The Career Coaching Jargon Buster - a Beginner's Guide

Do you ever feel confused by Contracting? 🤔

Disorientated by DISC?

Hazy about Hynotherapy or non-plussed by NLP...? 🤷‍♀️

The world of coaching is full of jargon, and it gets bandied about like we all know what it all means.

This week’s blog post is designed to take you from Clueless to Clear!

So you can make a better decision about whether coaching is right for you 😁

Read on to find out more about the meaning of:

  • Coaching

  • Coaching Programme

  • Coaching Types (eg Career Coaching vs Life Coaching)

  • Core Values

  • Contracting

  • DISC

  • Hypnotherapy

  • Limiting Beliefs

  • Intro Call/ Discovery Call/ Clarity Cll

  • Mentoring

  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

  • Neuroplasticity

  • Re-Frame

  • SMART Goals

  • State

  • Trigger/ Anchor

  • Woo Woo

(And if I've forgotten one, please let me know!)


The exact meaning of the word "coaching" is pretty vague.

The dictionary definition is a bit rubbish: all the ones I’ve found use the word “training” (ie “the job or activity of providing training for people, or helping to prepare them for something”.)

And the one thing all coaches will agree on is that coaching ISN’T training.

The person who trained me as a coach has his own definition: “a powerful conversation that helps you live a life you love”.

I love this for the powerful conversation element - I agree, coaching is definitely a dialogue, not a monologue.

But as a Oxford University historian, the definition I prefer is actually based on the origins of the word.

The word “coach was first used in the sense we mean it now in Oxford University slang from 1830: a “coach” was someone who “carried” a student through an exam.

In other words, it was a person who helped someone get from one place, to another, using their skills and experience.

And that for me is the essence of coaching: it is a process of a transformation - what I often call a journey that I walk with my clients - from one place (physical or mental) to another.

However, it isn’t training: that implies an expert teaching someone else knowledge that they then absorb.

(On our journey, I may also use some elements of training or mentoring with my clients, where I am more directly guiding them - but that isn’t coaching.)

With true coaching, the answers are inside the client - it is the coach’s role (using their expertise) to help the client find that answer.

So for me, I use my career experience and coaching expertise to help my clients go on a journey from Imposter Syndrome and that terrible inner critic, to a place of self-belief - by helping them discover the Naked Confidence already inside them.


A series of coaching sessions designed to deliver results defined at the beginning (see Contracting).

These might be a set format: a set number of sessions, of a certain length, held at a certain frequency.

Or they could be much more fluid, with the number and frequency determined as the Programme develops.

And they could be online, phone-based or in person, depending on the Programme.

Exactly what type of Programme a client is signing up for should be very clear.

(For example, my signature Coaching Programme, “Banish Your Imposter and Discover Your Naked Confidence contains 7 x 75 minute online coaching held fortnightly (holidays and diaries permitting.)


Career Coaching vs Executive Coaching vs Leadership Coaching vs High Performance Coaching vs Life Coaching

Apart from Life Coaching, these are all forms of coaching that are used in the workplace.

Career coaching obviously focusses on the career of the client, whoever they are and at whatever stage in their career

Executive coaching is very similar, but usually the term used when senior executives in large corporates are being coached

Leadership coaching (or the subset, Leadership coaching for women) is particularly targeted at helping clients excel as leaders

And High Performance Coaching is all about helping clients excel in the workplace.

So they are all slightly different flavours of the same ice cream (and there are many more!).

Whereas Life Coaching is more like a sorbet: similar to the above, but a bit different, in that it is not focussed on supporting the client’s transformation at work, but instead in the client’s personal life.


“Values” is a bit of a buzz-word - companies now all have values (eg Coca-Cola’s are Leadership, Collaboration, Integrity, Accountability, Passion, Diversity and Quality - very little to do with soft drinks…)

But as human beings, we are values-driven.

Core values are the things that really matter to us deep down: whether that’s Honesty or Ambition; Family or Financial Security.

There will be certain beliefs of ways of being that, when they’re compromised, make us unhappy. It’s hard to have a good relationship if you have different values to your partner.

And this is true in our careers as much as our personal life.

I had a client once who had a core value of Integrity. She worked as a Project Manager in the Finance sector, and hated it.

When we worked together she realised that she was compromising her value of Integrity daily, by having to pretend to be interested in Finance, when she wasn’t.

So she moved to delivering Project Management in the NHS, where she felt much more aligned with their mission - and was much happier.

So however woo woo you think it (see below), this is an important part of the work I do with nearly all clients, and some have found just this small action transformational.


This is the term for what happens at the beginning of a coaching programme, and sometimes a session.

It is an important part of the process, where the coach and the client discuss and agree what the goals are for the Programme (or session), and the terms under which the coaching will be delivered.

So for example, during the contracting at the start of my Coaching Programmes, we discuss:

  • confidentiality (an important part of any coaching - coaches should be registered with the Information Commissioner and abide by its rules)

  • logistics, like how the sessions are scheduled and Zoom links sent, whether there will be homework

  • style questions, like how the client prefers to discuss issues (more directly or more gently); and what to say if you feel you don’t want to answer a particular question (just say, “that’s the wrong question”, and I’ll move on!)

  • and most importantly, the priorities the client has for what they want from our work together (which I also check at the start of each individual session, in case something new has come up that needs attention that session)


“DISC” is a type of personality profile, or psychometric test, which are forms of analysis designed to categorise you in some way, to help you understand yourself better.

DISC is based on an analysis of where people are against two axes:

  • people- versus task-oriented

  • and outgoing and active vs reserved and reflective

After completing some multiple choice questions, your DISC profile gives you a score against four different characteristics:

  • D: Dominant/ Driver (red)

  • I: Influencing/ Inspiring (yellow)

  • S: Steadiness/ Supportive (green)

  • C: Conscientious, Correct (yellow)

Each person will have a score in each of these areas, but some areas will be higher than others.

And most interestingly, the score can be different depending on whether you’re under stress, or whether it’s what you think other people see in you, or what you see in yourself.

This can provide some real insights into your strengths and areas for growth.

(All my clients receive a DISC personality profile included in their Coaching Programme.)


When you say, “hynotherapy”, many people think of stage hypnotists getting their unconscious subjects to walk like a chicken, or bark like a dog.

Clinical hynotherapy (which is what I'm qualified in) is a bit different.

For a start, no-one can be made to do anything they don’t want to do in a trance.

(People do strange things on stage for other reasons - read Derren Brown’s brilliant book "Confessions of a Conjuror" if you want to find out more.)

You are still aware, you’re just deeply relaxed.

And in that state of deep relaxation you are able to access your unconscious in a way you can’t otherwise.

This can be very powerful - up to 90% of the decisions we make every day can be unconscious.

You may not realise it, but you could regularly be sabotaging yourself because your unconscious has internalised an irrational fear of something, or developed a limiting belief.

I spent two years trying to overcome my persistent lateness - never much, only 5 minutes, but it was like clockwork.

And it took my coach trainer 15 minutes to resolve it for me by unravelling my limiting belief that I was a “late person” by working directly with my unconscious.

I had been sabotaging myself for years - but thanks to that small intervention, because it was done in the right way, to the heart of the problem, I am now an “on time” person.

So used in the right way, hypnotherapy can be incredibly effective.

And it almost never involves a swinging pocket watch, and a “look into my eyes…”.


These are all basically the same thing: a free chat with a potential coach before you sign up to their services.

However, your experience of these can be very different:

  • some coaches use a script

  • they vary in length (anything from 15 minutes upwards)

  • they might be more (or less) focussed on selling.

Whatever you call them, they are a very good way for you to get a feel for whether you and the coach will work well together - that “fit” is so important.

The "intro call" for my coaching programmes is about me understanding you: your life and career right now; your current mindset; what you want to change; what any long-term goals are.

And it's also about you getting to know me: who I am as a person, and as a coach - my style.

It’s not about selling, it's about seeing if we both fit.

And I allow 45 minutes for mine, because I want to allow us space for a real coaching conversation.


A "limiting belief" is something you believe to be true, that has a negative impact on you.

This could be anything from believing you are shy, to believing you will never be a success.

You will have developed these beliefs at some point in your past, often as a result of the words or behaviour of someone else (especially a caregiver, someone whose opinion your trust).

Or you may have developed them for yourself, as your brain’s way of coping the best it can with the situation it found itself in.

And it may or may not be something you consciously recognise: you could label yourself “I am bad at public speaking”; or it could be subconscious, like my belief I was a “late person”.

But whatever their origin, for something to be a limiting belief it has two main characteristics:

  • it is unhelpful to you in some way

  • and it is a story you are telling yourself - it’s not true.

Limiting beliefs can be incredibly powerful - but they can also be changed!

(This is something I work on with my clients a lot - Imposter Syndrome is usually a result of limiting beliefs…)


Mentoring is qualitatively different to coaching.

In mentoring, you more directly support someone to achieve their goals, offering suggestions or advice, or encouraging them down particular paths.

(As opposed to coaching, where the answer always comes from the client.)

It definitely has its place: I mentor my clients as well as coach them.

But it’s important to be really clear about the difference - and when it’s appropriate to use each approach.