Finding a job search coach or career coach is a job search where you're the recruiter. These rules will guide you to hiring the best coach for you.
This guest post by Job Search Coach Rita Ashley of jobsearchdebugged.com is part 3 in her 3-part series on coaching and the job search. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.
A job search coach or career coach helps you attain your career and employment goals. While either may or may not be a certified or accredited career counselor, that distinction is not the place to begin your search for a coach.
Anne Fisher, senior writer for Fortune magazine makes it very clear when she advises:
“Does the coach have real-world work experience that is comparable to yours? (John) McKee notes that about 80% of self-designated career coaches have actually been trained in life coaching, and may have few practical suggestions on how to help you achieve your work-related goals.”
Once you have decided to spend money on a coach (and pricing is as varied as the practitioners themselves), how do you find the right coach?
Follow these rules to find the right coach
These rules apply for any kind of coach you might want; you vet a job search coach exactly as you'd vet any other coach. For purposes of illustration, I will use job search coach in the examples below.
1) Get coaching candidates from trusted sources
Assuming you know your objective – a promotion or new job – begin your search by asking people whom you respect if they have used a coach. Referrals are a good initial step but don't assume that you will find the same chemistry just because the referrer was happy with the coach. Also, your needs are probably different.
2) The coach must be involved in your industry or market niche
It makes no sense to hire a coach who specializes in medical professionals if you are an IT executive.
Does the coach have actual first hand experience in the job search world? Were they a hiring authority, recruiter or HR professional? Outsiders can't possibly fathom the nuances of an executive level job search if they have not been in the trenches. If they don't have first hand experience, this should be a deal breaker for you.
3) Find a coach who's style you're comfortable with
I am, for example, bottom line focused and very direct. This does not work for all people. I do not hide this attribute because if someone becomes defensive or sensitive during our initial interview, we will not have a good coaching experience. To get a handle on style and priorities, ask questions and listen to how the questions are answered as much as the answers them selves.
4) Interview your coaching candidates in depth
Ask hard questions about their background like:
- What were two of the biggest challenges you overcame on behalf of clients and how?
- Was there ever a challenge you couldn't overcome on behalf of a client?
- Please describe your process? What you are looking for here is flexibility. A cast in concrete one size fits none approach will not be the best solution.
- How long does this take? This is a trick question because there is no way to answer this. It is a “How high is up” question. The coach has no control over how much time you put in or the quality of that time. If they answer with a time rather than an approximation, it is a sign they are not experienced or are guessing what you want to hear.
- What are characteristics of your ideal client?
5) Ask for references and testimonials
Most of my clients hope to remain confidential and therefore are not available as references. They are willing, however, to offer testimonials.
If references are provided, contact them to talk to about the coach's style and deliverables. I know of one coach whose clients say she is great at resume construction but when it came time for the real work, the networking and outreach, she simply said, “Now, go out there and network.” You need to know these things in advance to make certain your specific needs are covered.
Read the testimonials to see if there is a common thread. Several of my testimonials, for instance, make it quite clear that I am direct and results-oriented. Do not engage in wishful thinking. Make a list of those things repeated in the references and see if they map to your own needs and style.
6) Determine at the outset which fees are required for which services
Some coaches charge hourly while others charge a flat fee. There is no rhyme or reason to how coaches charge. You just have to find what works for you. Also, don't haggle over fees. Either you find value in what the coach offers or you don't. Haggling or negotiating starts the relationship on the wrong foot. Coaches research pricing before establishing their fee schedule; don't insult them with comments about the cost. If you don't feel there is value, walk away.
7) Be very clear about what your expectations are
Help the coach establish priorities that fit your needs, but listen to their advice as well. I once had a client absolutely convinced he needed to start by adding to his network. I was equally adamant he needed to start with his elevator pitch. Since I had a compelling argument, he capitulated and later thanked me.
Above all: always trust your gut
Use the rules above to narrow down your list of candidates all the while listening to your inner voice. There is much that is intangible about a good coaching relationship and the gut never lies.
If you liked this article, read the others in our series on coaching and the job search:
- 5 Types of Coaches That Can Help Your Job Search
- 6 Reasons You Might Need a Job Search Coach Now
- 7 Rules To Find the Right Job Search Coach for You
About the author
Rita Ashley is a technology recruiting veteran who has worked closely with investors, executives and hiring authorities to staff senior technology positions in Seattle. In her current role as a Job Search Coach she is passionate about helping executives and technology professionals get the promotions they are after and the jobs they want. Ms. Ashley's book Job Search Debugged offers unique advice and tips based on her recruiting career working closely with hiring authorities.