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
It’s vital you have a good understanding of what you are looking for in a career coach. 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 some 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.
If you are continuing on your current path, you might be keen for a coach to help you boost your performance or happiness at work, take the next steps in your career or find a new job.
Many coaches also offer practical help like CV writing services and help with preparing applications while others will expect you to get this support elsewhere. Be aware that coach expertise in the areas of CV writing can vary significantly so don’t be afraid to ask about the effectiveness of the CVs they’ve created and employment outcomes achieved. Some coaches (like our principal career coach, Lisa LaRue) have undertaken many years of intensive training in the areas of CV writing, job market analysis and coaching job seekers to success.
Through your research, you’ll discover that some coaches are generalist whereas others specialise in providing career support. A properly qualified career coach should have qualifications in areas such as career guidance, career counselling and career coaching.
Registered ‘Career Development Professionals’ (more on this below), possess qualifications which are 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.
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 on to 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:
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.
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’ 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. All career coaches at CareerWorx have a minimum of 20 years’ experience in career counselling and coaching.
Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective career coach about their experience and track record of success in working with clients like you.
Determine your budget
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 hours of 1:2:1 coaching if you are seeking career counselling and coaching e.g. help making 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 for CV preparation services or vocational and 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.
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 a free, exploratory chat or ‘discovery call’ to find out if and how they can help you. While some coaches charge for these calls many do not and those that do will often deduct any costs from any services you might go on to purchase from them.
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, friendly? How do you feel about their communication style? We’re all different, only you know what kind of communication style you respond to best.
One of the areas that will generate a number of 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 goal 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 agreement in terms of 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 or where your career coaching sessions will take place. While career coaching traditionally took place face-to-face in a private office, it’s now very common for coaches to work online via platforms like Skype.
If you feel a need to work with a coach face-to-face, be aware that not all face-to-face services will be conducted in a private office. Many coaches who do still work with clients face-to-face, use public spaces like cafes and other public meeting spaces. Such a setting poses a challenge in terms of maintaining privacy and confidentiality which are critically important factors of the coaching relationship.
Following the advice in this guide will equip you to find the right career coach for you. If you think we’ve missed anything of have any questions at all please leave a comment below.