How to choose a career coach

How To Choose A Career Coach

If you’ve been wondering how to choose a career coach, this step-by-step guide will help you make the right decision. Choosing a career coach can be a minefield leaving you feeling frustrated and with more questions than answers. We’ve put together a guide to help you understand career coaching and how to choose the right coach for you.

Get clear on your needs

Before choosing a career coach, it’s vital you have a good understanding of your needs. Do you want to change careers and need someone to help you identify and explore options? Are you having difficulty finding a new job and need guidance in the best job search strategies and methods for your situation? Do you need practical help with your CV, cover letters and interview coaching?

Think about all the help and support you’d like and make a list of what you’re looking for. This will help you discuss your needs and expectations with prospective coaches.

If you are just starting out in your career or seeking a career change, you’ll be looking for someone to help you identify and explore career options, provide career information and assist with decision-making.

You might be in need of a career coach to help you in your career development and progression, boosting confidence or increasing performance. In the face of challenges at work, you may require coaching, mentoring or training in areas related to workplace well-being for example. Leadership coaching is aimed at helping current and aspiring leaders to develop their leadership skills to inspire and motivate others.

Some career coaches also offer practical help like LinkedIn coaching, CV writing, application assistance and interview coaching while others will expect you to get this support elsewhere. Be aware that expertise in these areas can vary significantly so don’t be afraid to ask questions about the effectiveness and outcomes achieved. You can also read Recommendations received from previous clients posted on LinkedIn. While website testimonials and Google reviews can be helpful, these can’t be verified in the same way LinkedIn Recommendations can. 

Qualifications

Through your research, you’ll discover that some coaches are generalists whereas others specialise in providing career support. A properly qualified career coach should have specialist qualifications in career coaching, career development, career guidance and/or career counselling.

Registered ‘Career Development Professionals’ (more on this below), possess qualifications recognised by the Career Development Institute. By choosing a specialist, you can be sure they are suitably qualified and guided by career development theory and practice. Additionally, a specialist career coach will be knowledgeable in career-related topics and in some cases, a thought leader in the careers sector. 

Professional registration

The registering body for career development professionals in the UK is the Career Development Institute (CDI). The CDI is a professional membership organisation which also manages a register of suitably qualified and experienced career coaches who assist individuals with their career development needs from career decision-making to providing practical career development support.

Career coaches who have been admitted to the CDI Register will bear the post-nominals of ‘RCDP’ (Registered Career Development Professional) to show their registered status. To be accepted onto the Register, career coaches require a minimum Level 6 qualification in career guidance (or equivalent), must abide by the Institute’s Code of Ethics and commit to a minimum of 20 hours of ongoing professional development each year.

In other countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, refer to the following professional associations to find a local career coach:

USA: National Career Development Association (NCDA)

Canada: Canadian Council for Career Development (CCCD)

Australia: Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA)

Other professional bodies that recognise and accredit coaches are the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC),  the Association for Coaching (AC), and the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

Ideally, for most career related support, you would benefit from working from someone who is specially trained in career development and coaching.

While professional registration isn’t the only guiding factor in deciding on a career coach, it will help you identify coaches with a minimum level of suitable training, experience and professional ethics. 

Experience

While there is no magic number of years a career coach becomes a better coach, you should ideally be seeking someone with at least 5 years of experience, preferably many more. This is because a coach with a greater range and length of experience will have developed a deeper knowledge, insight and understanding of a broad range of clients and their respective challenges. 

Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective career coach about their experience and track record of success in working with similar clients to you.

Costs

When carrying out your research, you are likely to notice a considerable difference in pricing between coaches. This price variance is usually due to a difference in the number of coaching hours included but can also vary according to the type of clients they work with. While some coaches might offer one-off, hourly sessions on a pay-as-you-go basis, others offer packages ranging from 3 hours through to 10+ hours.

The number of hours required for career coaching varies but generally speaking, you should allow a minimum of 6-8 hours of 1:2:1 coaching if you are seeking career counselling and coaching e.g. help to make career decisions. This allows for the career coach to get to know you, conduct any necessary audits and assessments, develop a career action plan and provide the necessary support.

Another thing to be aware of is that some coaches will have add-on services in addition to the coaching fee such as CV preparation services or psychometric assessments for example. Be sure to ask if there might be any additional costs to the quoted coaching fee and be clear on what is included.

Costs can vary depending on whether the coaches is self-funding their career coaching or if their employer will cover the costs. If your employer is funding your career coaching make this clear so that you can receive the correct pricing for your situation. 

Chemistry

Once you know what you are looking for, it’s time to start reaching out to your shortlist of career coaches to see who is the best fit. Most coaches’ websites will have a contact form or ‘contact us’ page where you can get in touch to arrange to have an exploratory chat to find out if and how they can help you.

Your exploratory chat with a prospective career coach should also aim to determine if they are a good fit both personally and professionally. Do they sound like someone you will feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with? Do they seem credible, attentive, and friendly? What do you think about their communication style? We’re all different, only you know what kind of communication style you respond to best.

While these ‘discovery’ or ‘chemistry’ calls are usually free, some coaches do charge a nominal amount that can be deducted from your coaching service if you decide to proceed with a proposal. It’s important to be clear on any related costs before you book an exploratory call with a career coach.

Process

One of the areas that will generate several questions relates to the career coaching process. You should ask questions like:

  • How long does the process usually take?
  • How many sessions will there be?
  • How long are the sessions?
  • How are they conducted?
  • Are emails in between sessions included? (all our packages for example include unlimited email support in between sessions which represents exceptional, extra value. These emails might be coaching you through challenges, reviewing or assisting with applications or sharing extra resources)
  • Will there be lots of reflective and written homework to complete? (this may or may not appeal to you)
  • What do they expect from you?
  • What is the success rate of clients successfully achieving their career goals after working with them?

Before you agree to work with a coach, you should be provided with a coaching agreement that outlines your coach’s professional and ethical obligations to you and your obligations as a coachee. There should also be an agreement regarding the costs, the service being provided and how to end the coaching relationship should it be necessary.

Online or face-to-face

When deciding on a career coach, it’s best to clarify how and where your career coaching sessions will take place. Many coaches offer coaching services online via platforms like Zoom, Skype or Teams.

If you prefer to work with a coach face-to-face, be aware that not all face-to-face services are conducted in a private office space. To save on costs, many coaches who work with clients face-to-face, use public spaces like cafes and other public meeting spaces. Such a setting can pose a challenge in terms of privacy and confidentiality which are critically important factors in the coaching relationship.

Summary

In this post, we’ve looked at how to choose a career coach. We’ve explored the factors to consider in choosing a career coach from getting clear on your needs to understanding what to look for in a career coach. We have also explored how to manage career coach vetting process so that you can find the right career coach for your needs.

Following the advice in this guide will help you to find the right career coach to support you in your career development. 

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev,  RCDP, MAC

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, RCDP, MAC

Career Coach, EMCC-Accredited Master Practitioner Coach and CDI-Registered Career Development Professional with more than 20 years’ experience helping achieve successful and fulfilling careers.

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