What is a career coach?
A career coach is a person who provides objective feedback to help job hunters (and employees working toward advancement) approach the process more efficiently and strategically.

What areas are covered?
A good coach can add value to every part of the process including, but not limited to, the self-assessment process, resume writing, cover letter writing, networking, interviewing, negotiating, and career change. Some people only require assistance from coaches in limited areas like interviewing. Others need help across all areas.

Why should I hire a coach?
The primary reason to hire a coach is to improve your chances to compete effectively for the positions that most interest you. The fact is, very few people enjoy—or are particularly adept at—marketing themselves. As a result, many people endure job searches that are longer than necessary.

What can I expect from working with a coach?
A good coach will work with you to set objectives upfront. From these, you should work together to establish an action plan that makes sense. Remember, there are no cookie-cutter solutions or plans. Everyone is different. Beware of any coach who doesn’t take the time to tailor an approach consistent with your background and objectives.

How do I find a coach?
The best way to find a career coach is through word-of-mouth. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone who has ever worked with a coach. Once you find someone, take time to interview that person. Be sure to get answers to the following questions:

• How much do they charge?

• How long have they been doing this?

• What is the income range of their clients?

• Do they have a particular area of expertise (e.g., specific jobs or industries)?

• Are there any clients they haven’t been able to help?

• Do they take on all clients or are they selective?

Most importantly, make sure you are comfortable with the person. After all, you’ll be working closely together. The process can actually be fun—enjoy it as much as possible!

At what point in the job search process does it make sense to hire a coach?
The right time to hire a career coach varies from person to person. Some people don’t realize they need a career coach until they find themselves struggling to get past initial interviews. Other people hire a coach the minute they realize they aren’t getting results from their cover letters, resumes, or networking. Still others know they need help from the initial stages of doing a self-assessment and putting a resume together. In general, though, it is far better to hire a career coach early in the process. The longer you wait, the more likely the situation is to escalate into a stressful, emotionally charged, or even desperate situation.

How important is it that your coach be a certified resume writer or member of an organization of career management professionals?
Not at all important. Organizations that offer “certifications” in different aspects of career development exist purely as a means to make their founders rich. The fact is, anyone can create an official-sounding “institute” and offer certifications on a variety of topics. More often than not, these organizations are not out to improve the quality of career coaching, resume writing, or any other area. If they were, hiring managers and recruiting professionals wouldn’t find themselves constantly wading through a sea of resumes to find the estimated 1% that are actually effective.

Incidentally, this 1% estimate has been confirmed time and again by spontaneous surveys of HR professionals and hiring managers who have been in my audience over the past few years. Judging from the thousands of resumes I read as an executive headhunter, I think 1% is on the high side.

Is it true that hiring a coach is tax-deductible?
The fees you pay a coach, like other job-search-related expenses, are tax deductible in many areas. Check with your tax advisor to be sure.

What is the cost involved?
Here again, there are no rules of thumb for what you should pay. Ideally, you, the job hunter, should be able to look back and think, “That was a terrific investment.” At the same time, the career coach should be able to say, “I was fairly paid for my services.” To achieve this win-win scenario, be open to the possibility of a value-based fee. While more and more people are adopting this approach, the majority still charge hourly fees ranging anywhere from $75 to $500 per hour. Whatever you do, avoid companies that charge exorbitant fees upfront. More than a few times, I’ve heard about people who paid $10,000, $20,000 or more with the “guarantee” that they’d find a job. Unfortunately, not one of these people had anything to show for it.

How many sessions does the average person need?

In my experience, there are effective no cookie-cutter formulas and no “average” people. Every situation is different. It truly depends on the person and his or her individual goal. Some goals are more challenging and face greater competition.

My goal is not to make you or anyone else dependent on me. My goal is to teach you what I know so you can apply the principles yourself ongoingly.