Table of Contents
- What is a Career Coach?
- When to Hire a Career Coach
- What Career Coaches Can Do For You
- The Unique Benefits of Career Coaching for Leaders and Executives
- The Types and Specialties of Career Coaches
- 5 Tips for Working With a Career Coach
- When It May Be Time to Stop Working With a Career Coach
- Harness the Power of a Career Coach
Getting laid off or passed over for a promotion can deeply rattle your confidence and make you feel directionless in your career. Doubt starts to creep in as you begin to second-guess your abilities and worth. It’s common to feel stuck in your professional life without proper guidance on how to rebound and move forward with confidence. That’s where a career coach can step in and show their value.
According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), over 71,000 career coaches currently help clients all over the world. In other words, there’s plenty of career coaching available. From helping you find a new job to putting you in the best position for your next promotion, they often provide the tools and resources you need to succeed.
In this article, find out more about what a career coach does, when you should hire one, and tips for how to get the most out of the experience.
What is a Career Coach?
A career coach is a professional who gives personalized guidance, encouragement, and accountability to help you advance your career, increase fulfillment at your job, and meet all of your professional goals. Career coaches work closely with their clients as they take an active role in creating strategies and action plans tailored specifically to their needs and goals.
While some people may think a career coach is just like a mentor, there are some key differences to note. A mentor mainly shares advice that comes from their experience. They can impart guidance and wisdom, but they often take a more hands-off approach. This is usually done at no cost to the protege. A career coach, on the other hand, is a professional who works closely with you to establish tangible steps. Career coaches also keep you accountable as they zero in on practical career development strategies and professional growth.
A career coach will use assessments, proven frameworks, and the latest industry research to empower you based on your core values, strengths, and career aspirations. Career coaching focuses on easily definable outcomes in numerous categories, including promotions, skills, and purposeful work. They can even help you when you need a total career change or engage in leadership coaching when you take on new duties.
When to Hire a Career Coach
Hiring a career coach is an important decision that comes with plenty of benefits, but it does come with a cost. According to research from Career Sidekick, the average rate for working with a career coach comes out to $207 per hour. That’s a significant investment, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, even with the expense, hiring a career coach can offer immense value at certain points in your career, including for the following:
- Job Transitions: Starting a new role or getting promoted can be a significant challenge. A career coach can help you hit the ground running in your new position.
- Industry Changes: When you switch careers, you need to build new skills and connections. With a career coach, you can make sure the process happens smoothly.
- Job Seeking: Sometimes, you need to find a new job. Career coaching can help job seekers in their search. One career coach, Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, shares this advice: “In the job search journey, if you don’t believe you are hirable, you likely won’t be hired.” Career coaches can help you believe in yourself.
- Career Setbacks: If you’ve ever experienced getting laid off or losing out on promotion after promotion, you know how frustrating it can be. A career coach provides the right guidance to help you bounce back quickly.
- Promotion Goals: If you’ve got your eye set on a particular promotion, a career coach can show you how to increase your odds of getting it. That includes spotlighting your achievements and developing valuable leadership skills.
- Skill Building: You may want to improve abilities like public speaking, management, communication, and more. Career coaching can prescribe the right training just for you.
- Overall Growth: At any career stage, a career coach brings clarity and direction to reach the next level. They provide an outside perspective that can give you greater confidence as you take the next step.
What Career Coaches Can Do For You
Unlike a business coach, who is concerned for the success of a company, a career coach cares specifically about you. Career coaching services provide benefits that are difficult to find elsewhere. As a career coach personalizes their services based on a client’s needs and goals, here are some of the most common benefits you’ll see:
- Help identify strengths and interests while aligning suggested career paths accordingly through assessments.
- Assist with decision-making, strategizing, and setting SMART career goals based on your priorities.
- Guide with the creation of a personalized career development plan and timeline to achieve short- and long-term goals.
- Provide accountability through regular check-ins and reviewing progress between sessions.
- Help improve networking, interviewing, negotiation, branding, and other professional skills every aspiring leader needs to have.
- Offer mock interviews, resume reviews, and tips to optimize your professional presence.
- Suggest educational resources like relevant books, courses, events, webinars, and materials.
- Role-play difficult work conversations like asking for a raise or resolving a conflict.
- Teach models and frameworks to enhance leadership, communication, influence, and strategic thinking.
- Put you in contact with their own professional network, making it easier to establish relationships and open doors you wouldn’t have otherwise. As career coach Wendy Braitman explains, “I’m a huge believer that it’s not just who you know, but also who you can know. Then build that network one person at a time.”
- Provide guidance on your job search, including tailoring application materials and interview prep.
The Unique Benefits of Career Coaching for Leaders and Executives
Those aren’t the only benefits that come from using a career consultant or coach. For leaders and executives in particular, a career coach provides unique advantages that will help them maximize their potential.
At the leadership level, career coaches can act as a sounding board, essentially providing valuable feedback on high-stakes decisions that can impact the whole organization. They give an unbiased perspective that weighs complex decisions involving stakeholder interests and other complicated variables. The best career coaching can also challenge you to uphold your values, even when significant challenges arise. They also ensure you don’t get complacent by encouraging you to continue all of your self-improvement efforts. Magdalena Mook, the CEO of ICF, says career coaching provides a valuable outside perspective. “[The coach] can see patterns and behaviors, and question them,” Mook states. “They can just be curious and question the status quo.”
For an executive, a career coach can create customized leadership development plans focusing on enhancing their emotional intelligence, communication skills, and strategic thinking abilities. But they don’t just share their knowledge and leave you to your own devices. A career coach will provide ongoing support when you face the unique challenges that people in a C-suite role often have to face (navigating company growth, shifting strategies with industry disruptions, etc.). In many ways, career coaches act as sparring partners, helping you think through organizational changes, obstacles to team development, and how to resolve conflict in the workplace.
Equally important is the career coach’s ability to maintain confidentiality in everything since they’ll likely be dealing with sensitive company information. Using this information, they can expand an executive’s vision as they help them develop the tools and skills needed to handle escalating responsibilities. Along the way, a career coach will show how to improve stress management and work-life balance.
The Types and Specialties of Career Coaches
While all career coaches aim to empower their clients, they specialize in different areas based on their expertise, interests, and backgrounds. Understanding these distinctions allows you to search for specialized career coaching aligning with your needs and goals. While some coaches provide integrated services, others excel in targeted areas. The following are some examples.
- Resume Coaches: Help optimize resumes to pass applicant tracking systems and impress hiring managers.
- LinkedIn Profile Coaches: Focus on optimizing LinkedIn profiles with keywords, compelling content, and SEO strategies to get found.
- Job Search Coaches: Provide end-to-end job search guidance from networking to negotiation.
- Interview Coaches: Prepare clients for critical job interviews by conducting mock interviews, and providing feedback and tips to answer questions confidently.
- Leadership Coaches: Work with managers and executives to build critical leadership, communication, influence, and strategic thinking skills through assessments and training.
- Career Transition Coaches: Support clients through major career pivots by re-evaluating interests and talents and developing plans to switch roles, departments, or industries.
- Personal Branding Coaches: Help define and build a personal brand and online presence that accurately conveys one’s values, abilities, and passions to attract opportunities.
5 Tips for Working With a Career Coach
1. Be Open About Yourself
A career coach is most helpful when they know more about you. Be open with them and share your full story. Talk about where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Share your hopes and dreams. Communicate your struggles, weaknesses, strengths, and more. Hold nothing back. The more career coaches get to know you, the more they can tailor their recommendations to your unique situation.
2. Collaborate in Everything
You don’t just have to sit back while your career coach does all the heavy lifting. Work with them. Collaborate on the action plans they create. Provide input on what you think will work and what you think won’t. In this way, you can identify potential issues early on. You don’t want to start on a new plan, knowing it won’t get you to where you want to go.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
This is your career and future. If you want to make progress, you must hold yourself accountable. A career coach can help with this, but it’s ultimately up to you to take it seriously. Come prepared to sessions with your coach. Evaluate your own progress every so often. Push yourself to succeed, and don’t give up. “The people who are going to be successful in their job search are the ones who hang in there,” Braitman says. You’ll fail to see results if you don’t hold yourself accountable.
4. Trust Your Career Coach
Career coaches want their clients to succeed. Your coach should do everything in their power to help you reach your goals. Trust in their expertise and guidance. View them as your champion and cheerleader. Let that serve as extra motivation for you to accomplish great things.
5. Be Prepared to Change
Making progress in your career usually means you need to change something about yourself. That might mean learning new skills or stepping outside of your comfort zone. Change can be frightening; you may push back on it when your career coach suggests it. Learn to embrace a new you. Don’t let a fear of the unknown keep you from reaching your potential.
When It May Be Time to Stop Working With a Career Coach
Like any professional relationship, the partnership between a career coach and client should be evaluated regularly to ensure it continues to meet your needs. When those needs aren’t met, the time to look for a new career coach may have arrived.
Signs You Should Consider a Change:
- You feel constant frustration, tension, or lack of trust in the relationship
- Your career coach’s values misalign with your personal ethics or leadership style
- You’ve lost motivation and rarely follow through on action plans your career coach has designed
- After several months, you aren’t progressing toward your goals
- Your career coach seems distracted, unresponsive, or disorganized
Harness the Power of a Career Coach
Career coaches offer immense value any time you need an objective perspective to gain direction and confidence. They can be an excellent resource for when you get a promotion or if you’re looking for a new job. While mentors advise, coaches actively develop plans and track progress. By understanding your needs and aspirations, they suggest strategies and resources tailored to help you thrive. With an experienced career coach supporting you, you gain an invaluable advantage to become your best professionally.
Just like a career coach can help you professionally, a life coach can help you in your personal life. Whether you want to improve relationships with family and friends or adopt a healthier lifestyle, life coaches can guide you in many aspects of your life. To learn more, read the following article: Niche to Mainstream: The Surging Popularity and Need for a Life Coach.
Leaders Media has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy.
- Weiss, R. (2020, December 21). 7 career coaches share the best advice they’re giving right now. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/21/7-career-coaches-share-the-best-advice-theyre-giving-right-now.html
- Gonzalez, A. (2022, January 3). Can a career coach find you your dream job? BBC Worklife. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220103-can-a-career-coach-find-you-your-dream-job
- Leonard, K. (2021, February 4). Career coaches best advice to job seekers in 2021. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/04/career-coaches-best-advice-to-job-seekers-in-2021.html
- Samson, A. (n.d.). 6 career coaches share the best career advice they ever got. The Ladders. https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/6-career-coaches-share-the-best-career-advice-they-ever-got
- Doyle, A. (2021, September 20). Career coach pricing: How much does a career coach cost? Career Sidekick. https://careersidekick.com/career-coach-cost/
- International Coach Federation. (2020). 2020 ICF Global Coaching Study: Executive summary. https://coachfederation.org/app/uploads/2020/09/FINAL_ICF_GCS2020_ExecutiveSummary.pdf