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The 5 Minute Guide to Choosing a Career Coach

Isn’t a Career Coach basically a Recruiter?

Despite what you think, Recruiters don’t work for candidates (in other words, you!). They work for, and are paid by, the employer. A Recruiter is focused on making a good match in the eyes of the hiring manager. A Career Coach, on the other hand, is paid by you and is your advocate to get a new job. Somewhat similar to a sports or entertainment agent, a Career Coach helps you put your best foot forward and get in front of the right people.

The “Right People” what does that mean?

The “right people” are hiring managers and recruiters looking to fill positions that you are both interested and qualified. Any successful career coach will have amassed a network of multi-industry contacts, and, more importantly, the tools to manage those relationships that go with that network, to help you get in front of the the people that matter, the ones with hiring authority.

Got it, so what else does a Career Coach do?

So this is a bit of a complex question. Since there is no one definition of a Career Coach, they could theoretically do anything. A GREAT Career Coach will:

  • Know the ins-and-outs of the recruiting process so that when you receive a message from a recruiter, your career coach has the experience to explain and interpret the message so you aren’t left wondering

  • Be an expert at reviewing AND writing résumés and cover letters--your time is better spent networking and preparing for conversations than sitting for hours, or days, writing a draft of your résumé and cover letter

  • Be very knowledgeable of and connected in LinkedIn—an expert with Search Engine Optimization (what parts of LinkedIn are more sensitive to SEO), an eye for design (create eye catching and professional profiles), and is very comfortable editing profiles (and understands the back-end of LinkedIn so you do not need to spend hours figuring out how to change something small, like your email address)

  • Stay abreast of developments in the job search world, like the rising use of Artificial Intelligence in recruiting, and how you should manage around the changes so that you stay at the top of the candidate list

  • Be an advocate for you and not in a conflict of interest situation working for employers at the same time as being your career coach—work with someone who is clearly on your side of the negotiating table

Ok, how do you become a Career Coach?

Unlike other professionals, say accountants, there is no standard test to take to become a Career Coach. Anyone can hang their shingle on the internet. There are a few certification programs out there, some just require people to pay money and take a test and get a certification. Others are very involved, rigorous programs that cover all facets of the profession with hands-on required demonstrations of competence. If someone says they are certified, ask them where their certification is from and research the requirements of that program. At the end of the day, though, nothing replaces real world experience. Here’s a good question to determine their experience, ask how many people they’ve personally coached.

So what should I look for then when choosing a Career Coach?

Ask what their network is like and who they are connected to in the industries and companies you would like to work. Ask the background of the coach. A coach that spent a long time in hiring, either at a company, as an outside recruiter, or both, would have a lot of knowledge of how the “hiring system” works and what you need to do to get past the first step. Ask if they have solid experience reviewing AND revising résumés? Can they navigate the back-end of LinkedIn as a job seeker and recruiter? Ask who pays them. You want someone working for you and to be your advocate.

Wow, sounds like a lot to think about...what’s the best way to start?

It is important that you and your Career Coach click. Your Career Coach should be your partner and if there isn’t chemistry, talk with someone else. The best way to get going is to interview a few coaches. See who you like, ask them hard questions about their strategy and experiences. After a few conversations you will probably realize the type of coach that will work for you (and vice-versa) and be able to move forward finding a job you love.

What other questions would you ask a Career Coach? Post below in the comments.

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