6 Tips to Connect With the Right Career Coach
Hiking a forest trail for the first time is a lot easier with a map and compass. When you're starting down the path to a new job, a career coach can serve as a similar type of personal navigation system.
One of the biggest advantages to hiring a career coach is the fear it takes out of the job-hunting process. "A coach can keep you focused and moving forward," says Paula Gregorowicz, a Philadelphia area business and career coach.
A coach can steer you to a job that's a good fit for your personality, work on your resume, research companies and available positions, prepare you for a job interview or network on your behalf.
If you're switching careers, a coach also can help repackage your experience and skills in a way that makes you attractive to recruiters or hiring managers in a different industry. For example, job search and social media coach Miriam Salpeter once wrote a resume for a youth services worker who wanted to return to the accounting work he'd done years before. "We created a resume to demonstrate how he used accounting skills as a youth worker, and he landed a job in a big company, even in a tough economy," she says.
Here's what the experts suggest if you're considering hiring a coach to help with the job hunt:
1. Get a referral.
Start your hunt by asking for referrals from friends or colleagues who used a coach for a job search. Look at a coach's website (most have one) for endorsements, or check on LinkedIn for recommendations from past clients. While you're investigating, look for clues that show how connected they are to the hiring community: The more plugged in, the more likely it is they're up to speed on what's needed and expected of job seekers right now, Salpeter says.
2. Check credentials.
Career coaches don't need to be certified, though many are. If a coach is certified, it's probably through the International Coach Federation (ICF), a major organization in the profession. Some coaches may have college training in counseling or psychology and refer to themselves as "counselors" or "career professionals." Regardless of their background, if you're switching careers or industries, consider using a coach who's been through a similar change, since it could influence the advice they give you, Gregorowicz says.
3. Track how active they are online.
With so many companies using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to engage with potential job candidates, it pays to work with a coach who's savvy about using social media for job hunting. That should be easy enough to discern: Do they have a blog? If so, see how often they post and read the kind of advice they're sharing to decide if it's anything you could learn from. On social networks, see how often they're sharing tweets or status updates. "Can someone teach you about Twitter if he rarely tweets? Perhaps, but assume you will not be learning cutting-edge information," Salpeter says.
4. Make a phone call to test the waters.
Most coaches are happy to answer a few questions from a potential client about how they operate. Interview several prospects. After that, go with your gut. "If you have a good feeling about the coach, it is probably a good fit. If you feel like you need all kinds of additional information and research before investing, maybe it is not a good fit," Salpeter says.
5. Expect services -- and fees -- to vary.
Coaches provide a smorgasbord of services that could include administering personality or assessment tests to uncover jobs you could be good at, writing or redoing resumes, holding practice interviews and networking on your behalf. Some coaches map out the steps you need to take to get from where you are to the job of your dreams, including determining courses or training you might need, helping develop your personal brand, and teaching you how to market your skills. Rates vary based on the services offered. Fees start at $75 to $150 a month for coaches with a little experience who may still be working on certification, and go as high as $375 a month or more for certified coaches with a lot of experience and busy practices.
6. Consider low- or no-cost alternatives.
If you can't afford private, one-on-one coaching, there are cheaper options. Some coaches work for nonprofit employment services and charge on a sliding scale based on what a job seeker can pay. Phyllis Mufson, a Philadelphia career coach and consultant, counsels college graduates to investigate whether their alumni career office has qualified coaches on staff who offer their services for free.
Regardless of the cost, working with a coach can pay you back in increased confidence, knowledge and focus, "and in many cases, help you save time on your search," Mufson says.
Have you successfully worked with a career coach? If so, we'd love to hear about it. Leave details about your experience in the comments section below.
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