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How to Know If You Need a Career Coach or a Résumé Writer

Updated: May 29

An image of a career coach or résumé writer working with a client

The career journey is long, and sometimes you hit some rough patches.

Maybe you feel lost in your job direction. Or maybe you know what job you want, but you can’t get an interview to save your life. Or maybe you just want to spruce up your professional skills.

Instead of unnecessarily floundering, it can be immensely helpful to call in professional support. But then the questions become, what support should you call in, and how do you find them?

Your best bet is likely either a career coach or a résumé writer. In this post, we’ll clarify what’s what and which one you might need.

Definition of a Career Coach and Résumé Writer

A career coach is a professional who can help you clarify your dream job. Then, they’ll help you land that job and excel at it.  

A professional résumé writer, on the other hand, is a specialist who writes effective résumés to increase your chances of getting an interview. 

While a career coach can help you throughout the entire arc of a job search and even help you with your career while you’re already in a job, a résumé writer shares their expertise on one specific part of the job search process: applying for jobs.

Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:

Type of help you need

Type of professional

Getting clarity on your career direction

Career coach

Crafting a strategy to find job opportunities

Career coach

Creating amazing dossiers (résumés, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles) that land you an interview

Professional résumé writer

Crushing the interview process and getting the job offer

Career coach

Negotiating a job offer

Career coach

Excelling in the first 90 days of your new job

Career coach

Getting a promotion at your job

Career coach

Let’s get into more detail.

What Does a Career Coach Do?

While a résumé writer will help you land an interview, a career coach more-or-less helps with the rest of the process. And many (but not all) career coaches are also trained as résumé writers.

That means a career coach can help you figure out what you want in your career and then create that for yourself.

More specifically, here are ten ways career coaches help their clients:

  1. Clarify career direction. Career coaches help clients discover a role that they’d enjoy, be good at, and get paid for.

  2. Create stellar dossiers that grab the attention of hiring managers

  3. Upgrade their LinkedIn profiles so that recruiters can find them

  4. Up clients’ networking game so that they can find opportunities through their connections

  5. Learn how to nail an interview through deliberate practice

  6. Negotiate skillfully to make sure they make the most out of any offers they get

  7. Do all the right things in their first  90 days of a new role so that their manager calls them one of the best hires they’ve made

  8. Get a promotion in their current company

  9. Develop a leadership  presence that commands respect

  10. Foster an empowered mindset so they are more resilient, optimistic, and don’t get bogged down in negative self-talk 

Many people who work with a career coach find it helpful to have a supportive force in their corner who helps them see their goals more clearly, believe in themself, and develop the skills to get what they want.

Is a career coach worth it?

Some people will tremendously benefit from a career coach, whereas others won’t need one at this point in their lives.

If you find yourself silently nodding your head at any of the bullets below, then it might be helpful for you to look into hiring a career coach.

  • You need a job ASAP. A career coach will expedite your job search process.

  • You feel overwhelmed by the job search process. Maybe you haven’t applied for a job in ages, or maybe it’s a new industry.

  • Applying for jobs has felt like hitting your head against the wall. If you’ve been at it for a while and are making no progress, it could help to call in support.

  • You don’t know what you want out of your career. You know you don’t like what you’re doing now, but you aren’t sure where to take your career. A coach can help your professional development.

  • You turn into a bumbling mess in interviews. Career coaches can help you practice interviews over and over until you find some real confidence.

Half of Americans feel something less than “very satisfied” with their jobs. Hiring a career coach may not be fully normalized yet, but the truth is that a lot of people could benefit from the support.

That said, if you feel at a point in your career where you like where you’re going, you feel clear on your goals, and you feel confident you can get there, then you might not need a career coach right now. 

Also, career coaches do cost money. So if you just don’t have the funds at the moment to invest in your professional development, then it’d be better reap the benefits of free support.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of it out there! Here’s our blog with tons of free articles to help you boost your career knowledge. Or, if you’re more of a video person, you can check out my TikTok.

What Does a Professional Résumé Writer Do?

A professional résumé writer will help you write (or improve) your résumé and cover letters.

As a client, you tell them about your career experience, and they’ll turn all of that information into a résumé.

It’s pretty straightforward. But don’t let the simplicity of it fool you—crafting a good résumé is an art form.

All résumé writers know that at the end of the day, a résumé is a marketing document.

A great résumé is custom-built for each job posting. The experiences selected, the language used, and even the aesthetic of the résumé should be tailored to the role and company.

If you have a masterful résumé, it massively increases your chances of getting an interview.

Is a professional résumé writer worth it?

73% of job seekers say the job search process is one of the biggest stressors in their life.

It ultimately comes down to your circumstances. But assuming the résumé writer is trained and skilled, then it definitely can be worth it.

Here are some factors that might suggest that it’d be worth paying for a résumé writer right now:

  • You’ve been shooting out job applications and have received very few (if any) interviews

  • You want to switch careers and don’t know how to properly present your career history

  • You have a complicated history with gaps or different types of jobs and are worried that your value isn't shining through

  • You're reaching for a higher level role for the first time and don't think your mid-level résumé helps you stand out

  • You are currently working and don’t have enough time to dedicate to creating thoughtful résumés

If you find yourself in any of those situations, then a résumé writer could save you time, stress, and get you better opportunities.

If you’re still on the fence, here are a few questions to test your own résumé building skillset. If you answer “yes” to one or more, then it could help to either beef up your own résumé writing skillset or outsource to a professional.

  • Are the résumés you send off to each job application more or less identical?

  • Do you struggle to brag about your accomplishments?

  • Do you try to convey your holistic career journey into your résumé? (as opposed to cherrypicking only the most relevant experience points)

  • Does your résumé lack metrics and quantified impact?

Hiring a professional résumé writer isn’t a necessity. But if you do find you’re struggling, and you could use a little extra oomph, then it can be a great help. 

At the end of the day, a great résumé could be the deciding factor between getting an interview with your dream company and returning to LinkedIn Jobs for another scroll-through.

That said, if you seem to be doing alright with getting interviews, then you might decide that it’s not the right time to invest in a professional résumé writer.

Alternatively, if you simply can’t afford to spare the extra coin right now, then it’s probably not the time to hire a professional. If that’s the case, here are some free resources to build up your job search knowledge:


How to Know if You Need a Career Coach, a Résumé Writer, or Both

Ok, so we know what a career coach is and what a professional résumé writer is.

Now let’s break down clearly which one you might need.

  • Do you need help knowing what you want out of your career? Then you could use a career coach.

  • Do you need help creating a strategy to find job opportunities? Then you could use a career coach.

  • Do you need help creating compelling job applications and landing interviews? Then you could use a professional résumé writer.

  • Do you need help positioning a non-linear career in your dossier (résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn profile)? Then you could use a professional résumé writer.

  • Do you feel overwhelmed by applying for jobs and could use help? Then you could use a professional résumé writer.

  • Do you need help acing interviews? Then you could use a career coach.

  • Did you get a job offer and need help negotiating? Then you could use a career coach.

  • Do you want help ensuring that you make an incredible impression at your new job? Then you could use a career coach.

  • Do you feel stuck in your organization and want to figure out how to get a promotion? Then you could use a career coach.

A career coach is your guide throughout the career journey, and a professional résumé writer helps you with one part of that journey and does it with great expertise.

That said, if you want to change jobs, it can be helpful to work with both a career coach and a résumé writer.

Where You Can Find a Career Coach or a Résumé Writer

If you are a career coach or résumé writer yourself, you might be interested in getting certified as a Senior Professional Career Coach or Senior Professional Résumé Writer.

And if you are a professional seeking any support in your career, then calling in a certified career coach or résumé writer can be a great call.

Here is a directory of career coaches and professional résumé writers trained by the International Association for Career Coches. You can filter based on certifications (where SPRW = Senior Professional Résumé Writer; SPCC = Senior Professional Career Coach; and MPCC = Master Professional Career Coach).

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