If you’re thinking of taking the next step in your career but you’re not sure where to begin, how to prepare a long term plan, or how to position yourself to be considered for leadership opportunities either in your current organization or elsewhere, you might be a candidate for career coaching.
Career coaching services, broadly speaking, are designed to help you both refine the skill set needed to advance in your career and to provide direct support in your job search, help you consider job offers, or help you prepare to take on new opportunities and leadership roles.
But what exactly are career coaches? How can you find a coach? And most importantly, are there ways a career coach can help you find a new job, advance in your current career path, or help you change careers altogether?
If you’re not convinced that you need help from a career coach, jump to our look at ten ways you can level up in your career and get a whole bunch of useful tips for taking that next step all on your own.
Otherwise, read on to find out how career coaching works and how career coaches can help you.
What is Career Coaching?
Career coaching is, at its most basic, a service or set of services designed to help you kickstart, change, or advance your career. But in actuality, career coaching can cover a lot of ground and come in both high touch and low touch variations.
As an article from Harvard Business Review explains, “Career coaches provide a range of services, from helping you figure out what you want to do to exploring opportunities for professional growth to supporting you through the ups and downs of looking for a new job.”
It may sound like a luxury service reserved only for wealthy executives with base six-figure salaries. But the truth is that a career coach can be a valuable source of knowledge, advice and support in your career development regardless of your profession or where you sit on the corporate hierarchy.
In fact, says an article in Forbes, career coaching is more popular than ever as a record number of working professionals seek to change careers. In the aftermath of the pandemic, we’ve seen a shakeup in the way people are approaching work-life balance, how Americans are evaluating workplace satisfaction, and how willing many of us are to stray outside of our traditional working comfort zone in search of new professional experiences and opportunities.
But that doesn’t mean we all implicitly know how to change careers or advance on our current trajectory. It turns out that a lot of us could use some help. That’s where career coaching comes in. As the article from Forbes notes, there is actually a growing demand for career coaching and that “much of this demand is closely linked to the changing needs of workers that was triggered by Covid-19 and The Great Resignation, which led to 4.4 million people quitting their jobs. This demand has also increased the demand for new coaches to enter the field. New experts are taking part in this shift and have even adapted traditional coaching practices to address the ever-changing career path of clients.”
Today, these trends are converging with a few odd economic indicators. While the danger of recession looms, we are also experiencing record low unemployment numbers. Companies are still hiring, wages are still growing, and opportunity still abounds…for now. But these contrasting indicators suggest some economic uncertainty up ahead.
This means that now is the time to get your hands on some real job security before things take a turn. This alone may be a strong argument in favor of signing on with a career coach. The right agency may be able to help you seize the moment before the moment is passed.
How much does career coaching cost?
The answer to this question can vary widely, and will often depend on just how extensive the services are that you’ll ultimately require. If you’re just looking for a little help brushing up your resume and devising a plan for your job search, you may be able to pay for a one time consultation at a rate of just a hundred dollars or less.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for hands-on career planning and life coaching through the executive stages of your career, you could pay as much as $1000 per session. Presumably, if you’re paying that much, your career counselor has already succeeded in helping to place you on a strong upward trajectory.
But of course, there are countless service packages that fall somewhere between these two extremes. According to an article from Business Daily News, “Generally, career coaches charge $75 to $150 per hour. More in-demand career coaching services can run from $250 to $500, occasionally even higher. When you’re choosing a career coach, the bargain option may not be the best option. Ask the coach if you can talk to their former clients before you agree to fork over any cash.”
It’s up to you to decide just how much support you need, how much you can afford, and how much you’re actually willing to pay. Most importantly, know exactly what you’re getting for the price you pay. Find out what’s included first and be sure you’re getting everything you need, and that you’re not paying for anything you don’t.
How can I find a Career Coach?
If you’re considering hiring a career coach, start by asking around your personal network. Find out if anybody you know has had experience with a career counselor and get a sense of what this experience was like. Seek out a few referrals from trusted sources.
You can also try reaching out to the career center of a nearby community college for references. Most schools will keep a list of certified career coach services on hand. I know what you’re thinking…but I’m not a student at this community college.
Well, perhaps not, but if it is a public school in your county, your tax dollars do help to pay for it…not that you have to mention that when you call. Just be polite and ask for a few career coaching recommendations. The worst they can do is send you a bill for tuition…just kidding. We’re guessing you’ll mostly get nice, helpful folks on the other end.
Of course, if that all fails, there are plenty of great online resources for finding certified career coaching. If you plan to go this route, it’s a good idea to prioritize candidates who carry proper certification. Career coaching is not a profession which requires formal licensing. However, there are a number of certifications within the field, some of which carry greater weight than others.
An article from Harvard Business Review notes that the most highly regarded certification is issued by an organization called the International Coaching Federation. This certification indicates that the career counselor in question is adhering to the code of ethics specific to the practice and that the individual participates in continuing education as required to become recertified every three years. Identifying potential career coaches with certification from the International Coaching Federation can reduce the risk of matching up with a less than trustworthy counselor.
You can also reduce this risk by trying out a few options before making any kind of real commitment. The article from Harvard Business Review advises that “Most coaches offer free sample sessions, which will give you a clear understanding of what type of coach and coaching style work best for you. You may want a coach who incorporates specialty techniques like somatic coaching or meditative coaching, or if you have personal issues you need to resolve while also searching for a new job or career, you may want a coach who’s versatile enough to offer life coaching as well.”
Indeed, the right career counselor could significantly enhance both your personal and professional potential. It’s really all about what you’re looking to get from this relationship.
8 Reasons You Might Want to Consider a Career Coach
Now that you know how it works, on to the question of whether or not it could work for you. Career coaching may not be for everybody. After all, it does require a financial investment, so it’s important that your career coaching service actually gets results. With that in mind, career coaching can offer a number of very clear and quantifiable benefits to the right candidate.
1. Accelerate Your Job Search
As we noted above, time may be of the essence. The job market is hot right now, but how long it remains that way is quite uncertain. So if you’re thinking of making a move, now’s the time to take action. Of course, there are all kinds of steps you’ll need to take to get yourself in prime hiring condition, especially if this is your first time re-entering the job search in a while.
That’s where a career coach can be invaluable. Whether you’re looking for a new role in your field or a whole new career, career coaches help by identifying the steps you need to take to get there and by helping you to execute each of these steps.
As an article from Forbes explains, “career coaches can help you with all aspects of your job search process. This may include resume writing, interviewing preparation, networking strategy, LinkedIn optimization, job search tips and compensation negotiation.”
This support can be instrumental in helping ready you for the interview, promotion or career change in shorter order than might be possible on your own. Prepare to hit the job market running with the help of a career coach.
2. Improve Your Resume
Speaking of preparing for a successful job search, your resume is obviously a key ingredient. But how can you develop a resume that effectively conveys your experience and your career goals while also setting you apart from other job seekers?
Well, that’s where career coaching experience can be absolutely critical. Thanks to this experience, a truly qualified career coach will understand what hiring companies are looking for in a resume, what features can help a candidate stand out from the crowd, and which mistakes employers will almost certaianly view as red flags.
While resume writing isn’t an exact science, there are lots of right and wrong things you can do. With the support of a career coach, you can gain a better understanding of the dos and don’t of resume writing, and ultimately refine the way you present yourself on paper.
According to the article from Harvard Business Review, “Resumes need to showcase the right skills and capabilities to do the job at the level being advertised. A career coach can help you position your skills in the context of a potential role — especially transferable ones that don’t match up exactly with what’s in the job description. Not all accomplishments, no matter how great, belong on a resume. A career coach can help you determine what experience is relevant to the job you’re applying for and simplify your resume and LinkedIn profile with one message that will position you to attract recruiters’ attention.”
If you’re having trouble just getting your foot in the door for prospective jobs, this could be a sign that your resume isn’t getting the job done. That alone could be a strong imperative for looking into a career coach.
3. Get Help Building Your Brand
Of course, these days, prospective employers look well beyond your resume for an understanding of who you are and whether you might be a good fit for both the organization and the role that you’re seeking. That’s where building your brand comes in.
If you don’t know what we mean by “building your brand,” you’re probably a really good candidate for career coaching in this area. The article from Forbes notes, “Your personal brand involves words that come to mind when people think of you. It’s how you show up in different spaces. It can be shaped by how visible you are (externally or within a company), your interactions with others and the work that you produce. Internally, the work refers to what is produced by you within a formal or informal role you hold at a company. Externally, the work may refer to original content you create, books you authored or thought leadership you share with others. A career coach may be hired as a client looks to develop or update their personal brand.”
A career coach can help you more effectively shape your messaging and cultivate your image in important online spaces such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter while also helping you refine the language and visuals you use across an array of professional tools including your social media accounts, your business cards, your head shots, your resume, and more.
These items, together, will help you to create a strong first impression and a positive lasting impression with current employers who might be considering you for new leadership opportunities as well as for prospective employers who might be considering you as a new hire. Career coaching can teach you how to market yourself, which is a skill with incalculable value when it comes to your professional development and career trajectory.
4. Get Better At Interviewing
So a career coach helps you to develop your resume, refine your brand, and land an interview. But what happens next?
Are you managing to get your foot through the door without getting past the front entrance? If this is the case, perhaps you could use just a little bit of a tune up when it comes to the way you approach interviewing. Career coaches often specialize in helping you refine these skills.
The article from Harvard Business Review suggests that “If you tend not to move to the next round of interviews after the initial recruiter screen, you make it to the next round but don’t make it past the hiring manager, or you continually come in second place at the end of the hiring process, you may need help connecting your experience to each job. A career coach can help you answer tricky questions like, ‘You haven’t actually done [fill in the blank] before?’, refine your answers to other common interview questions, polish your executive presence, and practice with you so you feel comfortable.”
The best career coaches will actively practice interviewing with you, help you prepare for curveball questions, and arm you with an understanding of the kinds of answers employers are really looking for. Of course, you’re not there to tell employers simply what they want to hear. Honesty is always the best policy. But career coaching can help teach you how to effectively convey your experience, abilities, and qualifications in the best possible light given the job in question.
5. Expand Your Personal and Professional Network
The right coach is more than just a source for counsel. Career coaches often have deeply rooted connections in a variety of industries, especially in spaces like recruitment and human resources. Hiring a career coach can help you tap into a broader network of professionals both in your field and beyond.
According to an article from Indeed, “Along with teaching you essential networking skills, a career coach can connect you with other people in your industry. Since they work with many people, they may be able to help you find your next job or an important connection.”
Often, paying for access to career coaching services can also mean paying for access to influential people with whom your career counselor has established meaningful working relationships. Hiring companies, headhunting agencies, and corporate recruiters may even look to trusted career coaching services in their field in search of qualified personnel.
Indeed, with so many firms and businesses struggling to hire new employees, staff vacant roles and even promote from within, putting yourself in front of a career coach could ultimately help to put you in front of your future employer. As always, getting the right job is at least partially about who you know. A career coach can help you get to know more of the right people.
6. Support Evaluating Offers
So you’ve succeeded at every other step along the way and now you’re fielding two or more job offers. There are pros and cons to each of these options and you’re genuinely not sure what to do next. Obviously, this is a good problem to have, but it is a problem nonetheless.
A good career coach will work with you to evaluate those offers. Indeed, in this regard, you can think of your career coach as a partner in your success. Your coach will be dedicated to helping you take the next right step on your career path in ways that few others can be. This type of advocacy can be invaluable when you’re facing a dilemma.
As the article from Forbes notes, “Sometimes you’re in between two or more career options. Maybe you’re deciding whether to pivot into management or stay on the individual contributor track. Perhaps you’re considering a few options to bring your skills into a new industry altogether. A neutral perspective from a career coach can help you weigh your options objectively and help you make a decision that aligns with your short-term and/or long-term goals.”
Indeed, your career counselor may be the one person who can advise you on the next step while being truly divorced from emotion or personal bias. From the perspective of your career coach, every decision comes down to what’s best for you both professionally and personally. Just knowing this can make your career counselor a preferred source for counsel and insight as you navigate offers and make difficult career decisions.
7. Receive External Support in Your New Role
So your career coach helped you land a sweet new gig with a high salary and a whole lot of responsibility. This is obviously great news. But it doesn’t exactly mean you’re home free. In fact, this is a critical moment where all eyes are on you…not to make you nervous.
But it’s true. When you enter into a new role, you’re on something of an unofficial probationary period. This is when you prove that your hire was the right decision. And since we’re sure you’re more than qualified for the role, you are also more than qualified to provide that proof.
But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a little help getting it right. According to the article from Forbes, career coaching can be extremely valuable for helping you not just make the adjustment to a new role but to excel as soon as you hit the ground. The article from Forbes asserts that “What you do or don’t do within the first 90 days of a new position can shape your long-term success or failure. To maximize your chances of success, partner with a career coach to help you build a roadmap that defines what to prioritize, what to learn and what goals to work toward within that transition period.”
This can be an especially invaluable source of support if you’re starting a new career. Your career coach may be your strongest advocate as you navigate the uncertainty and unfamiliarity that can come with a job or career change.
8. Get Support for Advancement Without Your Own Organization
Career counseling isn’t strictly about the job search. In fact, coaching can be just as invaluable to those seeking career advice for advancing within their own organizations. For those seeking career growth without career change, coaching may be more focused on how to effectively manage, excel, and advance within or beyond the scope of one’s current role.
Your career coach could be an invaluable source for support and insight as you take steps to improve your current performance with eyes to the future. The article from Forbes suggests that your career coach can help you approach your own career planning from a project management perspective.
The article from Forbes explains that “Your career will be one of the most important projects you’ll manage in your lifetime. Like any other project you manage, it involves different people who play a certain role throughout the process, key milestones to reach along the way and measurable goals to work toward. A career coach can help you look at your career holistically and design a plan that leads to the big career ambition you envision for yourself.”
Work directly with a career coach and set your sights on something higher than your current position.
A Final Note
To answer the initial question from the start of our discussion, career coaching can absolutely be worth it provided you invest in the right service for your needs and career goals. But before you hire a career coach, you should be sure it’s the absolute best option for you. It will cost you money. And if that money ultimately results in a job that brings you greater work life balance, greater personal satisfaction, and a salary that is between $20,000 and $30,000 greater per year than your current salary, then it’s probably well worth it.
But you should also consider whether or not you can achieve these same outcomes without investing in career coaching first. Make sure you exhaust the free options available to you as well. For instance, says an article in U.S. News & World Report, “In addition to mentors who may offer you career advice free of charge, many communities and public institutions – such as libraries, school alumni associations and community centers – offer free or low-cost career support. Also consider whether you’ve tapped your existing network before committing to paid coaching services.”
In other words, explore every avenue for support up to and including career coaching before you decide to invest that money.
Career coaching is particularly common in business settings, where the insight and support of an experienced and knowledgeable counselor can help you navigate the sometimes complex and competitive hierarchies of the corporate world. Of course, it can also help to carry an advanced degree into this competitive sphere as well.
For those with aspirations of business leadership, the MBA is often considered a basic threshold. If your trajectory includes designs on leadership, check out our article on whether or not business school is worth it.