Make the most of career counseling
Follow these five steps to find and utilize a great coach.
No matter what stage you’re at in your career, there are bound to be periods when you just feel stuck or uncertain about your next moves. When that happens, career counseling can help take some of the stress off your shoulders. Whether you’re looking to find a job, revamp your resume, improve your job interviewing skills, or just nurture your career overall, having a pro by your side never hurts.
Think of a career coach as a consultant for your professional well-being—someone who amps up your confidence and counsels you through big decisions. Most career coaches charge between $75 and $250 per hour, depending on their experience and training, according to Noomii.com, a professional coach directory.
In order to get the most bang for your buck, you need to approach career counseling with the right mindset. Check out five ways to maximize your experience.
Find a coach you click with
When it comes to building an effective working relationship between client and coach, “it’s all about chemistry,” says Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York-based HR consulting firm. To find the right fit, take the time to interview several career coaches.
These questions can help you find the right coach:
- How would you describe your coaching style?
- How many people have you coached in my industry and role?
- Can you walk me through a time when you worked someone with who had a similar set of challenges as me?
- How will you be tracking my progress?
- What tools and exercises do you use to coach clients?
- What are your top strengths as a career coach?
Also, request references. “Past performance is always a great indicator of future success,” Klein points out.
Set concrete goals
Simply saying, “I need a job,” is not helpful. You need to go deeper. A career coach can certainly help you drill down into the specifics, but you can save time by doing some thinking ahead of time.
Knowing precisely what you want to get from working with a career coach is crucial. This entails identifying goals with your coach that you can work toward together as a team. Do you want a job that leaves you feeling more fulfilled? A career path that provides a clear path up the ladder? A stronger sense of leadership in order to become a better manager? Ultimately, what is it you want to come away with? “Both career coach and client have to be on the same page and working toward the same [objectives],” says job-search coach and resume expert Joanne Meehl. “A good coach will help you tease out things that you should work on.”
Do the work
Though career coaches can be there to guide you throughout the job search process (or other challenges), there are limits to what they can do. Think of it this way: A batting coach can advise baseball players, but can’t hit home runs for them.
In much the same way, a coach can’t serve you a job offer on a silver platter or snap their fingers and get you that promotion you’ve been chasing. Remember, you—not your coach—are in the driver’s seat and steering your career. In other words, you can’t expect to just show up, pay someone, and then get out of the way while the counselor does all the work. You have to participate and follow the coach’s advice. If you don’t, you’re wasting time (yours and the counselor’s) and money.
Honesty is key when working with a career coach. “We always recommend that you be fully transparent with your coach,” Klein says. Feeling discouraged by job search rejections? Fed up with your boss? Express to your coach what you’re going through. After all, career counseling sessions give you a safe place to express what you’re really struggling with professionally.
The more a counselor knows, the more effective he or she can be for you, so don’t hide pertinent information from them—especially the stuff you’d rather hide. “Career coaches need clean, raw data from clients,” says Donald Asher, career consultant and author of Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why. “If you were fired, I need to know that. If you don’t know how to use Excel despite it being a requirement for your job, I need to know that.”
And remember to be honest with yourself, too. If what you’re going through runs deeper than career dissatisfaction, a counselor isn’t the answer. “Though it’s OK to lean on your coach for emotional support when you’re frustrated with your job search or your job, I would not look at your coach to be your therapist,” says Meehl, who recommends you seek professional treatment if you’re feeling depressed.
Be open to criticism
Part of your career coach’s job is to be your cheerleader and a source of motivation, but their role also requires providing you with negative feedback at times. “A career coach holds you accountable, plain and simple,” says Asher. Your role is to be receptive to such constructive criticism. That can be challenging sometimes—hearing that your resume needs a total rewrite, for instance, is discouraging. But you’re seeking career counseling to learn where your weak spots are and then the onus is on you to fix them.
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