Sometimes, people aren’t sure whether it’s time to reach out for help. Is the house on fire, or did you just seriously over-toast a bagel? Is it a heart attack, or a pulled muscle? Are you a little frustrated with your job search… or do you seriously need the assistance of a career coach?
As a career coach, I’d like to suggest that you not wait until the house is on fire! We can save you time, money and emotional pain in most cases. But before you invest in the services of a career coach, it is worth asking yourself a few questions, and looking for signs that you’d benefit from some help.
Twelve signs you need a coach
If any of the following apply to you, this might be the right time for a career coach. If several of them apply to you, you’ve got a pretty strong case in favor of seeking us out.
You need a job fast. This can happen because you are unexpectedly downsized, re-org’ed, or plain fired. It can also be the result of a change in life circumstances such as a sudden move, a divorce, or a death in the family. If you’re in frantic scramble mode, odds are good you are emotionally overwhelmed and financially destabilized, neither of which is likely to lead to great decision-making. We can help.
You’re feeling unsure about the entire process. Has it been a zillion years since you looked for a new role? Heck, even if it’s been two years, you might find yourself in an unfamiliar landscape; the work world and hiring practices don’t sit still! If you’re unsure of what to do, how to stand out, or how to locate jobs that align with your needs and hopes—it’s a great time to call a coach.
You’ve been looking for work for over a month and gotten nowhere. Even savvy, experienced job-seekers can hit a wall. We feel your pain. We also have special sledgehammers to remove inconvenient walls. We’ll be able to identify the likely blockade and figure out how to remove it.
You lack clarity on what you want to do for work. Maybe you’re a recent graduate. Maybe you’ve stepped away from the workforce to care for children or parents; maybe you’ve just never really liked your job and are starting to question things. If you’re miserable in your job and can’t even articulate why, fear not. Part of what career coaches do is help people figure out your “Holy Trinity” of job placement: what you care about, what you’re good at, and what offers you the salary you need and deserve.
You need someone to hold you accountable. You’re a killer project manager—except when the “project” is locking down a new role. If job search anxiety turns you into an avoidance machine, it might be good news for your sock drawer, your garage, and that scarf you had half-knitted. It won’t get you out of the anxiety loop though. Your career coach can and will give you deliverables and keep a motivational fire lit under you.
You lack confidence in your skills and abilities. Interestingly, many of the best career coaches I know have struggled with exactly the same issue; many of us have arrived in this profession after confidence-knocking careers in other sectors (or recovering from plain old impostor syndrome). Your coach probably knows exactly what it feels like to feel unworthy of the role you really want, and will have insights and tools for getting past it.
You feel like you have no network, no one you can reach out to for a warm lead.
Your dossier is awful. You’re an ace cybersecurity expert, but your resume looks like a robot wrote it, you can’t write a compelling cover letter to save your life, and your LinkedIn profile doesn’t even make clear what your skills are. Your career coach has the skills to illuminate your skills.
You’ve asked ten friends to review your resume and you got ten totally different reactions. This is a sign that your resume could be clearer and better. Your career coach should know the norms and expectations around resumes or CVs for your sector, and should be able to distill your experiences and talents into a highly readable and compelling marketing document that will get the attention of recruiters.
You flail in interviews. You are so not alone. Even hardcore “people person” types can turn into inarticulate, tongue tied or babbling messes under pressure. If you have the feeling your interview performance is tanking your job prospects, you might be right. Your career coach can do mock interviews with you until you know exactly what to say (and what not to)—not to mention what to wear, how to optimize your lighting in an online meeting, and how to use body language to convey confidence and competence if you’re interviewing in person.
Six signs you DON’T need a coach
On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to know when you’re on track on your own. It feels a lot like “not being in a protracted job search because you are happy where you are, or you can easily identify your target role and get the attention of recruiters.” If that’s you, congratulations! And if you’re not sure if that’s currently you, here are a few signs to look for:
You feel very clear on what is next for you, and what you need to do to get there. If you’re feeling confident that you have a goal and a solid game plan for reaching it, you’re adequately coaching yourself.
You are happy with your career progression. Not everyone hates their job, and trust me, there is nothing wrong with being satisfied with your present role. That’s what we career coaches want for our clients in the first place. If you enjoy your work, get along with your managers, have positive performance reviews and appropriate raises and promotions, congratulations! You have no particular need for a career coach.
You have a strong network and support system: if you need something, you know who might be able to help you get it. You’re not afraid to ask for “favors” and you don’t take it personally when a friend or colleague cannot deliver on one. If you’re in between jobs, it’s not ruining your family financially; you’re not struggling to pay bills and you have trusted people to talk to if things aren’t going as hoped. You probably don’t need a coach.
You’re highly motivated, disciplined and organized. Your best friends are your spreadsheet app, your calendar, and your vision board. You ruthlessly carve out time for whatever skill-building, dossier-revamping, recruiter cold-calling and image management tasks need to get done. You’ve got a laser focus on what’s next for you and you understand how to keep moving toward it. No ethical coach would say you need them! Keep going, you’ve got this!
You aren’t easily rattled by rejection; you have high confidence in your abilities and a good level of self-awareness.
You genuinely don’t have the funds to make this investment, and you’re targeting a “passion project” role that happens not to come with the sort of salary that makes coaching pay for itself. This might be most true for recent graduates who are new to the workforce, and people whose happy place is the nonprofit world, the arts, or academia. If three months of career coaching would cost you 6K, but you have 100K in student loans and your dream job comes with a nightmare pay range (or it’s a necessary stepping stone to the dream job that does make you a decent living)? You should proceed with extreme caution where coaches are concerned. Most people find career coaching pays for itself in increased salary, better benefits and better upward mobility—but there can be exceptions.
How to find your coach
Career coaches are—literally and figuratively—all over the map. Finding one isn’t especially tough, but as with any service profession, the fit matters, and it helps to understand what you need. Some career coaches are generalists and some have a very specific niche. Each has a particular lens they use to evaluate a client’s situation, and of course, we all have unique personalities.
Start by asking your network. Check in with friends and colleagues—if any of them has worked with a career coach, they’ll probably be happy to tell you what they appreciated (or didn’t) about the person they chose.
Are you a recent graduate? Your college probably has a career placement office. Talk to them! They should have all kinds of referrals.
Google it. Searching online is as easy a way as any to find qualified career coaches in your field; it’s a rare career coach who has no online presence. Most of us are easy to find. Bear in mind that physical proximity isn’t an issue with career coaching—try search terms like “Career coaches for women in marketing” or “career coaches helping people pivot into tech.”
Let your budget do the talking. You might be under significant cost constraints if you’re in between jobs. Take that into account. We don’t all charge the same rates, and it’s not always a case of “the less expensive coaches aren’t as good.” The less expensive coach might be newer to the profession, or working in an area with a less robust economy. None of that means they won’t be a great fit for you.
Start your search from a place of self-awareness. In other words: know what you need. And I mean that not only in terms of the role you want, but also the kind of relationship you’d need to have with a coach. You will not find coaching pays off if you can’t stand your coach or find you’re constantly questioning their advice, their ethics, or any other aspect of the relationship.
Talk to them in person before making a decision. See if you’re a good personality fit—if a coach rubs you the wrong way, it’s a sign to keep looking. When you’re under stress that dynamic is only going to get worse, and odds are good your coach isn’t enjoying it any more than you are. And don’t be afraid to ask questions like “What personality types do you find you work best with?” Any reasonable career coach would consider that a reasonable question.
If you need help locating the right people, try our coach finder. It can match you with certified prospective coaches who might fit your needs.