Coach or counselor
I received a phone call from someone asking me about the benefits of working with a career coach and whether I’m a career coach or a career counselor. I reversed the question to see whether the caller knows the distinction between the two terms. As expected, the caller did not. But that caller was not in the minority, because almost everyone uses the two terms interchangeably. In fact, there are even more such terms: career consultant, facilitator, mentor, and even manager-as-coach.
Marcia Bench in her book Career Coaching: An Insider’s Guide describes in detail the nuances of each term. However, for practical purposes and for the majority of people, the only question that counts is whether any of those people who hold the various titles can help clients get jobs or assist them with career changes. Of course there are also many other issues that any one of these professionals can help with.
What do clients want?
Clients look at a coach and expect the person to be someone who is confident and responsive. The coach needs to demonstrate knowledge of how to maneuver between the myriad job search strategies that are out there, and the coach must be current with rapidly changing platforms in, say, social media, for example. In terms of expectations about what clients can get from a coach, many clients come with certain preconceived ideas, and so a coach must stay open-minded and often call on intuition and experience in order to produce optimal results for a client.
An experienced coach develops an eye for clients’ strengths, innate talents, and skills but at the same time has to help clients face—and overcome—weaknesses. Everyone has perceived weaknesses; some don’t see them objectively and thus can’t deal with them effectively. Here’s where a good career coach can be potentially crucial. Working with a career coach definitely reduces job search time—occasionally, quite significantly. Above all, a good career coach has to be an excellent listener and know to ask probing questions.
What is a session with a coach like?
Similar to other professionals, each coach has an individual style with which the coach feels confident and effective with clients. Many coaches are generalists, meaning that they help clients with a wide variety of topics such as résumé creation, networking, social media, LinkedIn profiles, written and verbal communications, interview preparation, and salary negotiation. As an example, my subspecialties are interview preparation and salary negotiation, which is of course not to say I don’t help clients with all the other subjects involved in career coaching as well!
While doing interview preparation, we conduct extensive mock interviews. I videotape clients for a few minutes, and then we analyze the tape together. I also provide feedback on a client’s image and make suggestions for improvement.
What is the cost?
Career coaches’ fees vary widely. Most career coaches have Web sites, but not all of them list their fees there. Why? Sessions can last anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours. Some coaches charge by session; others charge a global fee in the thousands of dollars.
My suggestion is caveat emptor: let the buyer beware—and do a thorough evaluation with due diligence. Interview a coach before handing over your money, and above all, if there’s no chemistry between the two of you, run away and find someone else regardless of the cost.
The unfortunate aspect of this is that career coaches can cost a small fortune and those of us who are unemployed, especially if that unemployment drags on, can rarely afford to lay out that kind of money when things are tight.
Robert, I TOTALLY understand. And you are absolutely right. I am embarrassed to say that I was 30 months in transition. And when money is not coming in it is difficult to justify large expenses.
But, at one point I had to ask myself what options do I have? I came to conclusion that I needed crutches to walk and hopefully that will lead to better things because at that point I was standing still.
Some people simply can not afford it period. And in that case I am not sure what to say. Others have the money but do not think that the career coach is worth it. Then, perhaps another coach who is charging less is the solution. There are places where you can get coaching gratis. I live in NJ and I know that there are such places that help people in transition.
Robert, regardless what you decide I wish you success and a terrific 2017!
What people can afford is relative. Many career coach / consultants (me included) take into account the job seeker’s situation when proposing a coaching package. Personally, I think it’s important for every client to have some “skin in the game” – even if it’s a minimal amount. Services received for free don’t seem to be valued as much. That said, talk to career coaches about sliding scales. We want to help, and that doesn’t mean we’ll only help those that can afford our top rates.
@Robert Billeaud, what I’m hearing in your comment is uncertainty as to whether hiring a career coach will get you the results you want. If you are not finding a job or a career choice on your own, and the coach helps you turn that around and get that dream job or promotion or whatever it is, then what is that worth to you? If you get a result, then coaching is not an expense, its an investment. If you pay $5,000 and land a $150,000 a year job as a result, was it worth it? I would say that the answer is to find a coach that you feel confident will help you get the result you want, and decide what that result is worth to you. Finding a “cheaper” coach is not always the answer, because you have to wonder why they are not valuing their services higher? Look for someone who has a history of getting results, who has great testimonials and is willing to put you in touch with current and/or past clients, and hire the one that you feel confident about. If you’re willing to do your part to make the results happen as well, then you should get your investment back multi-fold.
Donna, thanks for your comment. Many years ago, at the time that I was in transition I paid $7200 to a Career marketing firm and honestly I did not see the value at all. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. I am the coach who is paid,..a fraction of that amount and my clients land on the average after 5 months. Ask them if it was worth it? In fact go to my LinkedIn profile and see what they are saying. There are many career coaches who are producing results and they are not very expensive. What I am trying to say is that there is no direct correlation between the cost or rather investment a job seeker makes and the value received.
My 23-year-old son doesn’t know what to do in terms of picking a career. I was impressed that the article stated that an experienced coach develops an eye for clients’ strengths, innate talents, and skills. I will be sure to keep that in mind when I am looking for a coach for my son so he can start making a living!
Thanks for the wonderful article you created for us.
I am a 23-year-old girl, still unmarried and looking for the best career option for me. This article will help me a lot in choosing the best and satisfactory career.
Thanks for sharing with us!
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I graduated from college a few years ago, and I want to get a new career that allows me to grow, but I’m not sure what my greatest strengths are. I didn’t realize that hiring a career coach will be able to help me so much through this process! Thank you for explaining that a career coach will help me to see my best skills and talents as well as decreasing job search time.
It’s interesting to know that a career coach will help you to feel confident and effective to help your networking. My husband and I are thinking about how to improve his company’s efficiency, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about your recommendations to choose a career coach to help us.