At some point in your career, you might find yourself thinking, “Is this all there is?” Maybe you’ve hit a dead end, become unhappy with the work environment, or just feel like it's time to move on. Maybe you've even gone so far as to put yourself out there, but your interviews haven't gone anywhere or you’ve gotten no responses to your resume submissions. What should you do?
Before you throw in the towel and resign yourself to a less-than-fulfilling career, consider hiring a career coach. You might be wondering, “What can a career coach do for you?” Well, a career coach can help you figure out your career options, analyze what's holding you back, and navigate the ins and outs of finding a new job.
In this article, we’ll discuss if hiring a career coach is right for you, including
What is a career coach?
What does a career coach do?
When do you need a career coach?
How to find the right career coach
Benefits of working with a career coach
What is a career coach, anyway?
No, a career coach isn’t someone who stands by your desk and orders you to do ten pushups. A career coach can be thought of as a partner who provides support, advises you on a range of job search or career issues, and optimizes your growth potential. They’re usually experts in writing effective resumes, career planning, negotiation, motivation, and building a professional network. They also provide accountability when taking the steps necessary to move to the next phase of your career, ensuring that you stay focused and on-task.
Areas that a typical career coach can assist with are:
Setting long and short-term career goals
Refining your resume and improving your professional networking profiles
Helping you navigate the job search
Preparing you for interviews
Coaching you through accepting a job offer and negotiating salary
If you’re working with a career coach on other, more long-term issues, they may advise you on how to build your soft/interpersonal skills, optimize your job performance or attitude, or teach you skills to prosper in the workplace. And because your career path is different from anyone else’s, a career coach provides an individual approach to suit each client, whether it’s through a thorough examination of your skills, figuring out ways to move you up the ladder in your current company, or helping you reroute your career to find something brand new that brings you more fulfillment and purpose. Ultimately, a career coach assists you in finding the perfect job where you can flourish.
The demand for career coaches has never been higher, thanks in part to the Covid pandemic and the phenomenon of “The Great Resignation,” resulting in over 4.4 million people quitting their job in September 2021 alone. With this field expanding, you’re more likely to find a career coach that fits your needs and budget.
Career coach responsibilities
Having a career coach can be as general or specific as you like, depending on your requirements. And being a career coach has a specific set of professional and personal qualifications, too. In general, you can expect a career coach to be:
An excellent communicator
Committed to their clients’ professional development
Able to assist clients in developing strong habits and commitment to positive changes
Willing to provide an individualized career plan
Ideally certified by the International Coaching Federation (or a similar professional organization)
Career coaches often have a background in Human Resources or recruiting, so they’re particularly adept at aligning your skills with your desired job, especially skills that might be harder to define or don’t specifically correspond with a job description. They also understand what you need to leave off a resume. A good career coach is responsible for helping you decide what job experience and skills are relevant and position both your resume and LinkedIn profile so that it gets noticed by hiring managers. They help you find your professional "brand."
Author and career coach Claire Wasserman reminds clients that they can’t control everything that happens, and they should be ready to accept that. But people have more control over their careers than they might think, and being open-minded can lead to fresh and potentially unanticipated opportunities: “Accept what’s going on and think, ‘What’s the one thing I can do?’” She adds that some things can be “done on your own, like learning a new skill, and others are better facilitated by a strong support network.”
Deciding when you need a career coach
Hiring a career coach is an important decision and will require effort, commitment, and yes, money. It’s never a bad idea, but there are times when a career coach’s service could be especially helpful. You might consider hiring a career coach in these circumstances:
If you’re burned out. Even if you’re happy in your job, you might need advice to manage your time or find the right work/life balance.
If it's been a while since you've searched for a job. You might need help updating your resume and LinkedIn profile or navigating the online application process.
If you hate your job. If you’re working in a position that makes you unhappy, for whatever reason, a career coach can help you figure out what you need to do to find a better position.
If your company’s values don’t match your own. If your manager is difficult or you have toxic co-workers, there are no time-management or breathing exercises that will help. A career coach can help you determine when it's time to say "bye-bye” to a bad work situation.
When you feel like you’re underperforming. If you need to improve job-related skills such as communication, organization, or administration, a career coach can guide you in finding opportunities to build those skills.
Don’t wait until you’re desperate to find a new job, because you’re more likely to grab the first opportunity that presents itself. But you also want to be sure that you’re ready for one, as well, considering the time and financial output working with a career coach requires. If you’re not ready to do the self-reflection needed to examine your strengths and areas that need improvement, you won’t get much out of the relationship. A career coach isn’t the Oracle at Delphi — they aren’t all-knowing and have no magic powers. You have to be ready to do the work and put yourself "out there."
Finding the right career coach
As with any professional relationship, the best place to start is by asking people in your professional network for referrals — word of mouth is always the best advertising. If that’s not a possibility, consider searching online or through social media sites.
Other avenues include:
Create an advertisement on LinkedIn, which will allow you to receive pitches from career coaches.
Search the International Coaching Federation, which is one of the organizations that provide certification to its coaches.
Professional development seminars or conferences, either for a referral or a match-up with a career coach, if that service is being featured.
- Be willing to put in the work.
- Ask yourself what you want, and have an overall goal for the process.
- Give feedback. Let your coach know what is working for you, and what isn’t.
- Expect a guarantee. Every person is unique, and the job market can be unpredictable. If a career coach is making promises they can’t possibly keep, they’re not the right coach.
- Undervalue the process. You’ll get out of it what you put in.
- Forget to prepare for a coaching session. Your coach can’t help you if you don’t know what you want to get out of it.
Check their credentials
Don't just sign on with anyone. Check their experience and background. Do they have a history of proven results for their clients? Do they have a background in recruiting, HR, or leadership? You’ll also want to check their references, and see if the career coach is “for real” and that they put in the effort for their clients. A good career coach can’t perform miracles, but they can offer good service.
Work with your career coach
A career coach will assist you, but they won't do all the work for you. You need to find someone that you feel you can view as a partner in your career development. Take the time to talk to a potential coach, understand their philosophies, and what will be expected of you. If you’re not comfortable, it’s not a good fit, and you’re less likely to want to put in the work that is necessary for success.
Know what you want
Before you can find the right career coach, you have to know what you’re looking for in your career. Do you want a promotion? Better salary? Opportunities for advancement? A change of industry? Understanding what you’re looking to get out of a professional relationship with a career coach will help you find the right one who specializes in your areas of concern. Even the best coach can’t help you if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Decide what you can afford
Career coaching isn't a free service. How much a career coach costs to hire depends on their experience, background, where they're located, and the services they offer. A well-known or in-demand coach will charge more ($200+ per hour) than someone new to the field or from a "small town" location ($75-$100 per hour). Their area of expertise will also determine their rates — someone who works with high-level executives or "thought leaders” will charge much more than a career coach who specializes in mid-level career changers.
Some coaches charge extra for resume revisions, whereas others include that in the overall price. Understand exactly what you’re receiving for the cost. Check to see if they offer “bundling” opportunities, which may cost less, or if they offer group sessions, which may not be as individualized but will probably be more affordable. When you interview your potential career coaches, keep track of their rates and what they offer.
The Institute for the Future predicts that more than 85% of the jobs in the year 2030 haven’t been created yet. Being self-aware and honest about your strengths and skills is vital to making sure you’re not left behind in your career.
Is a career coach worth it?
Basically, at some point, you'll ask yourself, "What's in it for me? Is working with a career coach worth the cost and effort?" You're the only one who can answer that question, but consider the potential payoffs:
Learning what skills you need to succeed. Career coaches can educate you, if necessary, about the concrete skills you need in the workplace, which is especially valuable if you haven’t job hunted for a while or want to change careers.
Boosting your confidence. Interacting with a career coach can help you deal with the challenges you might face in the workplace and set goals for growth. With every achievement, you’ll boost your confidence, which sets you up for future success.
Saving time and energy in your job search. Don’t spin your wheels with tools and job search methods that aren’t helping you. A career coach can make sure you have an effective, outstanding resume that highlights your relevant skills, and provide interview advice. This will help you catch the eye of a hiring manager and increase your chances of landing a job.
Learning to network more effectively. A good career coach can teach you how to interact with other professionals in your industry, and help you get the most from your one-on-one time.
The bottom line is that you spend a good portion of your life at work. If you’re looking to make a change, move up in your career, develop your skills, or land a new (and better) position, a career coach can help you build your confidence, develop a more positive attitude, and provide the help you need to get to where you want to be.
A career coach works with you and advises you in a range of job searches or career issues, optimizing your growth potential. They’re experts in resumes, career planning, negotiation, motivation, and networking.
A career coach helps you decide what job experience and skills are relevant and helps you find your professional “brand.”
A career coach can help improve your job-related skills such as communication, organization, or administration.