In today’s economy, you need all the help you can get to make yourself a competitive job candidate. Sometimes, that means getting professional advice for your job search — on everything from how to write the best resume and cover letter to tips for acing your interview to figuring out exactly what your career goals are. That’s where a career coach can help.
A career coach is known by many names: Career counselor, career development facilitator, job coach, and vocational counselor, to name a few. These professionals can work with you on a number of aspects involved in career planning, including:
- Helping you understand your career goals by assessing your interests and skills.
- Providing information about additional education and training that would advance your goals.
- Providing information about a variety of occupations, including market conditions, trends, employment outlook, average salaries, and more.
- Giving guidance on conducting the job search, including best practices for the search, writing resumes and cover letters, interviewing and more.
- Offering expert advice for writing cover letters and resumes — or offering professional writing services for those documents.
- Developing strategies for promotion or career changes.
There are many more services that a career coach can provide, and your experience will depend upon your individual needs.
Who Needs a Career Coach?
A career coach can help any person who needs assistance with the job search or with defining career goals — at any stage in their career.
Roseanne Colletti of The Huffington Post says, “Remember, you don’t have to be laid off to seek the services of a career counselor. One can help you hold onto a job or even gain a promotion by helping you reshape your professional profile.”
Students might find the services of a career coach especially helpful. Young professionals lack experience and expertise, which can set them up to make many mistakes in the course of the job search or in making decisions about professional development. A career coach can offer counseling to help students clearly define their goals, as well as guidance for how best to navigate the job search.
Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach and the founder of Create Your Career Path with Hallie Crawford.com, says, “Most people we encounter really need help conducting an effective job search. With the internet and professional networking resources like LinkedIn, there are a lot of new tools job seekers can and need to understand how to use; I haven’t come across many students who know what LinkedIn is or who are using it effectively.”
In addition to helping job seekers understand how to use all the new tools available to them, career coaches can also make over lackluster resumes and cover letters to highlight your individual strengths and to target specific career goals. They can help you role play interviews and construct winning answers to some of the toughest questions. They can help you determine what positions will advance your career goals, and how best to land them.
How to Choose a Career Coach
“An experienced and competent career counselor can keep you focused and direct your efforts to fields that are not only within your reach but have viable openings. An inexperienced and incompetent career counselor can waste your time and money,” Colletti says.
The first thing that you should look for in a career coach is professional training. Many career counselors are members of the National Career Development Association and are credentialed as a Nationally Certified Career Development Professional, or have credentials as a Global Career Development Facilitator. Certified career counselors may be identified by the letters CPCC, NCC, LPC, or RPCC.
When you find a qualified coach, call or make an appointment to get more information. Interview the counselor about training and personal style. Ask questions like “What is your training?” “How much experience do you have?” “How would you describe your counseling style?” “What kind of clients do you help?” “What are your fees?” You want to make sure that the counselor’s approach will meet your needs. For example, do you like a more exploratory style that involves a lot of discussions and exercises to help you determine your “inner passion?” Or do you prefer a more concrete process that involves creating a time line for applications, job contacts, interviewing, etc.?
Try to find a coach who has experience with clients who work in your industry or who have shared your career goals. Are you looking to change careers? Be sure your counselor has experience helping clients navigate this process. Are you looking to move up in your industry? Make sure your counselor has sufficient knowledge of that industry and experience helping clients who work in it.
Make sure that you are comfortable with the person, and that you are comfortable with the fee structure. Many counselors charge an hourly fee, and you can end up spending many hours with your career coach. Therefore, you should be comfortable with the financial investment that may be required, and you should be comfortable with the personal style of the coach.
You should think about your goals before you make your first appointment with your coach. You can brainstorm some goals for your work with the counselor, or you can brainstorm some goals for your professional development, which you can then use to advance your conversations with the counselor. Drawing a blank? Understanding that you do not have any defined goals is also useful for your counselor, who can help you determine your interests.
Talk with counselors in the career center at your school to get recommendations for career coaches in your area. Even if you are enrolled in an online program, school officials should be able to offer you some information about services in your area, or can refer you to professionals who can work with you online or over the telephone.
Next, take a look at the National Career Development Association for a listing of professionals.
Finally, contact these professionals to find out if any of them are the right match for you: