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Thinking about a Career Coach? Why and how to hire one

I have heard many of my clients say: “Hiring a career coach was one of the better decisions I’ve made.” Selecting the right coach before you even start your relaunch provides many benefits.

By Arjan Eenkema van Dijk

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk, MBA, is a certified Executive Coach, speaker and facilitator and an expert in leadership development, personal branding, communication, career transition, and positive intelligence. As Founder and President of InspireShift, LLC., Arjan works both nationally and internationally with executives, leaders, business owners and individuals to define and attain their leadership and career objectives.

Beth, an international brand marketing executive, had taken a ten-year break from work. When she felt it was time to return, she was excited, yet overwhelmed. With three young children and a husband who traveled frequently, her ideal was to start with a 20-hour part-time position which is not easy to land! She was still passionate about the global marketing of upscale products and wanted to work with bright colleagues in a stimulating environment. Beth hired me as her career coach. She lacked confidence and was worried that she wasn’t up to date with branding and industry practices. Six months later, Beth got a 20-hour per week contract on a big project in international marketing with a Fortune 100 company. A few years later, on her schedule, she was offered a full-time position in one of the company’s most prestigious product lines.

Could Beth have re-entered the workforce without a career coach? Of course. But by working with a coach, she probably landed her job more quickly, and she did it on her terms: getting back to the field by starting off in a contract position to test the waters, and later, evolving into a full-time executive role.

I work with many clients who decide to return to work - relaunch - after a break. Their enthusiasm fades when reality hits, and they ask themselves: “Where do I start?” A career coach can answer this. Embarking on a job search is difficult and nothing we were ever taught at school. Moreover, if your sabbatical lasted for more than a few years, your previous approach to job hunting may be obsolete as both the job landscape and the process evolve rapidly. A coach can help you understand the current environment and navigate the search towards success.

We hire a contractor to build our house, a mechanic to fix our car, so why do we hesitate to hire a coach to help with our career? Some of us are tough on ourselves and feel we should tackle reentry on our own, even on unfamiliar terrain. Others may not immediately recognize the added value of a coach. Finally, figuring out how to select the right coach can seem daunting. If this sounds familiar, please read on.

I have heard many of my clients say: “Hiring a career coach was one of the better decisions I’ve made.” Selecting the right coach before you even start your relaunch provides many benefits. It will:

  1. Dramatically increase your chances of finding your dream job
  2. Get you hired faster
  3. Lead to savings - yes, you are reading this correctly!
  4. Make this experience a lot more fun...well, at least palpable!

Benefit 1: Finding your dream position

Whether you want to return to a position similar to the one you had before or completely reinvent yourself, a career coach will help you land the job that fits with your personality, interest, skills and values. This will ensure that your future work will be satisfying. The coach will help you gain clarity about career direction, develop a search strategy, and guide you through the process.

Determining a career direction is a very individualized process - a period of discovery and exploration. You must assess who you truly are, what motivates you and, simply what makes you tick! A coach will explore these topics with you and help you unearth the answers. This, in combination with helping you understand the multitude of today’s career options, will lead to a custom action plan, and ultimately a fulfilling work experience.

Benefit 2: Accelerate your search and get you hired faster

Once your career direction, ideal position and strategy have been established, your advisor will hold you accountable to stay on track and pursue a more focused and efficient search.

Additionally, a coach will help you to position yourself by crafting the right materials - résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, online presence - to present your achievements, skills and strengths successfully. Looking for a job is like brand marketing; you’re marketing yourself and it’s a competitive game. Developing the perfect elevator pitch, becoming a master networker, and interviewing with impact and confidence will help you secure the right position.

These combined services will ultimately reduce the amount of time it takes for you to return to work.

Benefit 3: Money in the Bank

Each week without a job is a week without salary. If a coach helps you find a position three months earlier than you could have done on your own, you will have saved $37,500 on a $150,000 position. Plus, the expertise to help you negotiate a higher salary means the return on the investment of hiring a coach beats the stock market.

Benefit 4: A more enjoyable process

Job hunting requires a tremendous amount of resilience. When you have someone in your corner who will inspire and empower you, pick you up when you are down, this process becomes more tolerable and can even be fun.

Now that you understand the value of partnering with a coach, there are four key elements to consider in your selection:

  1. Referral from a trusted source
  2. Chemistry
  3. Expertise and experience
  4. Price/Value

Consideration 1: Referral from a trusted source

Word of mouth from a good friend is golden. A referral from someone you respect who achieved their career goals with a coach demonstrates a record of success.

If you are reentering the workforce, I strongly encourage you to hire a coach who has expertise with Relaunchers. This specialized coach understands your situation and the job landscape for Relaunchers. They can help you market yourself properly for this endeavor. A great starting place is iRelaunch - its website offers a very selective list of approved career coaches.

Consideration 2: Chemistry

Chemistry between you and your career coach is crucial to your partnership. Sure, personality is important but keep in mind the following: a coach who combines care with candor will accelerate your growth and increase the efficiency of your search. A caring coach seeks to truly understand you, sees and identifies your strengths and qualities, empowers you, and increases your confidence. A coach with candor keeps you on task, encourages you to overcome what holds you back and gives you straight feedback, all of which are hard to accomplish by yourself.

Consideration 3: Expertise and experience

The coaching industry is sadly unregulated. Everyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a coach. Be sure to review the number of years a prospective coach has been practicing, their education, certifications, caliber of their clients, and testimonials. This critical information can often be found on their website or LinkedIn profile.

You hire a coach for their expertise, but how do you determine if a coach has the right expertise for you? First, figure out where you need help and do your research. As I noted, coaches for Relaunchers are very specific. Reinvention is another specialty. Some coaches only focus on one aspect of the search such as interviewing, while others can guide you from career direction to compensation negotiations.

A coach who uses a proven methodology will increase your success rate and bring structure to this process. As a matter of fact, even the process of career reinvention is much more structured than people realize. Structure creates clarity, accountability and clear milestones.

What distinguishes a good coach from a great coach is based upon science and art. Good coaches have profound knowledge and extensive experience in their field. Add to that intuition, the ability to deeply connect with a client and to synthesize complex information and you are working with a great coach, who is certain to move you forward.

Consideration 4: Price/Value

Deciphering coaches’ fees is trickier than you may realize because fees vary greatly with no explanation. The concept of the higher the price, the better the service doesn’t necessarily hold, but low-balling can end up hurting you.

Personally, I think it’s best to work with a coach who charges by the hour, rather than one who requires you to pay upfront for a package. This gives you the flexibility to end the engagement if it’s not working out. For clients with limited budgets, I typically recommend a certain number of hours needed to reach their desired milestones.

My parting thoughts: When you make the decision to engage a coach in this process, use your head and your heart. You want to layer your intuition over your analysis. Only work with someone you respect and trust.

Finally, a coach won’t present you with a new job on a silver platter. Ultimately, you are in the driver’s seat, doing the search and finding that job. The guidance of a skilled coach, however, will make the journey to your final destination more effective, efficient and enjoyable.

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