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

career coaching tools - girl pondering while baking cookiesHave a client who wants a new career but has absolutely no idea where to start? Well, that's where Career Coaching Tools and Exercises come in really handy to get them started on their inner journeys. Because when a client truly has no idea - looking within is the only place to start.

Firstly, 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 - and to both look for a new job and career 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. There are no 'one size fits all' career coaching tools that will give clients a magical answer. So, remember, you are a facilitator - helping them to brainstorm ideas, look inside and get to know themselves. Then you help them look for patterns, themes and do 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. I give most of these exercises as homework - and then discuss what the client learned about themselves in the next session.

Among many other Career Coaching Tools and Exercises I have used:

  1. 'Future' Self Exercises and Inquiries Part 1. Guided meditation is a great tool to help them envision their future self or career. Write your own or search online for guided meditation scripts to adapt. Also, the excellent book "Co-Active Coaching" by Laura Whitworth et al., now in it's 3rd Edition has a few great visualisation scripts to use or adapt (check out the visualisations here in Google Books).
  2. 'Future' Self Exercises and Inquiries Part 2. Help them envision the future and access their imaginations to get ideas as to what they would love to do. The Rocking Chair for example is a writing exercise where they imagine being 90 and looking 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?
  3. Help them understand their Strengths and Weaknesses. Another of the key career coaching tools that I use is the Personal SWOT Analysis where they identify their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This comes in useful to see what careers might suit their strengths - and as a platform to look sideways for 'transferable' skills that can be used in new or different careers. Their weaknesses might point to jobs and careers they may like to avoid, but don't let them use this to get off the hook: Weaknesses can be minimised or removed eg. through training or delegation. Finally we look outside of ourselves and use powerful questions to identify potential opportunities and threats.
  4. 'Past' Self Exercises and Inquiries. What did they love to do as a child? What about that did they love? What did they want to be when they grew up? What about that still appeals to them - and what doesn't? I created a list of Career Discovery Questions - to help my clients reflect on and answer these questions and then look for patterns, themes - and clues as to potential careers in the present.
  5. Values work - If a client picks a career that is incongruent with their deepest values it will make them unhappy. They may THINK they want to be rich or famous, but we need to look deeper inside to see what REALLY makes them happy. The process of identifying our values is a powerful way to get to know ourselves better - and what is important to us in life. See all our articles on Values here.
  6. 'Work' Values. While looking at life values is helpful, we often look for different things in 'work' as opposed to '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 want to be detached at work, while connection and intimacy are priorities at home. I created a Career Values Workbook to help clients brainstorm, identify and prioritise their work values because figuring out work values is one of the few key career coaching tools to use with clients who have no idea what they're looking for.
  7. Powerful Questions. Try "ALL the" questions like "What if you had ALL the money, friends, love, time, approval, skills (etc.) you needed? What new careers can you think of now?" This gives great answers or ideas to explore further - and can be used as an inquiry or pondering homework. Other powerful career coaching questions include, "Imagine it's 10 years from now and you're successful and happily ensconced in your new career - what are you doing?"or "Who will you have to become to have the new career that you want?"
  8. (OK, so there's 8 Coaching Tools and Ideas!) I also ask my clients to review and possibly redo any personality tests they may have taken. Many are available free on the internet - there's a list of some common personality tests here. But remember that these tests only give an indication and are to be taken with a 'pinch of salt' - our client's self-knowledge always 'trumps' personality test results.

In summary, all these tools simply give information: about the client, who they are and what they want. There are many potential new careers for each client, the hard part is to find the one that they're ready to invest themselves in.

If you liked this article about Career Coaching Tools and Ideas, 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 >>


  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.

    • 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

    • Emma-Louise

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

  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.

  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.


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