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Should You Hire a Career Coach?

image for fizkes / Getty Images
fizkes / Getty Images

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, you might want to hire a career coach to help.

Career coaches are experts in skills such as career planning, resume building, negotiation and interviewing. While you may only search for a new gig or switch careers a handful times in your life, these professionals are up to date with current hiring practices because they're constantly working to help job seekers.

Business News Daily asked career experts to share everything you should know about career coaches, and when you should consider hiring one.

At the most basic level, having a career coach is like having a brand awareness team, said Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at Jobvite.

"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," said Bitte. "They're well versed in crafting resumes, career planning, motivation techniques and, most importantly, network building."

Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, said career coaches usually have extensive work experience in recruiting and/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 ensure accountability to keep the job seeker on track and moving 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, these individuals can help you at many other career crossroads.

"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," said Bitte.

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," she 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 also said that career coaches don't all provide the same thing. Some coaches can help with a big interview, while others specialize in negotiation and can help you discuss salary and benefits.

The best way to find a career coach is through word of mouth and referrals from friends, but you can also find great coaches online, such as through LinkedIn.

"A career coach is not always easy to find," said Bitte. "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 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 by a fly-by-night operation."

While a career coach is beneficial to anyone looking for career help, some people may not be able to afford one. If you can't, you can become your own with a little discipline and direction.

"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," said Bitte.

Similar to the fees many professionals charge, the cost of hiring a career coach varies depending on the coach's experience and credentials, field of specialty, success rate, and the location of their practice. A career coach who has published a book on their subject of expertise or is well known and respected in their field will be able to charge more than a coach who is not considered an expert. Career coaches who are in high demand or work in cutthroat fields may also charge more.

Generally, career coaches charge $75 to $150 per hour. More in-demand career coaching services can run from $250 to $500 or more. 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 major cash.

Most career coaches don't hold a specific career coaching certification. Instead, most 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 the word of their references are much more valuable tools to measure the quality of a career coach than any certification.

If you're thinking about hiring a career coach, bear in mind that not all coaches are what they seem. Although there are many reputable coaches out there who can help you with a career change, interview preparation, resume rewrite and more, career coaching can be rife with scams. Many career coaches have little to no experience in the field they claim to be experts in. Look into a coach's background and make sure you can talk to past clients independently before giving any so-called career coach money. An even better idea is to ask your friends if they have used a career coach. You can choose a legitimate coach based on their recommendations.

When you find the right career coach for you, your investment of a few hundred dollars will more than pay off in the long run. Career coaches can help you land the job you've always wanted, get a promotion or even start your own business. Their expertise and unbiased attention will help you get the results you've been hoping for, often in a fraction of the time it would have taken if you'd continued making mistakes on your own. That is the biggest pro of hiring a career coach: They help you learn from someone else's mistakes. Sometimes they were the one who made those mistakes, and they figured out how to get past them.

After you have found the best career coach for you, 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, such as your resume or a list of your career goals.

If your career coach lets you take the wheel and determine what you do in your session, imagine your desired outcomes from that session and your relationship with the career coach overall. Write these outcomes down, and then figure out what you have been missing that's kept you from achieving those outcomes on your own. If you don't know what you've been missing, ask your career coach for help 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 people trying to become executives, career counselors assist younger people or people who have fallen on hard times and need help getting back on their feet in a new career.

Additional reporting by Saige Driver. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Rebecca Renner

Rebecca Renner is a freelance writer in Orlando, Florida. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Washington Post and more.