For this reason, career guidance is a fast growing industry, both in terms of career progression and managing workload.
Career coaching is a service that the UK has imported from the US. It takes the form of face-to-face, telephone or Web-based sessions. In addition, there are numerous self-help career guidance books.
"Career coaching is about supporting people and helping them to identify their opportunities and then supporting them while they go after their goals," explains Imogen Daniels, advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
"It is like having a personal MOT. They look at you in a personal context, but within the framework of where your career is going. They are not there to counsel you about personal issues, but help you look at yourself and identify your priorities."
Life and career coach Marianne Craig is also quick to stress that career coaching is different from counselling. "Coaching is about now, the future and taking action. It spots what you want and helps you take those steps, whereas counselling and therapy are often about the past and navel gazing," she says.
When an individual contacts Craig, the first thing she wants to know is what motivates that person and what they would like to achieve. "People often don't ask themselves that. I ask them what their dream job would be," she says.
Craig asks clients to commit to a minimum of three months of coaching because the process of establishing a person's motivation, setting targets and then seeing results takes time. For example, if a person wants a promotion or to move their career in a new direction, it would involve working out a realistic way to achieve these goals.
"I had one IT professional who was up for promotion, but he felt stuck and that he wasn't achieving his aims," says Craig. "He also had issues with his boss, so we dealt with how he should talk to management about his job and this person.
"Sometimes people feel trapped and sometimes there is a personality clash. Coaching is about getting people to think differently about a situation."
Rachel Pryor, business coach and chief executive of coaching company eBeDo, says she aims to help people take control of their careers. "It is about getting people to be a cause of what happens to them, rather than things happening around them," she says. A lot of her work concentrates on how an individual can make the most of the opportunities available and maintain a positive attitude.
As the whole concept of career fulfilment and work/life balance becomes increasingly prevalent, some companies are offering career coaching for employees. "There has been a move in recent years to give career guidance on a regular basis, as the 'job for life' concept no longer exists," says Daniels.
In addition to training and human resources departments, some companies employ personnel whose function is to help employees feel happy with their job. More often than not, these personnel are internal staff, but some companies draft in external experts.
While all employers stress that any conversations between employees and coaches are confidential, Daniels thinks it is infinitely preferable for employees to talk to an independent person. "I think it is vital that you talk to people who are totally impartial so that you can have a frank discussion and know that it goes no further."
International Coach Federations: www.coachfederation.org Marianne Craig: 01273 563518 www.coachlifeandcareer.com
A helping hand
Have you acted as a mentor to colleagues or have you been mentored yourself? We will shortly be taking a look at mentoring and we want to hear from IT professionals who have benefited from it. Indeed, we want to find out whether it is actually happening and whether or not it works. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in May 2001