What does it mean to be?

How asking philosophical questions and exploring an existential attitude could add value to career coaching


  • Robin Stevens King's College London




Philosophy, Existentialism, Career coaching


This paper explores the value of career coaches asking philosophical questions, specifically relating to existentialism, in order to enhance clients’ self-awareness, goal-setting, and decision-making. It argues that existential concepts, such as authenticity and essence, could potentially serve as valuable additions to a coach’s toolkit to help stimulate, challenge and shift forwards a client’s thinking when faced with difficult career-related questions. Existentialism’s potential value is explored in relation to three established career coaching models – the GROW model, the OSKAR model, and the Skilled Helper model.


AGCAS, (2023) Course: Career Coaching (Information, Advice and Guidance). https://workspace.agcas.org.uk/course/view.php?id=695

Baggini, J. (2004) What’s it all about?. Granta Books.

Blackham, H.J. (1959) Six Existentialist Thinkers. Harper Torchbook.

Camus, A. (2005) The Myth of Sisyphus. Penguin Books.

Camus, A. (2013) The Outsider. Penguin Classics.

Egan, G. (2002) The Skilled Helper: a problem management and opportunity development approach to helping. 7th edition, Brooks Cole.

Egan, G. (2006) Essentials of Skilled Helping: managing problems, developing opportunities. Brooks Cole.

Tillich, P. (Jan. 1944) Existential Philosophy taken from Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 5, No. 1, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fishbein, M. & Ajzen, I. (1975) Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior: An introduction to theory and research. Addison-Wesley.

Forbes, (2018) 16 Powerful Questions Coaches Ask Their Clients To Help Achieve Their Goals. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/06/21/16-powerful-questions-coaches-ask-their-clients-to-help-achieve-their-goals/

Heidegger, M. (2010) Being and Time. State University of New York Press.

Heslin, P. (2005) Journal of Organizational Behavior 26, 113–136. Wiley InterScience.

Jackson, P. & McKergow, M. (2006) The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2nd edition.

Kalderimis, D. (2010) Existentialism – A practical approach for a modern world? in Think, No.26 Autumn, Cambridge University Press.

Kauffeld et al. (2022) Motivational Interviewing as a Tool for Coaching in the Workplace: Coaching for Organizational Change in Greif,S. et al., International Handbook of Evidence-Based Coaching, Springer.

Kaufmann, W. (1968) The Portable Nietzsche, The Viking Press.

Kierkegaard, S. (2005), Fear & Trembling, Penguin Books.

Krznaric, R. (2012) How to find fulfilling work. Pan Macmillan.

Landsberg, M. (2015) The Tao of Coaching: Boost Your Effectiveness at Work by Inspiring and Developing Those Around You, Profile Books; Main edition.

Law, B. (2011). Philosophies for careers work. http://www.hihohiho.com/magazine/games/cafgam3.pdf

Lush, D. (2018) Seeking the good life - higher education careers services and moral philosophy, Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling, 40(1), 11-16. https://doi.org/10.20856/jnicec.4003

Nelson, P. (2007) An Easy Introduction to Egan’s Skilled Helper Solution Focused Counselling Approach. http://highgatecounselling.org.uk/members/certificate/CT1W3%20Paper%202.pdf

Nietzsche, F. (2003) Beyond Good and Evil. Penguin Books.

Precht, R. D. (2011) Who am I? And if so, how many? Constable.

RE:ONLINE, (2023) Answers to Ultimate Questions. https://www.reonline.org.uk/knowledge/humanism/answers-to-ultimate-questions/

Sartre, J. (1987) Existentialism and Human Emotions. Citadel Press.

Sherman, D. (2008) Sartre and Adorno: The Dialectics of Subjectivity. State University of New York Press.

Thoreau, H. (2021) Walden. Global Grey.

Whitmore, J. (2009) Coaching for Performance : GROWing Human Potential and Purpose: the Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Winter, D. (2011) Is your work meaningful?. https://careersintheory.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/is-your-work-meaningful/#more-2066