Hiring a career coach could be the best thing you’ll ever do

When you think of the word ‘coach’, you’re most likely to think of a sports coach, right?

After all, sport is an important part of Australian culture. Most weekends (and even during the week), we’re either playing it or watching it. And all sporting teams and individual athletes — regardless of whether they are playing at a professional level or not — have a coach.

What is a coach?

There are many definitions of ‘coach’, but this one sums it up pretty well:

“A coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.” [i]

When we want to improve our performance in a chosen sport, or even make changes to our health and fitness, we don’t think twice about hiring a coach. We even seek the help of qualified counsellors if we’re experiencing relationship problems.

So why aren’t we hiring someone to help us along with our careers?

Coaches are for everyone

The short answer is, many of us feel that hiring a career coach means that something is wrong with us.

We may feel that we’re somehow ‘failing’ if our career isn’t taking off or we are not enjoying our work as well as we had hoped. Hiring a coach means we’re admitting we don’t know everything — and that can be a blow to our ego.

But getting expert help is something that all successful people do. Those who succeed know that in order to be their absolute best, they need to be constantly improving. And to improve, they need to learn new skills, change the way they currently do things, or change the way they look at things.

Coaches add so much value, that even the most successful entrepreneurs use them.

High-flyers are not the only ones who use coaches. Many senior executives in top 100 companies use coaching to lift their performance. So, if using a coach is good enough for a top executive or athlete, then surely those who are still on their way to the top can benefit from one. Many people at all levels of organisations use coaching when they are in transition or planning a career move to clarify their goals and focus on the skills they need and the actions they have to take to make the next step in their career.

What is a career coach and how can they help me?

But what exactly is a careers coach? And how can they help us?

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment.”

Career coaches are also referred to as career development practitioners. When you partner with them, they can help you to:

  • discover what you really want to do in terms of work
  • identify your unique personality and personal motivators
  • help you understand your unique strengths and how to use them
  • clarify your career direction and identify knowledge gaps
  • help position you for career success in a permanent role or in the gig economy
  • improve your self-belief and confidence
  • Improve your networking and career search skills
  • help you become a better leader
  • improve and build your relationships
  • follow a career that, uses your strengths, is engaging and meaningful.

Working with a career coach will also improve your productivity, increase your satisfaction with life and work, and will help you achieve your career goals.

What do they do?

As well as helping you discover what your career goals are, and mapping out a career pathway, a good career coach can provide lots of practical help and advice on the things that actually help you get a job. These include:

  • helping you with your resume and LinkedIn profile
  • creating a job search strategy
  • customising your job applications
  • polishing up your interview skills
  • giving you strategies on how to answer ‘difficult’ questions during a job interview
  • helping you tap into the hidden job market
  • putting you in contact with potential employers.

Those who coach in the career space have a number of tools, checklists, assessments and resources available to help you achieve your career goals.

What they don’t do

Career coaches can be an extremely valuable ally in helping you move towards successful, satisfying employment. But they aren’t specialist in everything. For example, they’re not therapists — so if you need to talk to someone about mental health issues, or financial issues, you may be best to find a qualified psychologist or financial planner.

A career coach won’t tell you what you should do with your life, or what job you should have. Their role is to simply guide you, and ask the questions that will help you work out the best answers for you. Finally, it’s not their responsibility to actually find you a job. That part is up to you!

Are you ready for professional career support?

Anyone can benefit from working with a qualified coach, but you have to be ready to make a change, and do the work required. If you can identify with any of the following questions, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about enlisting some professional career support.

  • Do you believe you can achieve more than you are in your current role?
  • Are you currently working in a job that you dislike?
  • Is your career failing to fulfil you?
  • Are you unhappy with your current salary?
  • Do you enjoy going to work each day?
  • Have you a desire to change careers?
  • Do you want to increase your impact or earning power?
  • Do you feel like an ‘imposter’?
  • Do you lack self-confidence and belief in yourself?
  • Are you unsure of what your core strengths are?
  • Do you feel valued at work?
  • Are you unsure of how to use your skills and strengths to the best of your ability?
  • Are there relevant job skills or knowledge you need but don’t have yet?
  • Do you want to make a career change, but are unsure how?
  • Is your work-life balance out of kilter?
  • Have you been repeatedly unsuccessful when applying for jobs?
  • Have you been job-hopping without direction?
  • Do you feel stagnant in your career?
  • Do you want to apply for a promotion?
  • Are you ready to take a step up the career ladder, but not sure how?
  • Is your current employer offering your career development and career prospects?
  • Are you facing a redundancy?
  • Have you recently lost your job?
  • Do you want to have a more meaningful career but don’t know what it is?

What about the cost?

Investing in a career coach is investing in yourself — your career, your earning power, and your overall satisfaction in life. Most of our waking hours are spent at work, so it only makes sense that you’re spending that time doing something you enjoy, something that fulfils you, and something that is going to give you the level of income that you’re seeking.

When you consider what you get for your investment — skills, contacts, improved confidence, better job opportunities, a higher income and a more fulfilling work life — it can be one of the best things you’ll spend money on. Besides, life is too short to stay in a job you hate, or to feel you’re not in the right career.  You are wasting your potential if you are working in a job where you can’t fully use your ability and strengths.

The most immediate return on your investment is that you’ll feel better about your career. You’ll feel more in control, and you’ll spend less time worrying about your work.

Regarding fees, each coach will have their own set of fees, so make sure you find out what they are before hiring one. And if you’re wondering if coaching fees are a tax-deductible expense, it’s best to check with your accountant.

What to look for in a coach

Currently, the career coaching industry is unregulated — which means that anyone can set themselves up as an ‘expert’. However, there are ways to determine if the coach you’re considering is worth partnering with.

  1. Ask for credentials — Do they have any HR, recruitment, or coaching qualifications? What has been their career path? How deep is their experience? Have they worked in the corporate world? For how long? The Career Development Association of Australia requires members to have formal qualifications in HR, career counselling, or psychology. Some coaches also receive their certification through the International Coach Federation.
  2. Ask for testimonials — Have any of their clients provided positive feedback? How many people have they helped? What is their success rate in terms of improving the job prospects of their clients?
  3. Check their specialities — Find out if they have specialised skills and knowledge that is relevant to your needs.
  4. Find out what they offer — What services do they offer? What kinds of assessment tools do they use?
  5. How do they work? — How long are sessions? How do they charge? What will it cost per session? What is their fee policy regarding cancellations? How many sessions are you likely to have?

Whether you’re a recent university graduate, a parent returning to the workforce, an executive, or simply someone wanting to change careers, seeking the support, assistance and guidance of a qualified career development practitioner may be the best investment you’ll ever make.