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How Do I Choose a Career Coach?

Mar 22, 2011

If you're looking for a job, you know the competition is tough. A good career coach can give you the edge you need to land a great position. Read on to find out if a career coach is for you, and how to find one that's qualified to meet your needs.

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What Does a Career Coach Do?

Career coaches can help you assess your long- and short-term career goals, create a compelling resume, and bolster your interviewing skills. They may provide a variety of other useful services as well, including:

  • Job skill assessments
  • How to dress for success
  • Guidance on professional or graduate programs
  • How to deal with anxieties, fears, and doubts that come up during the job search

Not all coaches help with all these issues, however; some specialize in 1 or 2 areas. It's important to find a coach that meets your particular needs.

Do I Need a Career Coach?

While it's certainly possible to find a job on your own, a good career coach can save you time and effort. They might even 'save' you money, in the sense that you could land a job much sooner than you would on your own (and start getting paychecks!). If you're a very savvy job seeker, you may not need a coach. Cost may be a factor, too - fees vary significantly, with some coaches charging under $100 per hour and others more than $500 per hour.

Here are some cases in which you may consider hiring a career coach:

  • You've been struggling to find a job on your own for some time
  • You're returning to the workforce after an absence
  • You're sending out tons of resumes but not getting interviews
  • You're getting lots of interviews but not getting job offers
  • You're having trouble staying motivated
  • You're anxious about the job search process, losing confidence, or doubting yourself

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How Do I Find a Good Career Coach?

Anyone can call him or herself a career coach, regardless of training or experience. It's important to screen potential coaches and use caution.

Look at Qualifications

Look for someone with experience relevant to what you need. For example, if you're returning to the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom, ask a potential coach about his or her experience working with similar clients. If you get really nervous when you go to job interviews, ask if the coach has worked with job seekers who have the same issue.

You may also look for coaches who are certified by professional organizations. The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches and the International Coaching Federation are just a couple of examples. Certification can show that a coach has formal training, stays up to date with current trends, and abides by ethical practices.

Ask for Testimonials

Most career coaches have a website, and they often provide testimonials. If none are provided, ask the coach for more information; you can also ask for case studies or references. Don't be shy about contacting those references and asking each person about their experiences with the coach.

Look at Payment Policies

Be on the lookout for scams and charlatans - there are many out there in this field. Generally, a coach shouldn't ask you for money up front. As with most professional services, you should be able to pay after each session. Some coaches do offer packages that may save you money on multiple sessions. That's fine, but make sure to get the contract in writing, and find out what type of guarantee the coach offers.

Ask for a Free Consultation

Many coaches offer free 15- to 30-minute consultations. Beforehand, write down all of the issues you want to address with the coach. That way, you'll be able to ask if he or she can help with your specific problems. Pay attention to the coach's style. Do you feel comfortable with the potential coach? Does he or she listen carefully and respond sensitively? Does it seem like the coach genuinely wants to help? If so, you've probably found a good match. If not, keep looking.

If you're still in school, consider taking advantage of the services offered by your college career center.

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