Are you feeling unfulfilled in your current role? Have you applied to multiple jobs without success? Are you wondering if you are on the right career path? Do you want to switch industries altogether? If you said yes to any of these questions, consider hiring a career coach.
Career coaches are experts in career planning, resume building, interviewing and negotiating. While you may only search for a new gig or switch careers a handful of times in your life, these professionals are in the know of current hiring practices because they’re constantly helping job seekers.
We asked career experts to share everything you should know about career coaches and when you should hire one.
At the most basic level, having a career coach is like having a brand awareness team, said Rachel Bitte, founder of RB Consulting.
“These professionals understand how to pinpoint the best aspects of your professional experience and market it in the most attractive way possible to potential employers,” Bitte said. “They’re well versed in crafting resumes, career planning, motivation techniques and, most importantly, network building.”
According to Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, job coaches usually have extensive experience in recruiting or human resources.
“They can help you with a variety of tasks,” she said. “For example, with my clients, we look at long-term dream careers, what they currently do and how their next job can lead them closer to their dream job.”
Coaches also give their clients accountability to keep the job seeker on track to move toward their next role, Salemi added.
Many people assume a career coach is only beneficial after you have submitted dozens of applications and are in desperate need of a job. While this would be a great time to find a coach, it’s not the only time they can provide support.
“Whether you’re just starting out and unsure which path to take, hoping to chase a new passion, or you’re ready to move to the next level, getting an outside perspective from a professional can be extremely helpful,” Bitte added.
Salemi suggests hiring a career coach before you really need one.
“If you’re thinking about leaving your job, but aren’t sure, you may want to hire a career coach,” Salemi said. “It’s important to be proactive. Don’t wait until it feels like you absolutely detest your job and can’t stand going into the office.”
Salemi explained career coaches don’t all provide the same service. Some coaches can help with an upcoming interview, while others specialize in negotiating salary and benefits.
The best way to find a career coach is through word of mouth referrals from friends. However, you can also find great coaches on social media sites like LinkedIn.
“A career coach is not always easy to find,” Bitte said. “A referral would be [best] … but that’s not always an option. So, you’ll need to do some homework and dig through Google and social media to identify someone you can trust with your professional wellbeing.”
Lauren McAdams, career advisor and the hiring manager at Resume Companion, said it’s a major red flag if a career coach asks for a large upfront fee.
“Always pay by the hour for a career consultant’s time,” she said. “This ensures that you aren’t locked into a potentially underwhelming service long-term and protects you from a fly-by-night operation.”
While a career coach is beneficial to anyone looking for advice, some may not be able to afford one. You can become your own coach with a little discipline and direction if hiring a professional is outside your budget.
“By applying some simple tactics such as taking stock of where you [are], seeking feedback from a group of confidants and holding yourself accountable, you can figure out your goals and lay out your own roadmap to make them happen,” Bitte said.
Similar to the fees many professionals charge, the cost of hiring a career coach varies depending on their experience and credentials, field of specialty, success rate and the location of their practice. A career coach who is well known and respected in their field, such as a published author, will be able to charge more than a coach that is not considered an expert. Career coaches who are in high demand or work in cutthroat fields may also charge higher rates.
Generally, career coaches charge $75 to $150 per hour. More in-demand career coaching services can run from $250 to $500, occasionally even higher. When you’re choosing a career coach, the bargain option may not be the best option. Ask the coach if you can talk to their former clients before you agree to fork over any cash.
Most career coaches don’t hold a specific certification. Instead, many have become experts in their field and decided to market their skills to help the next generation enter careers they’re passionate about.
While some schools offer career coaching or career counseling certificate programs, such a certification is not indicative of a career coach’s quality. Their resume, expertise and references are much more valuable than any certification.
After you’ve found the right career coach, ask them what you should do to prepare for a session with them. Every career coach is different. Some will want you to come prepared with questions. Others will want you to bring tangible materials, like your current resume or a list of your career goals.
If your coach lets you determine your session’s direction, picture beforehand what your desired outcomes are and what relationship you want to have with the career coach. Write these goals down, and then figure out what you have been missing that’s kept you from achieving those things on your own. You can share all this information with your coach, and if you don’t know what you’ve been missing, ask them for input during the session.
The best way to become a certified career coach is to start with a thriving career in a competitive industry. Success in your chosen field will help you as a career coach, because you will have the tools job seekers need to achieve success themselves. Many career coaches only do coaching on the side of their successful career. However, if you’re ready to retire, becoming a career coach may be an ideal second career path, especially if you enjoy helping others.
If you don’t already have success in another career, consider becoming a career counselor instead of a career coach. While most career coaches work independently, career counselors often offer the same services, but are part of larger organizations – such as high schools, community colleges, charitable organizations or prison reentry programs. Instead of working with professionals trying to become executives, career counselors assist younger people or those who have fallen on hard times.
Bassam Kaado and Saige Driver contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.