What qualifies someone as a life coach?

Friday, August 1st, 2008 - career coaching, career transition


Alon asks: What qualifies someone as a life coach? I have been seeing a lot of “Life Coach” job titles all over the net. What makes someone a qualified as a life coach? Sounds like a serious undertaking, and I can’t help but think most people just aren’t qualified…

In answer:
I will state from the beginning Alon, that I share your scepticism.

Why? Because if you look back 40 years, where were the Life Coaches? There were mentors, at both a business and a personal level if required, but there were no Life Coaches.

Why was this? I think if you look back 40 years ago, communities were closer and tighter, and any problems were spotted and dealt with at an earlier stage. Such support which Life Coaches now charge for was hence often either in-built within the family or given freely as part of life of living within a community infrastructure. As these close families and communities have broken down, and as individuals have seen quicker results gained from employing highly qualified and experienced professional mentors; the gap in the market has been created for the Life Coach, who often employs new quicker results theories that often encompass NLP.

So am I dismissing Life Coaches? No, but I think personally there are still many options open to someone who wants to improve their life, and engaging a Life Coach could make sense after exhausting these first. Personally these would include: speaking to friends or family, or socially connected members of your community like church elders, etc. Life Coaches often say that it is to your advantage to speak to a third party, but there aren’t many things I would exclude from talking to my close friends about first above a paid hand for hire.

Certification is also a present concern. There are clear routes for both qualified business coaches, who find the cache of using the word coach over consultant means they can charge more; and there certificates and stages to becoming a qualified career coach. In both cases I would say the best practitioners are nominally (a) older and (b) experienced in the role in which they practice. Many of the best career coaches are former HR managers, we ourselves use a company run by an ex-accountant for our clients who require career transition coaching, which I would say is useful and money well spent for up to a quarter of our CV or recruitment clients.

But I have not yet seen a nationally recognised qualification for a Life Coach, and I think that that lack of regulation and the possibility of charging someone $10,000+ a year is dragging the nominal delivery of any such services by those who could produce a great result downwards to the detriment of all. Personally, I see far too many sub-25 year olds waving a fresh NLP certificate around for the good of the market – quite what they have experienced in life and how capable they were of communicating it or spotting wider issues would be my concern.

I have some friends who are Life Coaches, and they share the doubt of where their market is presently going: average fee’s are now below $500 for 10 sessions, and I am not sure how the practitioner is supposed to live on that, or the quality of delivery to the client.

I would hence say: if you are thinking about employing a Life Coach, try talking to friends, members of your family or community first; but if you do decide to employ one at least get a few references by speaking to their previous clients first – you then might be able to spot a good one.

Good Luck!

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