7 Career Coaching Tools and Ideas For Clients Who Have Absolutely No Idea What They Want!

Client (or Coach!) pondering new career ideas at desk with laptop

Do you have a client who wants a new career but has absolutely no idea where to start? Well this article is for you!

Career Coaching Tools and Exercises can come in really handy to get our clients started on an inner journey. Because when a client truly has no idea—looking within is the only place to start.

IMPORTANT: There are no 'one size fits all' career coaching tools that will give clients a magical answer.

First, a quick book recommendation

If you think you're going to have more clients like this, I highly recommend getting yourself the latest edition of What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles—if only so you can recommend it to your clients! It has some great career coaching tools, exercises and tips—as well as tips on how to find a new job/role, interview techniques and much more. And it's updated every year with websites and resources.

And before working with a client on finding a new career there are 9 key things I like to share with them—to help set and manage their expectations. Because while it's possible to find that new career quickly, it's much more likely to take time, effort—and a lot of patience.

Remember, you are a facilitator...

So, remember that you're a facilitator helping your clients look within, brainstorm ideas, and get to know themselves. Then you help them look for patterns, themes, do their research and piece all this information together until they hit on that new career.

So, let's look at what career coaching tools and exercises you can use to help them discover that new career.

TIP: I give most of these exercises as homework—and then discuss what the client learned about themselves in the following session.

Here are 7 Career Coaching Tools and Exercises to Help Clients Find a New Career

1) 'Future Self' Exercises and Inquiries Part 1

Help your clients envision the future—and access their imaginations to get ideas. What would they love to do? The Rocking Chair for example is a writing exercise where they imagine being 90 and look back over their lives. What did they achieve? What makes them feel fulfilled? Add a career-specific slant by asking them to think specifically what they did and are proud of in their careers.

2) 'Future Self' Exercises and Inquiries Part 2

Guided meditation is a great tool to help clients envision their future self—or career. Write your own guided meditation script to visit with their future self and get personal ideas and advice—or search online for guided meditation scripts to adapt.

Here are some great basic relaxing guided meditation scripts. Simply insert some content into the middle of the script where they meet their future self, and ask questions, look for ideas or get advice.

3) Personal SWOT Analysis

Another key career coaching tool I use is the Personal SWOT Analysis where clients identify their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

We start by looking within.

  • Strengths: What careers might suit their strengths? What strengths could be 'transferable' skills that would be useful in new or different careers?
  • Weaknesses: These might point to jobs and careers to avoid, but don't let clients use this to get off the hook. Because weaknesses can also be minimised or removed eg. through getting some training, creative role design or delegation.

Finally we look outside of ourselves and use powerful questions to identify potential opportunities and threats.

  • Opportunities: What opportunities in the wider world (eg. technology, societal shifts, what is happening in the world) could provide opportunities for your client?
  • Threats: What outside changes threaten your client's ability to find a new career or their 'marketability' as a job candidate? For example a lack of or outdated technical expertise, government regulation etc.

A Done-for-you Career Coaching Toolkit!

Check out our Career Coaching Toolkit which contains the Personal SWOT (number 3), Career Pondering Questions (number 4), Career Values Workbook (number 6) and many more including the *NEW* Career Development Wheel (which helps people identify and take action on the skills they need for a promotion or new role).

4) 'Past' Self Exercises and Inquiries

What did your clients love to do as a child? What about that did they love? What did they want to be when they grew up? And what about that still appeals to them—and what doesn't? The answers to these questions give us clues as to what might resonate with our clients.

So I created this list of Career Discovery Questions to help my clients reflect on and answer these questions and then look for patterns, themes—and other clues as to potential careers in the present.

5) Personal Values Work

If a client picks a career that is incongruent with their deepest values it will ultimately make them unhappy.

People may think they want to be rich or famous, but we need to look deeper inside to see what really makes us happy. And the process of identifying our personal values is a powerful way to get to know ourselves better—and what's most important to us in life.

6) Career or 'Work' Values

While looking at life values is helpful, we may look for different things in our 'work' as opposed to our 'life in general'.

For example, we might have a strong value of spontaneity in our home life but find spontaneity at work difficult and challenging. Or we may need to be professionally detached at work, while connection and intimacy are priorities at home.

I created this Career Values Workbook to help clients brainstorm, identify and prioritise their work values because figuring out work values is really helpful to use with clients who have no idea what they're looking for.

7) Powerful Career Coaching Questions

Of course questions are a tool to find a new career—we're coaches, it's what we do! But specific career coaching questions can help unearth some interesting ideas. And when a client is looking for a new career we need to go deep.

You can ask the career coaching questions below in session, but they also make good homework (inquiries for clients to journal around) for clients to go deeper between coaching sessions.

Try the "everything you need" questions:

  • Ask: What if you had ALL the money/ friends/ love/ time/ approval/ skills you need?
  • Then ask: What career ideas can you think of now?
    • This gives great answers or ideas to explore further—and can be used as an inquiry or pondering homework.

10 more powerful career coaching questions when clients are looking for a new career include:

  1. Imagine it's 10 years from now and you're successful and happily ensconced in your new career—what are you doing?
  2. Who will you have to become to have the new career that you want?
  3. What are you hoping to get out of your new career/career change? What outcomes are you looking for? What is your "Why?" This helps clients get really clear on the reasons for switching careers—vital information as you and your client sift through ideas and options.
  4. How do you expect your life will be different with a new role or career? Ask your client to list as many thoughts and ideas as they can—from how their work-life will be different to how they think their personal life will be different, and any short, medium and long-term impacts.
  5. How do you want to FEEL at work? Imagine waking up and looking ahead to your day, going about your work, then how you feel when you come home...
  6. What are some of your most marketable skills? Strengths? Make a list.
  7. What are your biggest shortcomings/weaknesses when at work? Make a list.
  8. What will get in the way of moving to a new role or career? What is in your personal life or mindset that will limit your possibilities? For example childcare responsibilities, health issues, limiting beliefs, lack of confidence etc.
  9. What are you afraid of? And when you look closely, how valid are these fears?
  10. If you could wave a magic wand, if there were no limitations or barriers of any kind, what would you choose to do?

What career coaching questions would you add to this list?

Wrap-up

All these tools above simply give us information: about the client, who they are and what they want.

There are many potential new careers for each client, the difficult part is to find the career that inspires and fits them well enough to invest their time and energy in...

If you liked this Career Coaching Tools, Questions and Ideas article, you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools, resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client (or Coach) pondering Career Ideas at desk with laptop by Dragon Images via Shutterstock

7 Comments

  1. Wendy Buckingham

    Good points. I would like to add that in my experience it is not the career that needs changing but the environment that the work is being done it. They may actually enjoy what they do, but need to change whee they do it.
    Get them to list what works and doesn't work in their current employment or career. Include work relationships, working environment, managerial issues, etc. This often helps clarify what actually needs to change and avoids throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Reply
    • Emma-Louise

      Wendy, you are absolutely right. Oftentimes, a few shifts, changes and the career/job/role is just fine. Or a sideways move suffices...
      Thanks for the reminder! Warmly, EL

      Reply
    • Emma-Louise

      Thanks for your comment Edward! I don't have experience with this, but maybe someone else does... Warmly, Emma-Louise

      Reply
  2. Bob

    I agree that performing a SWOT analysis can be helpful in progressing the career of an individual. I personally have no idea where I want to go in my life. I'll have to hire a career coach for better success.

    Reply
  3. Alice Carroll

    You made a good point that morals is one of the things to considers for someone who doesn't know what career path to take. My son has graduated from college a year ago with an art degree but he doesn't know yet what exactly he wants to do. I think I should find a career path coach for him so that he can find meaning for the past four years of his education.

    Reply

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