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When You Should Consider a Career Coach

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Looking to switch careers? Feeling like you're stuck in your current job and not sure how to advance? Or maybe you're not sure how to build a bridge from where you are now in your professional life to where you want to be in five to 10 years. These are signs that it might be time to consider a career coach.

What is a Career Coach?

Think of them as a confidant to lead you through a confusing career maze. More than someone who simply provides feedback on a resume, a career coach is essentially your job therapist and will provide one-on-one guidance. They will help identify your strengths and weakness and guide you along the right steps to fill knowledge gaps. Alternatively, they may be able to spot strengths you didn't even realize you had, and show you how to highlight the bright spots in ways that lead to truer career satisfaction. Those who really know their stuff will help you find job nirvana, not just your next paycheck.

What to Expect

Like any new relationship, expect this one to start with questions. Because their goal is to get to know you, your work style, your career expectations and even things like professional fears, a consultation is usually the first step. Many use diagnostic surveys like personality tests to help them sync up what you say you want or what you think you excel at versus your demonstrated strengths.

And expect to veer into personal territory, too. Work isn't done in a vacuum. A great career coach wants to understand your life motivators to match you up with the right professional path. This might include questions about desired income, retirement expectations and even family situations.

What They Don't Do

Like a personal trainer or a therapist, they can't make changes for you or guarantee you'll land your dream job. They will provide you with a roadmap, recommendations and helpful resources, but they cannot drive the car for you. A good career coach will listen, provide highly targeted feedback and help you devise a plan to achieve your goals.

An even better one will do all of the above and also be your best cheerleader, doling out just the right ratio of carrots and sticks, depending on your personality style, to help keep you motivated during even the toughest challenges.

How to Find a Career Coach

It's not a regulated industry, but there are factors to consider to find the right person for you:

  • Are they certified? There's no official license, but there are coaching certificates that will help you identify professionals who have taken training.

  • Do they specialize? There are generalists and specialists, and both have their merits. If you are in a niche field or have a very narrow path, it's worth looking for a specialist. If you are mid-career and looking for someone to help you put together a plan for advancement, a generalist will likely tick all the boxes.

  • What do they cost? Be sure to understand the relationship and costs. Do they charge per session, or do they require a time-based contract?

  • How do they define success? Everyone's career success is different, but as part of the vetting process, be sure to ask how they work with clients to ensure high success rates.

  • Can they provide references? Ask to speak with current or former clients to understand if their style and expertise are a match.