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How to Find a Career Coach That is Right for You

Young female professional meeting with a career coach in a café looking at a laptop taking notes with paper and pen

When you’re in a career slump, it can be discouraging and confusing. Which career path is best for you? What actions should you take to move forward? Who should you talk to to help you get where you want to go? If any of these questions have been floating around in your mind, you could be an excellent candidate to work with a career coach. 

A career coach can provide helpful direction and boost your confidence as you work to take the next step in your profession. We’ll explain what a career coach does and share some tips to help you find a career coach.

What is a career coach?

A career coach is a professional dedicated to helping people advance their careers. They’re sometimes called career advisors or career consultants. 

Career coaches offer a wide range of services, including helping their clients:

  • Develop new skills
  • Perfect their resume
  • Explore career paths
  • Identify best-fitting job openings
  • Make professional decisions
  • Practice for interviews
  • Connect with influential people

Most importantly, a career coach can help you create an action plan to achieve your professional goals, which can be invaluable if you feel conflicted, stuck, or ill-prepared. 

When to use a career coach

It may be helpful to use a career coach when you’re…

Deciding which career to pursue

The decisions you make early on in your professional life can influence the trajectory of your entire career. A career coach can guide you on different vocational paths, helping you learn about the duties involved in various jobs and decide which is best suited to your strengths.

Check out these 16 career clusters to help you find the right path!

Contemplating a career move

Changing fields mid-career is a significant adjustment. A career coach can set you up for success, helping you acquire new skills, strengthen your resume, and prepare application materials. Coaches specializing in specific industries can make valuable introductions that may help you break into your desired industry.

Working toward a promotion

Maybe you’re looking to step into a leadership role for the first time or need a little help catching the attention of your company’s decision-makers. Career coaches can help you build a strong case for why you deserve to advance and prepare to nail the interview when you’re being considered. 

Looking to expand your network

Knowing the “right people” can help you learn about new opportunities first and get your foot in the door where you want to make inroads. Career coaches have extensive professional networks they can tap into to help you make beneficial connections. 

Seeking to increase your earnings

Negotiating salary is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of a job search. A career coach can provide market insights to help you determine how much to ask for and arm you with negotiating tactics to land the lucrative salary you want. 

Important factors to consider when finding a career coach

Each career coach has their own coaching style, area of expertise, and cost. Here are some factors to take into consideration when comparing different coaches. 

Budget

Career coaching is an investment. That investment can vary widely, ranging from around $50 an hour on the low end to several thousands of dollars for elite coaching packages. Generally speaking, though, hourly fees between $75 and $175 per hour are typical. 

Some coaches offer group sessions at a more affordable rate, while others provide bundle packages that can help you get a better deal when you commit to multiple sessions. 

Expertise

Most experienced coaches have worked with people in diverse industries and can tailor their knowledge to your situation. However, sometimes it may be beneficial to work with someone who specializes in your field, like if you’re looking to make a dramatic career change or aspire to move into the upper echelons of management. 

Successful track record

A good career coach should have no problem giving you a play-by-play of their coaching highlights. Look for someone who has successfully helped others achieve goals similar to the ones you want to accomplish. 

Coaching style

Like teachers, coaches can be very different from one to the next. A coach that resonated with your friend might be too over-the-top for your tastes, and vice versa. 

To help you understand what a coach might be like to work with, look at the content they’ve put out online, like on their website, social media profiles, blogs, and especially videos. This will give you a glimpse of their intensity level and approach to coaching, which can determine whether your relationship will be productive. 

Commitment level

When hiring a career coach, being realistic about what you can commit to is important. Are you looking to meet with someone weekly? Monthly? Only on an as-needed basis? Going into your search with a rough idea of a schedule in mind will help you narrow down your options. 

How to find a career coach

1. Make a list of your preferences

Begin by specifying what you want in a coach. In addition to the factors we just covered, think about people who have inspired you or helped you learn in the past, like a great boss or an excellent teacher. What was it about them that pushed you to grow? Was it their positivity, commitment, honesty, practical knowledge, or something else? These are qualities you will likely want to seek out in a coach. 

2. Ask for referrals

If you’re comfortable sharing that you’re looking for a coach, you can get great leads by asking for referrals on LinkedIn and elsewhere in your professional network. A colleague who’s already worked with a coach can give you the inside scoop on their capabilities and effectiveness and give you an idea of what you can expect to pay. 

3. Go through a trusted organization

You don’t have to do all the vetting yourself. Trustworthy organizations like professional groups often maintain a database of preferred career coaches. Many public libraries, community career centers, and colleges also offer career coaching at low or no cost. There are also online platforms like BetterUp that can match you with a qualified coach. 

4. Interview candidates

Just as companies interview multiple candidates when searching for the right person to hire, it’s a good idea to speak with a few different coaches to get to know them better before committing to work together. 

Ask questions that will help you zero in on the right coach, like:

  • What is your coaching style?
  • Describe what a typical coaching session looks like.
  • What deliverables or takeaways can I expect from working with you?
  • Have you worked with clients like me in the past?
  • What do you consider a “successful” coaching relationship?

5. Do your due diligence

It’s imperative to fully understand your financial commitment before signing a contract or handing over your credit card. 

Unfortunately, some too many online gurus position themselves as “career coaches” but do little more than sell generic career advice repackaged in a glittery exterior. A legitimate coach should offer more substance than hype, with transparent pricing, clearly defined deliverables, and quantifiable examples of their past success. 

6. Talk to their references

Checking references takes time, but it’s a dependable way to set yourself up for a productive coaching relationship. A good coach should easily be able to provide contact info for two to three references they’ve helped in the past. 

7. Try a test session

If it’s your first foray into career coaching, working with a coach who offers pay-as-you-go sessions is a great idea. This allows you to experience a coach’s style firsthand without a long-term commitment. Even if you decide not to book another session, you will likely walk away with a few helpful takeaways that make the fee worthwhile. 

If you don’t match with the right coach immediately, don’t get discouraged; landing on the perfect fit can take some time. Finding a career coach that’s right for you can help you maximize your efforts and empower you to realize your full potential within your career, so it’s worthwhile to spend the time to find a coach you love.