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Is a career coach really worth it?

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When you’re trying to figure out your career path, you might find yourself struggling with questions about what you want to achieve, what impact you want to make on the world, where to start, and how you’ll get there.

This is where career coaches can be helpful. A career coach is someone who is specialises in listening to the questions, doubts, and ideas you have about your current role or your future

Using a career coach is more common than you think with many senior managers and junior executives using the services to help them prepare the next steps in their careers. Previously, career coaching was reserved for those with deep pockets, however these days most professionals can hire a coach to suit their budget, and partnering with one early in your career can significantly accelerate your growth.

When should you get a career coach?

Many people wait until they move into a leadership role before getting coaching, yet having some coaching at all levels of your career can accelerate your path to that leadership by giving you the skill sets needed earlier.

Here are some signs that you’re ready to get a career coach:

You feel frustrated by your current work and level of achievement.

Perhaps you’re successful at work, but you know you can accomplish more. Why aren’t you the one to lead that new innovative project? Why aren’t you selected to present at the next conference? Why aren’t you getting promoted or a payrise? You feel you deserve something more, but you don’t know what you need to do to prove yourself.

Or maybe your family members, peers, and mentors give you contradictory feedback, leaving you confused. A career coach could help you to identify what you actually want and what you need to change (or improve on) to move forward.

You want to switch career paths.

Maybe you have long-held career dreams that you’ve had to put off for financial, family, or social reasons. Maybe you’ve stayed in this job because it feels stable. Now you’re in a better position to make a move, but you don’t know where to go or how to make a switch. A career coach could give you the reality check you need and help you plan your next career adventure.

You feel uncertain about your future.

What do you plan to do in three years? You’ve been asked this question during interviews and year-end reviews, but you’re confused and don’t know what your next steps should be. Should you make a lateral move or step up the ladder? Do you have the skills needed to be a strong competitor? A career coach could ask you insightful questions and help you gain the clarity you need.

Where do you find a career coach?

The best way to find a coach is through referrals. Reach out to people in your network and see if they’re using (or have used) a coach in the past and whether they’d be willing to refer you. Ask them about their experiences and how the coach has benefitted them. Their answers will give you insights into whether it’s worth reaching out. At your workplace, check if there are coaching services or if you can get financial support as part of your professional development.

If your network or your organisation aren’t helpful in this area, there are other resources you can tap into. Many university alumni offices offer no- or low-cost career coaching through their career services centre.

Recruiters and search firms like Oktet often have partnerships with top coaches who often work with their clients at discounted rates whilst helping top talent find their next existing role.
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How to Find the Right Career Coach

Now that you understand better what a coach is and is not, and where you can find one, let’s take a look at how you can find yourself the right coach.

Be clear on your goals and objectives.

Before you reach out to a coach, reflect on what you want to get out of the relationship. Do you want to step up into a leadership role? Are you looking to start a new business? Or are you just trying to figure out what kind of role will make you feel fulfilled? You need to know what you want in order to choose the right person to guide you towards it.

Do your research.

As you look into different coaches, pay attention to their backgrounds and expertise. Many coaches will include a short description of their focus areas in a bio or in their online profiles. What did they study? What services are they specialised in? Do they work with a lot of young professionals? Read up on any articles they’ve written to get an impression of whether your perspectives match and if you’d like to work with this person. You can start to put together a shortlist of a few people whom you’re interested in.

Reach out and interview them.

Don’t just go with the first person who responds. Even if the coach was referred, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be a fit. It’s okay to have a few conversations and decide who you’d like to work with and who you can trust. Most coaching engagements will last many months and making that journey with somebody you feel comfortable with is important. Here are some practical questions you might ask coaches when you interview them.
  • What is your coaching expertise? Have you worked with young professionals before? Make sure your coach has experience and/or certifications and can share some success stories. Expect the more experienced coaches to be pricier.
  • What is your coaching style? Coaches use different approaches, and some might match your needs better than others. Do you prefer a more action-oriented coach or a coach who will require you to be more introspective?
  • Will the sessions be online or face to face? Some people feel more comfortable interacting online than face to face. Understand what type of interactions you prefer, as well as the flexibility of the coach.
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A coaching relationship is intimate. To get real work done, you’re going to need to be vulnerable with this person. During the interview, be mindful of how you feel:

Do you feel the coach listens to you intently?
Are you psychologically safe enough to express yourself?
Are they talking more than you do?
Do they already have an agenda before hearing your particular needs?

It could take a few tries to find the right coach. Don’t shy away from doing a few introductory sessions. But remember, coaching isn’t magic. In order to make the most of it, you’ll have to make an effort. If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, now is a good time to engage with a coach.
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