals. Especially following leaving a 9-5 role or after redundancy this could be especially scary and you will have to be prepared for everyone you know giving you their thoughts and opinions on it.

People might tell you who to market to, what to sell, how to be, what to say etc.etc. which is great if they know you, know your industry and are up to date with the latest fads etc. However, this can be a remarkably frustrating time if they are not.

Situation: Kick-starting a job hunt
We can help you with all sorts – self-awareness, understanding what you are looking for, what drives you and motivates you. We can work up a plan of action approaching companies and agencies. We can work on how to talk to agencies and get the most out of them. We can work on your CV, cover letters and interview technique and we can work on how to approach your first 90 days in a job. So much to do! There will be many people around you who will be able to give you some advice. Friends of the family or friends of friends may be able to give you specific advice about an industry. But these are industries they know – they may not be able to give you an eagle eye view of all sorts of industries that might suit your personality.

As mentioned before – there will be a lot of people with specific skill sets to help you but nothing objective.


As you can see the approach is very different. In different situations advice will trump coaching and vice versa. The main difference to coaching and advice is how objective it is and how relevant it is to you.

Coaching is mainly an indirect form of help – it is very much guiding you to think about a solution and how that solution works for you. At times of course clients needs some direction and that is available – we want you to be accountable for what you say you want to achieve and we will get you there.

Advice is a direct form of help – it is creating solutions based on another person’s opinion, not necessarily with you in mind. It will be what they know, what they have experienced.  This is not a bad solution, for most people it is all they have known. But if you are stuck in a rut, or need some objective help, from people who have been around the track a few times then we are here to help you.

Contact us today on info@gatewaycareers.co.uk or call 0845 45 900 35

We can’t wait to start a new journey with you!


This series has been written by Jenni Hughes, Career Coach and Job Search Specialist with Gateway Career Management and founder of Market Me coaching. You can contact her directly on jenni@gatewaycareers.co.uk or call 07890 689 957.

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