Thinking of Hiring a Career Coach? Here is How to Find One

A good career coach can be a game changer in your job search. Coaching costs money (sometimes quite significant amounts) and I want your hard-earned money to be well spent if you decide to use one. If you have only heard the word “coaching” before but have no idea where to start, I will share with you in this post what a coach is, why dealing with one can be good for you, how to find someone suitable and what should set the alarm bells ringing.


What is a career coach and how can they help you?

A coach is a person that supports you in implementing changes in your life. The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (source: ICF website). This means supporting client in taking decisions and implementing action. A coach will neither work at a deep level as psychotherapist, nor take you through a specific training programme like a trainer does. Instead they will help you to take that final decision you have wanted to make for several months, will help you prepare an action plan and will support you in executing it. The key word is “partnering” because a coach is your partner in the process And it’s you shaping the final outcome of each session.

A career coach in particular can help you with the following issues:

  • Deciding on your career direction
  • Deciding if it is the right moment to change jobs
  • Evaluating your job search strategy
  • Editing your CV, cover letter, LinkedIn profile
  • Preparing for an interview
  • Mapping out long-term career goal plans
  • Preparing for changes in your current role, such as seeking promotion, asking for a pay rise, etc.

Coaching can be dedicated to very specific issue (e.g. asking for pay rise, getting ready for a particular interview) and concluded in one session, or can work on a broader aspect like deciding your career direction, where detailing an action plan for it may require several sessions (from 6 to 8).

When is it a  good moment to consider using a career coach?

Reading the list of issues that a career coach can help you with, you’ll doubtless notice that you can probably do all of them well enough by yourself, or by discussing with your partner/family member/friend. You can even get a book or find the information online. So when should you turn to a career coach? First of all, it is good to find a career coach when you feel you’re stuck in a rut. Or when it has been months since you decided to make a change but you still can’t decide what that change should be. Or when everybody around you (family, friends) tells you can’t do it, it won’t work and you are longing for positive support.

Remember that you don’t have to decide upfront on a lengthy coaching. You can meet with your chosen coach for one session and decide afterwards if you want to continue.

Where to look for a coach?

There are few ways to find a coach:

Internet – almost all coaches nowadays have their own websites and by googling “career coach+your location” you should come up with at least a few options.

Professional social media – e.g. LinkedIn; again, by using keywords you can search for people providing coaching in what you need

Referrals – this seems obvious, but I would advise taking recommendations with a pinch of salt. The coaching process is very individual and a vital part of it is the chemistry and rapport between coach and client. It may be that the coach who helped your friend will not be suitable for you at all. It is a bit like cosmetics: the cream that works wonders for one person’s face can cause an allergic reaction to another’s  or like spare parts: what fits in one car, may or may not fit in another. So when somebody recommends a coach to you, take the contact details but do your own due diligence nonetheless.

How to choose a good one?

The tricky thing is that there is no formal, nationwide qualification or accreditation required to start working as a coach. That means that basically anybody can start labelling their services as “coaching” from day one and they have an absolute right to do so. How can you then distinguish between those who have qualification and those who are just taking advantage of a popular marketing term? Well, though there is no mandatory qualification, there are international associations of coaches that provide entry-level training and ongoing development. People who belong to such associations have undergone structured training and will meet an associations’ code of conduct in their practice. Each association has a list of members on their website, so you can look for coaches that are based in your area. Having said that, I have to add that this training is usually quite pricy, and you will therefore find coaches who didn’t undergo training for economic reasons but still provide a good coaching service. However, looking for an association accreditation helps you to stay on the safe side. The biggest ones are: ICFIACICCAFC

The other aspect is specialization: the majority of coaches specialize in providing coaching in a particular aspect of life: diet, career, relations, etc. If you are looking for career support, look for those who specialize in the job market, job searching and career change. They are most likely to have the knowledge that’s needed to provide you with the best service.

Check a coach’s credibility. See if they have any “paper trail”: blog, podcast, books. Look at their website. Decide if what you find is reassuring enough for you to part with your hard-earned cash”

Also, when choosing your coach it is important that you pick one you have good chemistry with. Somebody who gives you a positive feeling. After all, you will spend quite a few hours with him or her and it should be a pleasure! Most coaches offer a free introductory session – take advantage of that. If that’s not possible, insist on making a phone call to ask any questions you may have.

What should arouse your suspicions?

As mentioned earlier, anybody can start providing coaching or call themselves a coach. That means that not everything branded as coaching provides the level of service you should receive when paying for it. Below are two situations that should set alarm bells ringing :

  1. A coach telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. Coaching is based on the principle that all decisions are made by the client, and that the coach is there only to stimulate this process and help the client to see the bigger picture. If your coach tells you what the action options are in your particular situation – all good. If they start telling you which is the best one for you – be alarmed.
  2. A coach starting to analyze your issues on a deeper level. Coaching works with behaviour patterns, actions and decisions. It is not about analyzing which situations from your past made you act this way. You can share such experiences with your coach, but they should not push you to do it. If your coach starts to sound more like a psychotherapist – be alarmed. Even if your coach also has a psychotherapy qualification, when you pay for coaching service this is what you should receive.

Have any of you ever used a career coach? How was the experience?

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