I got a career coach at the end of 2013, and it has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my career. Honestly, no one in my professional circle had a career coach, or kept it a secret if they did have one. The first time I heard one of my friends talk about a career coach was when I began contemplating shutting down a business two years ago. My friend used the career coach after selling her business; she wanted a new role that would allow her to spend time with her young kids and yet satisfy her desire to have a fruitful career. My eyes lit up when I heard about her coach because I needed someone to help me get clarity on a potential next move and navigate a transition. I had several questions:
- What would I do if I wasn’t running a start-up, and will my skills translate?
- Would I find as much joy in this next phase of my professional life?
- How much money did I want to support my lifestyle?
And, I still wanted to dream big!
My friend told me to give her a call for an initial and free consultation, and so I did. When the coach told me that she never met with her clients in person but rather over the phone, I thought we would never work together because I always envisioned meeting someone face-to-face.
Boy, was I wrong.
You probably will not click with the first career coach you meet, but if you do, go with it. After working with my coach for over a year and a half, I’ve discovered these facts to be true for me. Perhaps they will hold true for you too.
A career coach will help you grow. In my mind, a career coach is part coach, part counselor/therapist and part mentor for your professional well-being. Many people use career coaches in transitions or to handle difficult situations, but I have also found value in using a career coach post the transition phase too. Your career coach is someone who is vested in your professional success, understands your values, and that you are not just your career, but you as a whole person with life goals. Yes!
A career coach can provide objective advice and tactical strategies (e.g. email review, negotiation tactics, resume review, etc.) to take you to the next level in your career. Over time, he or she will knows your story, but is not emotionally tied to you like your spouse or close friend. Your close circle of family and friends are great resources, but they know you personally and so they are biased.
Ask any potential career coach why he or she is doing their job and what other work (e.g. consulting) that they might be doing apart from coaching, if any. Their answers will provide insight into what motivates them and other restraints on their time.
The financial investment is real. Career coaches are not cheap and can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per hour. Many coaches need at least 3 one-hour sessions to find out about you and go through exercises and assessments with you, so plan accordingly.
Remember, however, what you are expecting in return for their services – a higher paying job, more income at your current job, peace of mind at work, support to finally go after your dreams, and next level professional development. Framed this way, paying now for a career coach should reap long-term returns for your career. I am big proponent in paying up for quality and getting a return on my investment. Now, you get what you put in so if you are not ready to take advantage of what career coaches can offer, then you will not reap a big return on your investment.
Ask the career coach exactly what kind of exercises you will be doing, to explain their approach to your situation, and what are some tangible takeaways that you will receive. For example, my coach asked me to list every job, paid and unpaid, that I have worked. She then asked me to write down what I liked and did not like about each of these jobs. As we went through the exercise, I discovered many things about myself, including that I love using my creativity to execute on ideas but hate the redundancy of tasks. My coach discovered my values and the type of work that aligns well with my values.
If you are financially constrained, ask your potential career coach if he or she has any special packages or arrangements to meet you where you are financially.
Your inner confidence will jump to a new level. I’m sure you are a confident person if you’re reading about how to get to the next level in your career. Working with a career coach, however, can give you a deeper connection to yourself and eventually make you more confident in your skills and your value to the world.
Unexpected work difficulties or past work failures can break the spirit of even the most confident people you know. Alternatively, work successes and achievements can cause a level of contentment for over-achievers. Regardless of the end of the spectrum you fall in, a good career coach will force you to evaluate why you make (or refrain from) certain work decisions. You will be in tune with your own inner compass.
A great career coach will remind you that work is what you do, and not who you are. She will push you to be your best whole self, recognizing that if you have other emotional or physical stuff that you need to work out, it will be hard to advance in your career. If you are not doing a lot of self-introspection with your coach, then alarm bells should be going off in your head. Run quickly and find someone else who pushes you to this level.
Your career coach will hold you accountable to hitting milestones, just like a physical trainer. And in the process, you will sharpen your intuition and handle difficult situations much more effectively.
Whether you’re stuck in your current career or want to take it to the next level, consider getting a career coach. Be patient and recognize that it may take six months to a year to see tangible results. I’m telling you – you will look back and have your own breakthrough story to tell.