Dear Sam: I am considering changing careers and my brother-in-law, who is in human resources, recommended I speak with a career coach about my options. What will a career coach do for me and how do I go about finding the best one? — Bob
Dear Bob: Let’s review some questions you should think about when making the decision as to whether a career coach is right for you at this stage in your career.
What do you want and need out of career coaching?
Are you looking for assistance confirming that you are qualified to position your candidacy for the career change you are considering, or are you earlier in that decision-making process and considering any and all options? If you need help uncovering what to do next in your career, then a career coach would be a great option.
What level of support do you need?
When I work with my clients as their brand strategist, part of my role is to discuss my clients’ career targets and ensure I have the evidence to position them as qualified candidates. If I feel, as an expert with nearly 10,000 resumes under my belt—and, therefore, just as many brands created and candidates’ stories told—that the applicant will not be seen as competitive, I would communicate that to my client regardless of whether or not I am wearing an official career coaching hat. Hence, if you already feel you are qualified for the career change you are considering, and simply need that validation and your transferable skills communicated across your brand, then a certified resume writer will likely suffice.
What depth of career coaching is right for you?
For candidates who need help defining what is next, career coaches can be a wonderful resource. For instance, I work with a career coach who partners with clients to help define their best direction moving forward. Now, career coaches come in all shapes and sizes, with many requiring multi-month contracts as you navigate the exploration process, with prices ranging greatly, qualifications varying, and deliverables being just as diverse. First, consider how in-depth a process you are seeking as many coaches have minimums in terms of hours invested. If you are just looking for something quick to validate your choices, find a coach who will spend an hour or two with you. Looking for total career exploration? Then consider a coach offering a longer-term program.
Where do you find a career coach?
There are several certifying bodies in the coaching arena including the International Coaches Federation (ICF) and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). Just because coaches possess a certification doesn’t mean they are superior to those who do not, but it does mean that some level of skill validation has occurred and they also prescribe to a professional code of ethics. Both association websites have directories of the thousands of certified coaches here in the U.S. and overseas. I also would recommend asking your network for referrals to coaches; you also could consider, instead of or in addition to a coach, sourcing a mentor to help guide your career journey.
What career coaching outcome are you seeking?
Be sure to tell prospective coaches what you are seeking in terms of an outcome. Are you wanting to undertake formal assessments to learn about your working style and preferences? Do you want to sit face to face and talk through choices? Are you okay with a virtual connection and simply need minor guidance? You are the only person who can answer these questions, so be sure to have an idea of your needs before you start making exploratory calls. This way, you will ensure any engagement you choose to embark on will meet your needs and help you take the next step on your professional journey.