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Career Edition, Specialty COACHING 5 GENERATIONS


By: Marie Zimenoff •  1 year ago •  

How Career Coaching is Evolving to Serve 5 Generations

By Marie Zimenoff

For the first time in history, the workforce is experiencing five generations together in the workplace. As individuals work longer in their careers and fresh graduates launch their careers, career coaches are shifting their practices to meet the changing needs of these generations.

Generations Defined

The Center for Generational Kinetics (link to puts forth the following definition of generations:

1) the Silent Generation born prior to 1945;

2) Baby Boomers born in 1945–1960;

3) Generation X born in 1961–1980;

4) Generation Y (Millennials) born in 1981–1995;

5) Generation Z born after 1995.

Each of these generations has experienced distinct world events during their formative years, leading them to form different aspirations, attitudes toward technology, communication preferences, and, most important for career practitioners, use of technology and attitudes toward career.

Coaching Consumption

Career coaches are experiencing changes in how these generations engage and work with a coach throughout the engagement.

While Baby Boomers tend to find coaches through more traditional methods – word of mouth, online and paper directories, and referrals from those they trust – Generations X and Y are using technology to find a coach.

Millennials use social media to crowdsource recommendations from social connections and research online before reaching out to a potential coach.

Coaches trying to attract the younger audiences are moving online, using video, Facebook (where Generation X and some older Millennials are daily), and Instagram or Snapchat (where Millennials and Generation Z are daily).

Once a coaching engagement has begun, the generations also have different expectations about how coaching is delivered. Baby Boomers tend to prefer face-to-face coaching or virtual coaching that allows a similar feel, like Skype or other video calls. Younger generations are expecting virtual coaching, and the youngest generations seek ondemand coaching via text or platforms like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and live videos.

Coaches are shifting to meet these needs, with many offering texting as part of their coaching engagements, more video coaching, and ondemand courses to provide services at a lower cost for Millennials who are struggling to pay off college debt while underemployed.

Career Challenges

In addition to generational forces shifting the needs of clients and coaching approaches, each generation is also experiencing the developmental career challenges faced by every generation – launching a career, managing advancement, and winding down a career. The current career landscape is altering how these developmental changes appear.

The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers – who developmentally would expect to be winding down their careers – are persisting due to extended quality of life with medical technology advances and financial requirements caused by the last recession. Ageism is a concern for this audience.

Career coaches are working with Silent Generation and Baby Boomer clients to manage their mindsets around age and ageism while taking practical steps in their resume, interview, and daily interactions on the job to improve interactions with other generations.

Career coaches are guiding this audience to negotiate more flexibility in their work or find the meaning they seek after decades of what has felt like serving corporate interests that lacked a larger purpose.

Coaches are helping them explore different paths to advancement – often requiring shifting companies within their industry. Generation X is less likely to be loyal to an employer and remains hesitant to launch a portfolio career as their definition of career success is still based on advancement within a full-time position.

Millennials, 25 to 38 years old in 2019, comprise the largest group in the workforce. They are still largely underemployed and, similar to Generation X, seeking alternative paths for advancement.

This age group, especially the older Millennials, is seeking coaching and expecting coaching to be available in their workplace – from their manager and beyond.

Career coaches are shifting their mindsets to realize the wide range of needs for this audience.

The younger group is underemployed and disillusioned, being told by society in their younger years that if they earned a degree, they would find meaningful, gainful employment.

Coaches are working with them to reset expectations, understand the skills they need to advance, and set out a path for advancement that does not include climbing a career ladder – a workplace structure that has disappeared in many organizations.

Millennials and Generation Z are expecting coaches to employ technology in their practices, including and going beyond video coaching and texting.

Coaches are exploring how they can use gamification, apps, chatbots, and other artificial intelligence to streamline the process and meet the on-demand expectations of this younger audience.

Generations and Coaching in the Workplace

Coaches are seeing increased demand for coaching across the generations and coaching of teams to navigate generational conversations and career paths that are no longer linear. Career coaches are developing programs within corporations to help individuals manage their careers with less reliance on advancement within the organization.

These programs have become increasingly important in a tight labor market as employers embrace coaching as an opportunity to improve retention and increase effectiveness of those they are recruiting to return to the workforce after periods of retirement or caring for family.

Large organizations are increasingly employing artificial intelligence to deliver career coaching for employees. Career coaches are learning how to articulate their value working in parallel with AI to meet employee career needs.


All generations are expecting coaches to be on-demand and accessible. As coaching becomes more mainstream, more people are seeking coaches and understanding the value of having guidance throughout the developmental and generational challenges they face in managing their careers.

Marie Zimenoff

CEO of Career Thought Leaders Consortium the Resume Writing Academy, Marie Zimenoff trains coaches around the globe in career, leadership, and personal branding topics. She has delivered hundreds of career and leadership development programs, designed curriculum, and provided staff training in workforce, corrections, university, community college, and business environments.

She is a frequent presenter at international conferences in the coaching, careers, and training industries, including ICF and ATD.

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