Whether you’re unhappy at your current job or dreaming of something altogether new, making a career change can be a daunting and time-consuming job in and of itself. Which is why many people turn to a career coach when they’re ready to put themselves out there and find something new. But hiring a career coach can be an intimidating investment not everyone’s ready to make. We spoke to Carole R. Harris, a highly rated career coach on Thumbtack in Lansing, Michigan, to find out when it makes sense to hire a career coach and when’s a good time to do so. Read on to find out if a career coach might be a good option for you.
What is a career coach, anyway?
In short, a career coach is someone who helps people find jobs or advance in their current job by giving objective feedback and helping people to approach the process strategically.
How do they do that? “I work with individuals to value all of their competencies—their experience, education, and training—and blend those together to build up their confidence when they’re looking for a new job, a career change, or advancement within their current organization,” Harris says. “I help people build a resume that truthfully reflects their experience and confidently reflects where they’ve been and where there’s at, so that when they get the interviews, they can reflect what’s on the resume in a behavioral fashion. I also do interview coaching and show people how to answer questions in a well-rounded way by giving them the key points they need to hit.”
Why should I hire a career coach?
It’s hard to market yourself effectively, but a career coach can help you see and value your competencies and not only increase your chances of finding a job that will make you happy, but help you decrease the amount of time you spend on your job search or trying to get that promotion. Their mission is to help you realize your goals faster and more successfully than if you did it on your own.
“A career coach will help give you confidence and encouragement, so you’re not nervous going in to an interview or to discuss a promotion,” Harris says. “It’s also important to make sure there is consistency with everything from the application to the resume to the phone interview to the interview to the onboarding process.” A career coach will give you the tools to succeed throughout the entire process.
Basically, if you’re feeling like you a want a change, but don’t know how to go about making it, sending out resumes, but not receiving any responses, struggle with interviews or networking, or have been out of work for a while, you may want to consider a career coach to help you get to that next step.
When should I hire a career coach?
You don’t want to wait until you’re having a career crisis to reach out to a coach (if you can help it). As to when exactly you should look for one, Harris says it usually happens when someone is either not in the right place/position or there’s a disconnect where they’re working. “I’ll begin a conversation to see what they like and don’t like about their job, if that’s where they want to be, and if that’s where they’re meant to be,” Harris says. Initially it’s just about that support and then from there, she works with clients to define the problem that needs to be solved.
Who needs a career coach?
Anyone who wants to change careers, move up the corporate ladder, or needs help navigating the job search can benefit from hiring a career coach to help with the process. Harris has worked with all sorts of people, whether it’s someone who loves what she’s doing, but is in a hostile work environment, a server in a restaurant who wants to figure out how to transfer his skills to an office position, or an executive who owns his own company but wants to stop working for himself and transfer to a position in higher education. Whatever the situation, a career coach will help you establish a plan that makes the most sense based on your goals.
What happens during a session?
Each session will depend on what you’re looking for, but think of it as a way to dedicate uninterrupted time to furthering your career, as well as getting feedback on things like resumes, cover letters, and interview techniques, while also getting new strategies to try out.
Will there be homework?
“You’re not investing in a career coach; you’re investing in yourself,” Harris says. “It’s a monetary investment, but you also have to put in the time. You can’t spend an hour a week with you coach and expect that to create change.” In order to maximize your potential for success, you’ll want to not just prepare for every meeting by organizing your thoughts and questions, but you’ll want to come with a list of jobs you’re interested in, a list of progress you’ve made, and any issues that have arisen or that you want to discuss.
How long will it take?
The length of time you spend working with your coach will depend on so many factors, like your goals, the economy, how much help you need, and a ton of other factors. However, Harris says the average time spent is six sessions (though it can take as long as six months). Some people may just need help with a resume and cover letter, while someone who is looking to completely switch fields may require more time to get to where they want to be.
How much does it cost?
Expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 per session.
What questions should I ask before hiring a coach?
Most coaches will do a free consultation so that you can make sure it’s a good fit for both of you. During that consultation, you may want to ask:
- What’s the average time it takes your clients to get a job?
- How long have you been doing this?
- What kind of training do you have?
- Do you have an area of expertise? (Specific jobs, resume writing vs. interview skills, etc.)
- What work will you do between sessions?
- What’s your coaching process like?
- Can you share a success story?
- Was there a time you weren’t able to help someone?
- How much do you charge?
Most important though is that you feel a connection with the coach and that he or she can help you get to where you want to be in your career.