Career coaches or counselors can be extremely helpful for those going through a major life transition: someone just out of college, a young professional jumpstarting a career, or even a jaded lifer seeking a second one.
In full disclosure, three years ago I hired a career couch; I needed advice on how to leave a job I was stuck in, transition into the unfamiliar territory of freelancing, and even more than that, I was embroiled in a heated political battle at the office I was trying to leave. Her guidance got me safely out the door and into a better career. But did I need her?
Looking back on it, I believe the answer was probably no. She was a security blanket in a storm of uncertainty during the recession, a cheerleader when I didn’t feel like standing up to my boss, and a sounding board for my own successes. Most of what she said during our twice monthly sessions, deep down, I already knew. I just needed a little push in the right direction.
So before you shell out the shekels to hire a career coach, here are 3 reasons not to:
They Cost as Much as a Shrink
A career coach does offer a therapy of sorts and the costs reflect it, with rates rivaling that of a private practice psychologist. When I saw a career coach, it cost me $150 an hour (but I know many charge upwards of $250) — and that’s more than the out-of-pocket expenses for my doctor, dentist and acupuncturist combined! And unlike these other services, you could argue that the advice of a career coach is widely available online or in a book from the library for free. That’s not to say that high-level coaches specializing in executive consulting and/or rolodex-sharing aren’t worth every penny. But first do your research to see if you what you’re looking for can be found in a more wallet-friendly way.
A Friend Could Do the Job
What a career coach does do – more than regurgitate well-known career advice — is to be your own personal “nudger”. If seen over a course of weeks or months, they can help you stay on top of your long term goals and set solid timelines for change. They’ll also help you brush up on your communication skills, navigate tough situations at work, and let you (or maybe even force you) to practice your “why I deserve a raise” speech over lattes.
In a word, they act like your friend — someone who has your back when you need a boost of extra confidence. But if you can’t afford a coach, why not find a trusted friend,work colleague or loving spouse who can fill in just as well? Enlist someone in your life to be your career confident. Or, if you know someone in a similar work situation, recruit them as your career “buddy”. Regular meet-ups and clear benchmarks will help each of you stay on top of your goals.
Credentials Can Be Hard to Come By
Although a wide range of professionals call themselves “career coaches”, there are no industry standards, special schools or degrees required to call yourself one. The danger here is that pretty much anyone can claim expertise, says Michael Melcher, founder of executive coaching service, Next Step Partners. As reported to AOL jobs, he says that during the recession there was a rash of out-of-workers who re-invented themselves as various kinds of “coaches”, posing as experts when they weren’t. At minimum, you should expect that a Career Coach is well-versed in business, consulting, and/or counseling, or perhaps they specialize in your field. Do your homework: look into their background and ask for client referrals to make sure they can back up their claims.
Photo Courtesy of: sgsu.org.uk