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3 Things To Look For in a Career Coach or Career Counselor

As a Career Coach, I often get asked about my profession, how I add value, and how someone can tell if the Career Coach or Career Counselor they are talking to is “really” going to help.

Believe me, these are great questions, because there are a lot of people who claim to be coaches/counselors out there, but are unlikely to give you help of real substance. I can tell you from experience that the market has been flooded with so-called “experts”, and there are indeed measureable factors you can rely upon to realize whether or not you will get relevant, actionable advice.

When the economy was hit hard around 2008 and jobs were scarce, it was very common to find 200-plus job seekers crowd into a room hoping to gain insight that would give them a leg up in their job search. They would attend seminars that promised “secret resume tips” or information on “how to interview like a star performer and get hired on the spot!” Many of these lectures led to helpful, tangible steps one can take toward a new job, but some did not – and that can be traced back to who was speaking.

So how do you choose the right coach/counselor for you without becoming disappointed later on in the process? I would suggest that you look at three key areas:

  1. Trained Experience
    Does the coach have real, direct training, and how many years of experience do they have in coaching individuals through a career transition? There are certifications, apprenticeships and even degrees for those wanting to learn the basics of Career Coaching. Hiring someone who has specific training as a Career Coach (which in full transparency is my title) is often better than a generalist who coaches on a variety of topics not related to Career Coaching. After all, most want to hire an expert or specialist so that you reach your career goals faster. This is not always the case, but in general you pay for what you get. Make sure you know what kind of service agreement you are getting and be careful if you hear that their success rate is 100%. Every Career Coach is dependent on the client to do the work, use the strategy built and interview well. so successes will vary. There is no way anyone can guarantee your success. You just want to be convinced that if times get rough that your coach is committed to your success, the type that will go the extra mile and suggest steps to improve your situation.
  2. Methodology and Strategy
    Many practicing Career Coaches have learned the basic tactics in coaching like how to build a resume, how to identify career targets, or even how to negotiate a job offer. But some lack the ability to build a career strategy. They should be able to help you develop a strategy for finding a career target, and identify how that helps you find a career, not just another job. Do they have a method to help you find the decision makers in the job market? Do they know how to help you position yourself in that market as a valuable contributor instead of a job seeker who’s begging for a job? Are they helping you understand that there are specific questions in networking meetings that change depending on who you talk to and why?
  3. Chemistry
    Never underestimate the chemistry you have with the Career Coach as a person. The way they talk or present themselves to you must feel right. Their counsel should line up with your values and beliefs. Test driving a Career Coach for a session or two is wise. Follow your gut – it often tells you if this is a fit or not.

There are a lot of really great Career Coaches out there. I have met and befriended many of them. If you are struggling with how to grow your career or find a new one, consider investing in yourself and use these three steps to find a Career Coach who fits you.