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How Do You Know When A Career Coach Is Not For You? (And What’s The Alternative?)

Updated: May 19, 2022

There's no exact mathematical equation that you can use to choose a perfect career. That's why making a midlife change of careers is not a strange occurrence in our society. You can do things to help you narrow down the options and create the ideal career path. A career coach might help you lead a successful career. But that's not always the case.

How do you know when a career coach is not for you? A career coach is not for you if you want to design your career yourself, you can’t spare weeks and hundreds of dollars for the sessions, and you find talking about your career to a coach awkward and uncomfortable.

Whether you need a coach or need to find an alternative solution depends on many factors. To dig down deeper, let's first look at what a career coach is and what he/she does.

Part 1: What is a Career Coach, and What Does He/She Do?

What is a Career Coach?

In a nutshell, a career coach is an expert that will help you with your career planning, resume building, interviewing, and career-related negotiation tactics. Since a career coach is constantly working with job seekers and human resources, he/she is always up-to-date with the current hiring and recruiting practices.

What does a Career Coach do?

A career coach can pinpoint your professional experience’s best aspects and tell you the best way to “sell” them to potential employers. He/she can motivate you, help you plan your career, craft resumes, and build your networks.

He/she will look at what you currently do to help you plan your long-term dream careers. This overview will include evaluating how your next job can lead you closer to your dream job. The coach can also provide you with the most current local data on wages, employment, job postings, and related educational or training programs such as local community colleges. This person is your accountability partner that will help you stay on track on your ideal career path.

What can you expect to get from a Career Coach?

First and foremost, maybe peace of mind.

Job search is not a leisure walk in a park. It involves anxiety and fear. Working with a coach will give you career confidence, insight, encouragement, and inspiration. You can take your breath and relax for a bit knowing there's someone who will support you along the way.

A professional coach usually asks you what you'd like to discuss before the session to make it effective.

Your coach will give you several assessments such as personality tests, interest inventories, accomplishment exercises, and job-description analyses that will help you identify the best work and workplaces for you.

Some coaching services can help you create or improve your resume and cover letter (with several rounds of edits) and prepare you for job interviews.

You can also expect your coach to collect and compile constructive feedback from your family and friends to help you review and contemplate.

What won't a Career Coach do?

A career coach won't find you a job. He/she won't resolve your job challenge magically in one coaching session either. On average, it will take about eight to 10 hours of coaching before you start internalizing the key benefits of the sessions.

You won't get any benefit either if you are not open to new ideas, don't want to step out of your comfort zone, don't have the desire to change, and won't do what is necessary for the process.

Part 2: When to Hire A Career Coach — Or Not

The most common assumption is you'll need a career coach after you hit the slump. You've submitted tons of applications, but none seems to bear fruit. You desperately need a job.

While a coach might help in this situation, there are other times when you might need one.

When is the best time to consult a career coach?

Anytime within your professional path is as good as any. The best time to consult a coach is before you need it. In other words, it's better to plan far ahead.

Getting coached in the early years of college or immediately after graduating can help an individual to have a more solid footing by having a well-crafted resume, a suitable career path, and a correct working life mindset.

It might also be an excellent time to get a new perspective from a career counselor when you are in one or more of these situations:

1. You feel overwhelmed, bored, or frustrated with your job, but you don't know why.

2. You are starting a new career, chasing a new passion, but unsure which path to take.

3. You are at a career crossroads. You are considering leaving your current job but having reservations about it.

4. You're looking for a new job, you've sent out resumes, but nothing comes out of your effort.

5. You need to strengthen your professional brand in the job market, need help to craft a resume, cover letter, and present your best self to succeed in your job search or career progression.

6. You are not moving up the career ladder even though you think you've tried your best.

7. You can't overcome your current career obstacle.

8. You are having difficulties differentiating yourself from the crowd.

9. You feel burnt out and struggle with self-motivation.

How much does a career coach cost?

It varies, depending on factors such as experience and credentials, the field of specialty, and success rate. (Not) surprisingly, the location of their practice will also determine the rate. A well-known career coach with more experience or has published a book in the related subject, for example, will be able to charge more than those who are less known. You might go to two different coaches and get more or less the same advice but pay different fees.

There is also some kind of “seniority level” in Career Coaches. Those who have fewer years of experience usually specialize in various areas and offer more affordable price points. The more experienced coaches are great for mid-career professionals looking for help to take the next step.

Coaches with the most experience are the career experts who have helped hundreds of clients work with senior leaders and executives and charge top dollars.

In general, an entry-level career coach might charge between $75 to $150 for a one-hour career coaching session. The more in-demand career coaching services can cost you from $250 to $500 or more per hour. For example, a “jump-start” package with one of the top coaches, which includes two 45-minute phone sessions, costs $497. So it's roughly $331 per hour.

It's not a small investment, and most career coaches do not offer any refund. So it's wise to ask the coach for the terms and conditions and talk to their former clients before you agree to pay him/her for the sessions.

Choose your coach wisely

Remember to choose your coach wisely, as different career coaches have different specialties. One can help you with your resume better, another might specialize in job interviews, while the other one is good with career planning.

You'll also need to consider whether you can justify the coach fee. If you're just starting out or are currently in a pinch, spending a few hundred dollars for an hour of coaching might not be a good idea. It's worth noting that most coaching session packages will take several sessions, and there is no refund unless you cancel before the first session begins.

As with everything involving a lot of money, the career coaching business is also full of scams. Not all coaches are what they seem. While many professional career coaches are genuinely reputable and can help you with career suggestions, career change, interview preparation, resume (re)writing, and more, some other coaches who claim to be experts have little to no experience.

If you are thinking about hiring one, look into his/her background and, as mentioned before, make sure that you can talk to his/her past clients independently. The better method to find a legitimate coach is to ask for a recommendation from your friend.

But if getting a referral is not possible, you have to do your homework. Dig through search engines and social media, find someone that you can trust with your professional well-being. One social media that's best for career-related matters is LinkedIn.

One signal you can use as a red flag is when the career coach asks for a hefty upfront fee. Always try to find the option to pay by the hour to protect you from getting scammed.

A Career Coach is not for you if...

Like other businesses and services, career coaches have their segmented market and are not for everyone. You might check all the boxes in the list of factors indicating that you might need one, but that doesn't mean that you'll find a coach who is a perfect fit.

Here are some signs that a career coach is not for you.

1. You are on a budget

You are just starting, in between jobs, or in any other situation where every cents matter. As mentioned above, getting career coaching sessions are a considerable investment that not everybody can afford or is willing to spend.

2. You want to design your career yourself

You are an independent person and want to take your life into your own hands. While a career coach might be beneficial in mapping the path and helping you progress, it doesn't mean that you can't do it yourself.

3. You want to make a journey of self-discovery

Sometimes, the state of self-discovery happens when you embark on a personal journey. This is also applicable to your career discovery. With the help of a career development framework, you can be a coach for yourself with a bit of discipline and direction.

4. You want to try a career design method

You can apply some simple tactics on your journey, such as identifying where you are right now to figure out your goals and to lay out your roadmap. You can also use a career design method backed by science to maximize your chances of career success.

5. You find talking to a career coach awkward and uncomfortable

If you are one of the people who think talking to a stranger about your life and goal is awkward and uncomfortable, or if you don't want anyone to tell you what you should become, then you might not like having a session with a career coach.

6. You believe you could achieve anything

It means you have grit, dedication, and hard work to achieve anything, including your career goals. All you need are little signposts to tell you where to start and which direction to take.

7. You don't have weeks to design your career

You know the journey of self-discovery takes time. But your time is precious. You don't have weeks to spend on coaching.

Part 3: The alternative to a Career Coach

You know that you could use some guidance in your career advancement as going blindly on a journey might lead you nowhere, but you've also decided that a career coach is not for you. What to do? What's the best alternative?

You could use a career strategizer tool. The tool is a career development framework, a method to design your careers using the leading scientific research on career success that can help you plan your career in 60 minutes and give you measurable career goals.

The Four Stages

This framework consists of four stages.

1. Career Visualization

The first step challenges you to ask this one of the impactful questions: “Who do I want to become?”. It's about your career vision.

Imagine you go out in a car, but you don't have any direction to go. You will go nowhere, and you will run out of gas eventually. To avoid that, you need to visualize what you want your ideal careers to look like.

To help you to make well-informed choices, you'll look at various concepts and case studies from all around the globe.