When it makes sense to hire a job search expert

Most job searching is easy to DIY, but sometimes you need professional help. Here’s how to know the difference.

When it makes sense to hire a job search expert

Your job search can feel complicated, overwhelming, even, especially if you’ve been away from it for a while. And like with every pain point,  there are a variety of professionals who want to help you manage it, from specialists—interview preppers, resume writers—to generalists like career coaches and counselors.

But do you really need a hired hand? After all, you’ve been at this for a while—shouldn’t you know what you’re doing at this point?

If you’re wondering when it makes sense to bring in the pros, here are some scenarios to guide you.

Issue: You haven’t job searched in five to 10 years, or you’re changing fields

Do you need help? Yes

There are definitely some people who can help you if you haven’t moved around in a while. A career coach, for instance, can help you flesh out the next step in your career path. “Career coaches are often needed at transitional times, such as after a lay-off or voluntary job change,” says Karen Tucker, owner of online interview coaching firm InterviewOne.

But you may also want to hire a resume writer, and there are lots of online resume writing services, including one available from Monster. “Applicant tracking software programs and the job market have changed dramatically in the last five years, and it can help tremendously to work with someone who understands all of these changes,” says Jessica Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast.

Just make sure you consult someone who’s familiar with your field. “I would be careful of some services, because they can be very template driven and your resume sounds like everyone else’s,” says Nancy Halpern, an executive coach with KNH Associates in New York City.

Issue: You’re moving to a new market

Do you need help? No

You don’t have to hire someone just because you’re relocating—there are a variety of things you can try on your own first.

For instance, check out your college or university’s alumni directory for career contacts in the new area. Join a nonprofit or church or synagogue. Go to town council meetings and meet new people.

“Integrate yourself into the community, and you can do a lot of research,” Halpern says. “Who’s the biggest employer in town? Who’s the biggest employer in your field? You have other work to do before you would need the services of a career coach.” Just expect the job search to take longer, since you’re new on the scene.

You can also set up email alerts from Monster that match job openings in your target city or town. This is an easy way to assess the job market in that area and identify the biggest employers.  

Issue: You’re jumping levels or corporate cultures

Do you need help? Yes

You’re certainly not a newbie to the interview process, but if you’re applying for your first C-suite role or a position that’s a big step up, you may want to polish your skills. The questions may be different than you’ve seen previously, or you may have a panel interview.

The same goes for a cultural change, such as moving from corporate culture to a start-up culture. “If the stakes are different and the game is different and the level is different, it’s not a bad idea to have someone take you through your paces,” Halper says.

Getting some interview coaching is also a smart move if you’re going on interviews and not getting any call backs. “There may be something you’re doing that you’re completely unaware of that’s off-putting to interviewers,” says Mary Warriner, a career coach and blogger at marywarriner.com.

Issue: You’re thinking about leaving your job—but you aren’t sure

Do you need help? No

If you’re unhappy at work and considering jumping ship, it’s worthwhile to talk to people—friends, your partner—but you don’t necessarily need to bring in a professional. If you have a mentor or you belong to a professional association, you can put out feelers about the industry and the job market that way.

A career coach can help, certainly, but they may also be more prone to encourage you to leave. “Most career coaches are action oriented,” Halpern says. “They just want to find you a job.”

Do the rudimentary work yourself to determine whether leaving is the path you want to pursue. At that point, if you need guidance, a career coach may be a good call to make to guide your next steps.