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August 2022

Research Findings

Where did all of the coaches come from?


August 4, 2022

There is a “coach” for everything these days. There are dating coaches, health coaches, career coaches, and speaking coaches. There are coaches to help you find wellness, financial freedom, and the serenity of a decluttered closet. And, perhaps most audaciously, there are legions of self-described “life” coaches.

Where did all these new experts come from? And, given their general lack of credentials, why do people hire them?

You may wonder if this a multi-level marketing kind of arrangement – suspecting, correctly, that coaches are much less successful than they let on and are hoping to sell others on an entrepreneurship class (also correct). You may wonder if this is outright fraud, ideological snake-oil, or just the blind leading the blind. And you may also ask yourself, occasionally, does it work?

In a recently published article, I report results from a year I spent studying career coaches, in particular – observing their pitches and conducting in-depth interviews with both coaches and their clients. I find that none of these characterizations quite capture why and how “coaching” has grown to $3 billion industry in recent years.

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