When You Think You Need a Career Coach

I’m going to talk about your job search and needing a career coach but first I have a story I want to share.

I was talking to a friend who told me they got unexpectedly let go from their job. It was their dream job, they planned on being there for years (maybe even until retirement), and they loved it. The money was good, the projects were great, the impact they could make was awesome. It was rewarding, fulfilling, and fun.

Then, without any hint it was going to happen, poof! They were let go. Terminated. Whether fired or laid off, the end result is a mass of confusing emotions, loss of a paycheck, loss of a title, loss of direction.

And, unfortunately, you start to question your worth and value in society.

Lest you think this story is about you, well, it isn’t. I don’t have anyone in mind as I wrote that story, although I’ve had that conversation with people dozens of times since I started JibberJobber.

On the other hand, this story is 100% about you. If you are in that situation right now, whether at your dream job or currently unemployed, this story is all about you. It’s about you now and every three years when you are in transition.

Fun fact(ish): Years ago I heard that a CFO is in transition every 18 months. 

GAG. Can you imagine doing a serious job search, and being out of an income for weeks or months, every 18 months?? Yuck.


Do You Need a Career Coach?

I am friends with lots of career coaches. Pre-Covid I spoke at career coach and resume writer conferences multiple times a year for many years. I have broken bread with some amazing career coaches and have learned a lot about them. Having a career coach on your team, especially during a job search, can give you a massive advantage.

Career coaches are skilled in helping you find a job. They also generally have very big, giving hearts. That’s not to say they are cheap, or free. And they shouldn’t be cheap or free. But when you find the right career coach for you I think you’ll find you have found a friend and advocate for life.

I love seeing my career coach and resume writer friends share stories when their clients land a job. Seriously, they live for your success!

But… do you need a career coach? Need?

No. You do not need a career coach. I’ll tell you that and I’m sure my career coach friends would tell you that. Not everyone needs a career coach. But if you can get one you might see a much better, more effective, faster job search that can even land you a better job that pays more than what you could do on your own.

No promises from me, but I’m telling you, people who you think are normal folk but have some success likely have coaching, mentoring, or counseling. I am always surprised to hear when someone I admire has had a formal coach or mentor for years.

What Does a Career Coach Do?

A career coach is not your one-stop shop for all of your career needs. Generally, I’d say a career coach helps coach you through aspects of your career. Sounds vague, right? Well, your career is a big thing, and you need different things at different times. Finding someone who can help you with all aspects over your entire career could be difficult.

You might hire a career coach to be a job search coach. In that capacity they should have knowledge of current and proper job search techniques. They should be aware of job search tools, like JibberJobber, and help you optimize your use of these tools. Most importantly, a career coach who is your job coach should be excellent at holding you accountable during your job search. Your career coach might not be the nicest person to you all the time. Sometimes accountability can feel harsh. But if you have the right career coach then they will do it in a respectful way.

Your career coach might spend lots and lots of time doing career counseling. This is the “what do I want to be when I grow up” phase of the job search. Career counseling isn’t something I wanted or needed since I already had a solid idea of what I wanted to do or be, but I talk to plenty of people who ask, “I have these few options in front of me… what should I do?”

You might hire a career coach even while you are working. Not necessarily to find a job but to excel in the role you are in, or to make steps for a promotion.

Like I said, your career is a big thing, and your needs will change over time. When you look for a career coach (which I talk about more below) make sure you aren’t looking for a one-size-fits-all-your-needs person. Understand what your needs are and then look for people who have expertise in those areas.


Can I Afford a Career Coach?

The other question is, “Can I afford to NOT get a career coach?”

When I started my job search I was on my own. I didn’t get outplacement (had never heard about it, until I immersed myself in this world). I thought about looking for help from my alma mater for about two minutes, then realized they were more geared towards helping seniors find jobs than someone in my position.

I didn’t have any money, expect for maybe two weeks of food. I was living the American Dream! Paycheck to paycheck is a sucky model once you get laid off.

So could I afford the hundreds, or thousands, of dollars to get a career coach. No. Nope. Nopedy-nope. I was broke and wondering how I was going to pay my bills much less think about paying a trained professional to help me land a job.

I could have borrowed money, but I just didn’t see or understand the value of a career coach at the time. And I still did my job search. I know hundreds of people who land jobs without a career coach. It can be done.

Oh yeah… I didn’t get one and my job search sucked. I had a huge pivot to becoming an entrepreneur (which felt like I was unemployed for years and years). It was hard and painful. I am pretty sure a career coach would have really helped me land a real and good job… something I was failing at on my own.

How do I find a Career Coach?

There are a bunch of different ways to find a career coach that is right for you. I’ve talked about the career expert associations that have directories. You can google “career coach near me” and see what comes up. I definitely recommend you ask your network, peers, and colleagues who they have heard of, worked with, or can recommend.

Let me say that again: tap into your network and ask for recommendations! I think if I went back to 2006 and someone said that I would have brushed it off. I figured I didn’t know anyone who had used a coach, or I would have been too embarrassed feeling like I was in a bad place and didn’t want to broadcast my self-perceived weaknesses.

How dumb. I really should have gotten over my ego and asked more people for help.

There are plenty of ways to find the right coach for you. Again, check out this post. They critical key is that you find the right coach for you. You need to find someone who understands your industry and/or profession (or level), what you need (for example, coaching vs. counseling), someone who will effectively hold you accountable, etc.

Once you have identified what your ideal coach looks like you should have a much easier time finding the right one for you.


How to Work with a Career Coach

When you choose to start your coaching I want you to think about the investment you are making. Not the investment you’ll make in money but in your time. I want you to make sure this is the most effective, impactful use of your time.

Show up on time (or early) to your meetings. Schedule the right amount of time to be in your meeting. Then, schedule  extra time to journal or debrief your meeting. Coaching can be emotionally exhausting. You’ll have work to do. Make sure you are putting the right time into this journey.

Come ready to be honest. Your coach should have a system or program they like to follow. When you are honest and ready to work, you can make much faster progress than if you have to dance around issues. They don’t care that you have problems. They know you have problems. Just own them and be ready to work with them on those problems. Be ready to have them help you learn and grow and do hard things.

FOLLOW UP. When your coach gives you an assignment, follow up with them. Let them know you listened, took their guidance, and did the stuff. Keep them posted on what you are doing. I am much more inclined to help someone if they follow up and let me know my words weren’t wasted.

Take this relationship seriously. They are. But realize they are not there to do all the work for you. You will do a lot of mental heavy lifting. They are there to coach you through it.

Enjoy this relationship. I know it can come at a sucky time in your life, but you might make a friend for life.

Best wishes!!