How to Find the Right Career Coach to Meet Your Goals
Job satisfaction contributes to a person’s overall level of happiness, so it makes sense for people to do what they can to build a fulfilling career. Whether it’s to give your job search more direction or help you if you’re stuck at a career crossroads, a career coach can be a great professional asset.
Although it’s an added expense, what you’ll pay for a career coach now can be an investment that will pay off for years to come. But before working with a career coach, you need to figure out what you want to accomplish with a coach, then research and interview potential career coaches to find the right match.
Understand Your Motivation
Begin your career coach search by asking yourself why you need one in the first place. What are some of the pain points you’re experiencing professionally? Have you tried to solve them on your own without much luck? Assess what you’d ideally like to achieve by working with a career coach. Just as career paths vary, so do client objectives and goals. A few common scenarios include:
- Prospective career changers having difficulty deciding on a new direction or mustering the courage to make an actual move
- People who are unhappy in their current role and unable to figure out how to make the situation better
- Job seekers frustrated by lack of employer interest or actual offers
- Workers happy in their industry but looking to progress to a higher level or handle a specific workplace problem
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once you identify your career goals, you’ll be better able to search for and hire the best career coach for your situation.
Understand What a Coach Can’t Do
Once you know what you want to accomplish with a career coach, you can start your search. However, it’s important to understand what a career coach can’t do for you. Contrary to what some people believe, a career coach does not find you work. If you want someone to place you in a new job, you’re better off using a recruiter or job placement agency.
A career coach coaches you and does not do things for you. For example, your coach can help you identify the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals but will not do the action items for you. A career coach will hold you accountable for accomplishing the tasks on your plan (did you draft a new version of your resume?) and help you identify what’s stopping you from completing your tasks, then suggest ways to overcome the barriers.
Why Hire a Career Coach
There are several things a coach might be able to help you with that you couldn’t accomplish on your own.
Improve Your Job Application
Sure, you might be in love with Comic Sans, but using particular fonts on your cover letter could cost you the job. In addition to telling you which fonts to use, or how to format your resume, a career coach can also point out ways to make your cover letter and resume stronger, helping you land more interviews.
Help You Focus
Although a job search might start out exciting, after a while it can start to feel tedious and isolating. Having a career coach is almost like having a job search buddy, someone who is there to encourage and guide you as you go along.
It can be easy to get off track when you’re job hunting, and a career coach can hold you accountable by checking in on your progress, and reminding you that you have someone on your side during your search.
Help You Prepare for Job Interviews
Job interviews are challenging, even for job seekers who are on top of their job search game.
So whether it’s been years since you last sat before an employer for a job interview (or you had an interview just last week), almost anyone can benefit from practicing for a job in a mock interview.
A career coach will be able to commend you when you answer questions well, and critique your performance (e.g., maybe you look down too often when you speak, or you didn’t know how to speak about your accomplishments well during the interview). And a career coach can help you come up with strategies to address less than stellar parts of your job history.
You apply to new jobs every day. So why aren’t employers banging down your door? It may be that you’re stuck in your search. Maybe you have a routine that is no longer working for you, or you’ve lost the focus that you need to make the most of the time you spend searching. Whatever road bump you’re hitting, a career coach can help you drive around it—and drive your search in the right direction.
Maybe you’ve been job searching so long that you’ve kind of lost your motivational mojo. If you’re starting to feel like you’re never going to find a job, or if you doubt your ability to perform in a job that you know you could do, a career coach can dig deep and help you see your strengths and reinforce all of the positive characteristics that you possess.
How to Find a Career Coach
You’ve decided you could benefit from a career coach and have identified your goals. So, how do find the
Do Your Research
No matter who you choose, you’ll want to do some research on your top picks for a career coach. Have they been published or cited as an expert in respected media outlets? What is their track record for helping others? Read up on them online—do they have a blog or books that you can check out?
This can give you an idea of who they are, and how helpful they could potentially be as your coach.
Find Someone in Your Price Range
Career coaches don’t come cheap. Getting career advice tailored to your specific needs comes at a price, which can range anywhere from $50-$500 per session. Some coaches also have a minimum number of meetings that you’ll have to book them for.
When vetting career coaches, don’t be shy about asking them what they charge or if they have a minimum. The last thing you want to do is connect with a coach and then discover that you can’t afford them.
Narrowing Your List of Career Coaches
Once you’ve got a list of possible coaches, it’s time to whittle that list down. Start with some “big picture” criteria to help you eliminate some names from your list.
Understand Their Specialties
A generalist will have coaching experience across a wide range of situations and industries. If you aren’t sure what you want to do or don’t know exactly what your goals are, or need help with soft skill training, resume reviews, or interview skills, a generalist may be the right coach for you.
A specialist will have experience coaching in a specific niche. That niche could be people in the tech field, for example. If you know exactly what you want to accomplish with a coach or think that you need help in a specific trade, a specialist may be the better coach for your situation.
Experience and Success
When it comes to finding a career coach, make sure you ask the coach about their successes. How many people have they helped, and can you talk to them? Does the coach have experience and success coaching people in your situation or with your background? More importantly, can you talk to these people to get their take on the successes or failures they experienced?
You won’t be the coach’s only client. And, that’s understandable—good, even. A coach that’s in demand may be a more successful one. But, that also means the coach is likely busy juggling all their clients.
It’s OK for a coach to not respond to you immediately. However, if your coach isn’t responding promptly, that could indicate larger problems. It’s possible they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, which means you may not get the level of coaching you want. But it’s also possible that the coach isn’t worried about providing timely service.
Questions to Ask a Career Coach
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective coaches to your top choices, you can start your interviews. Ask some of the questions below to help you figure out who your best career coach match is.
What Is Your Technique?
Career coaches and counselors address job search and career concerns through an array of methods. One client may benefit from assessment tests designed to pinpoint jobs that seem to suit their personality and skill set. Another may need to pack some punch in their resume or work on interviewing more effectively. Pointed questions can help define priorities, and specific game plans can encourage action through accountability.
Figure out which technique you might prefer. Do you want someone that’s no-nonsense and gets to the point? Or, do you want to work with a coach that is not as direct or asks open-ended questions to help you figure out the answer on your own?
How Do You Measure Success?
Before you ask your coach this question, make sure you have a clear idea of how you define success. Is it money? More responsibility? Being happy? Once you know your definition of success, you can search for a coach that aligns with that definition.
Ask the coach how they define success for the client. Is it achieving all of the stated goals or only some of them? Does success mean landing a new job or just some interviews? Get a clear picture of how the coach defines success, and you’ll have a better understanding of how your time with them might be spent.
Can You Cite Some Success Stories?
It’s all fine and dandy to cite some stats on previous client success, but to really understand if the career coach is as good as they say they are, you should ask for some success stories.
This serves two purposes—first, it helps affirm if you’re on the same page regarding what success means to you both. Second, it helps give you some insight into what the career coach could potentially do for you by seeing how they’ve helped others in the past. If you’re still unsure, you can always ask for references and speak directly with past clients.
What Are Your Strengths as a Career Coach?
When you’re interviewing career coaches, you should think of it as a job interview, where you are the employer, and the coach is a potential employee. Remember, you are finding a career coach to help craft your career, and it’s important to understand what the career coach’s strengths (and weaknesses) are—and how they could potentially impact your success.
How Do You Establish a Connection with Your Clients?
Even though the career coach is meant to help you professionally, in many ways, it can become a personal relationship as you share experiences about yourself that can better help them understand who you are. That means you should have a great rapport with your career coach so that you can make the most of the experience.
Even though you want to find someone to help you professionally, it’s still important to feel a personal connection, too. After all, you’re going to discuss various aspects of your life—both professional and personal—so you’ll need to feel comfortable with the coach.
While you’re trying to find a career coach, make sure you’re also watching for warning signs that could indicate this is not the right coach for you.
High-Pressure Sales Tactics
While it’s important to discuss fees and budgets, you shouldn’t find yourself in a high-pressure sales pitch. A coach that’s pressuring you is likely not the right fit. It could be a sign that they are desperate for paying clients, or that they don’t care about you, only your wallet.
One Size Fits All
Just like you have a unique fingerprint, you have a unique career path and goals. While there are general things about you that could apply to anybody, like your degree or career field, your coaching plan should be individual and unique to you.
While you may never be able to prove that your coach is working on autopilot, if you get the impression that a coach is using the same plan for every single client, you may want to reconsider that coach.
However, that doesn’t mean that every aspect of your coaching session must be unique. Some coaches will use the same assessment test for every client, and that’s OK. Using the same test gives the coach a way to evaluate and assess you using tools and techniques they are comfortable and familiar with. The results are what help them design a unique plan for you.
Their Way or the Highway
The whole point of hiring a coach is to help you come up with a career plan. However, it’s not the coach’s job to create the plan for you. Your coach should help you identify your goals and figure out what you need to do to achieve those goals. What a coach should not do is hand you a plan and tell you to follow it. Just like you and your career are unique, your plan should be unique, too.
FlexJobs’ Career Coaching Service
At FlexJobs, we have a team of career coaches that can help you accomplish your career goals no matter where you are professionally. If you’re a FlexJobs member, you can take advantage of this service. Our 30-minute sessions cost up to 50% less than typical career coaching rates.
These one-on-one meetings are held by phone or video, and our coaches can help you with career re-entry, change, or transition; review your resume; provide tips for a flexible job search; build your confidence; perform mock interviews; answer your specific questions; and more.
Connect with our career coaching team and level-up your career today.
Jennifer Parris and Beth Braccio Hering contributed to this post
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on June 27, 2018.
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Jennifer Parris, FlexJobs Career Writer
Jennifer comes from corporate America… and a four-hour daily commute! Now, as a Career Writer for FlexJobs , she commutes to the corner office (in her house, that is) in under 60 seconds! Says Jennifer: “I’ve always been a writer,…Read More >
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