Over the past few years, the career coaching profession has weathered its fair share of storms. Cuts to workforce budgets have reduced staff levels, forcing many career coaches to find ways to serve the same number of people with much fewer resources than in past years. At the same time, record low unemployment means that the job seekers in need of services have more barriers than before.

These disruptions to the career coaching profession come as millions of people realize that they must upskill or reskill in order to remain or become employable. As the world of work undergoes enormous changes, career coaches’ work has become more critical than ever.

Thankfully, many digital tools have appeared to help career coaches expand their reach, as well as increase their effectiveness and efficiency. For instance, through mySkills myFuture, a tool from the Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration, career coaches can help their clients find suitable jobs based on their clients’ past experiences. SkillsEngine allows job seekers to paste their resume or LinkedIn profile to determine what skills they have. With this tool, career coaches can even paste a job posting and see how a job seeker's skills align with the position. Meanwhile, coaches and job seekers can use DataUSA to get up-to-date information about where the local economy is heading to make informed decisions. And with sites like LinkedIn, people in the workforce can connect with one another more easily than ever before and build or hone skills with LinkedIn Learning.

Many career coaching professionals welcome the advent of these digital tools, many of which are designed to eliminate tedious, repetitive tasks or help people identify new opportunities.

But the sheer number of digital tools available seems to have hindered their adoption.

As more tools enter the coaching market, agencies must contend with their often prohibitive cost, identify the best tools for specific populations, the time it takes to pilot these tools, all while using the required systems mandated by the state. For coaches and agencies, the burden is too much to bear, leaving them behind in the quickly evolving digital space.

“The main disruption for career coaches is they may not be aware of the plethora of existing digital tools as well as emerging digital tools and their possibilities for maximizing service delivery,” said career coach Rose M. Beane, PhD.

Rose from The Markle Foundation on Vimeo.

Dr. Beane, who works as a career and transfer coach and Interim Director of the Career and Transfer Center at the Community College of Denver in Colorado, says that the problem may be exacerbated by the silos in which career coaches often find themselves: “They may only be familiar with the immediate tools they use and that are available to them.”

Dr. Beane is one of 28 career coaches articipating in the Governor’s Coaching Corpsp (GCC), an eight-month leadership and skills development program for career coaches created by Skillful and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. She and four other GCC participants are on an action team whose goal is to leverage digital tools to expand the reach of career services in Colorado. At the end of the program later this month, they will present their findings to state policy makers for adoption.

To determine career coaches’ needs, Dr. Beane and her teammates conducted a survey of GCC participants as well as members of Skillful’s Coaching Community of Practice, a no-cost virtual support network for Colorado career coaches, where members can share resources, discuss tools, and build their coaching skills through webinars and peer-led calls.

“The preliminary takeaways are that there seems to be an awareness gap among career coaches,” said Dr. Beane. “Based on this preliminary data, we decided that coaches could benefit from understanding the current landscape of digital tools and how they can be used to support job seekers’ needs.”

Inspired by Jobs for the Future’s 21st Century Job Centers: A Practitioner’s Guide, Dr. Beane and her team have decided to develop an easy-to-use, abbreviated “Digital Tool Playbook” that covers career development and job search categories (career assessment, career exploration, skill-building, skill inventory, job search, and job match). While no playbook could keep up with the rapidly expanding market of digital tools, this framework provides a way to assess and use new tools that are appropriate for a particular coach’s agency and the specific needs of a job seeker.

At Skillful, we often talk about how the very technology driving disruptions in the workforce can also provide solutions. The advantage of digital tools is not that they can replace coaches, but they can make the transactional parts of the career coaching process more efficient, which increases the time career coaches spend on transformational work with job seekers.

After all, the power of career coaching comes from the fact that it is, at its core, a human endeavor.

What digital tools do you use? Let me know in the comments below!

To learn more about the Governor’s Coaching Corps, visit the Skillful website or check out this short overview video:

Introducing the Governor’s Coaching Corps from The Markle Foundation on Vimeo.

If you are a Colorado career coach in search of a supportive environment, register for our Coaching Community of Practice! If you are interested in learning more about skills-based practices, contact me on LinkedIn.