How to Hire a Career Coach & Jumpstart Your Career in 2021

By Donna Cooper, MS, ACC, MS, NCC                                                                                

So, you’ve decided to take charge of your career by hiring a career coach? Congratulations. Partnering with a career coach is a big step toward creating the work life you want. Hiring a career coach is an investment of both time and money, so it’s important to find the right career coach for you.

I am an accredited coach with 20+ years of experience in helping senior leaders, managers and college students to successfully navigate career transitions. I wrote this article to provide a guide for both what to look for in a career coach and how to go about choosing the right career coach for you. Let’s get started by looking at how a career coach can help you move your career in the direction you want.

What will a career coach do for me?

Wherever you are in your work life, a professional career coach can help you as you identify your ideal career path and then make it happen. Whether you’re ready to switch jobs, pursue a longtime passion, move up the ladder at your current workplace, start your own business, create an “encore career,” or simply get out of a career rut, a career coach can be a powerful ally.

The process often begins with clarifying what’s important to you and visualizing where you want your career to go. At The Workplace Coach, many clients complete a values clarification exercise and a strengths profile or assessment. These tools help them better understand their core values, natural strengths and character traits.

With these as a foundation, your career coach will partner with you to develop a job search strategy that positions you above your competitors. Together you will create a detailed action plan.

As you implement your plan, your coach will provide invaluable support – from helping you to understand what motivates you and what gets in your way, to preparing you for job interviews and salary negotiations. Just as importantly, your coach will hold you accountable each step of the way.

What to Look for in a Career Coach

  1. Credentials & Training

Anyone can call themselves a coach, but you don’t want to pay just anyone to be your coach. Look for a coach who is credentialed by at least one of the following organizations – International Coach Federation (ICF); the International Association of Coaches (IAC), and Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC).

Most leading career coaches have more than basic coach training. At The Workplace Coach, our coaches hold advanced degrees and have completed hundreds of hours of coach-specific training, in addition to being credentialed by the profession’s most-respected organizations.

  • Experience That Matches Your Needs

Look for someone whose career coaching experience is related to your specific needs, goals and interests. For instance, if you work in a corporate setting or want to, you prefer a coach who has corporate experience. The same goes if you have your heart set on working for a nonprofit. If you’re thinking about launching your own business, consider a coach who has a solid track record of success as an entrepreneur.

  • Coaching Philosophy, Style & Method

Professional coaches will clearly articulate their coaching philosophy and method. At The Workplace Coach our work is grounded in the principles of Practical Psychology Coaching. Our method includes asking powerful open-ended questions to help clients gain insights that move them toward their goals.

Consider the coach’s workstyle too. Will they meet with you by phone, video conference call or in person? What type of support do they provide between sessions? Are there limits on between-session support?

  • Tools & Resources

Many career coaches give their clients access to assessment tools such as DISC, 360 feedback, Myers-Briggs and the Highlands Ability Battery. Professional coaches are also skilled at guiding clients in maximizing their use of the tools.

  • Professional Ethics & Coaching Agreement

We recommend working with a career coach who adheres to ICF’s Code of Ethics. A prospective coach should also be willing to draft an agreement defining the terms and scope of the engagement, including fees, scheduling, logistics, and roles and responsibilities of coach and client. Pay attention to whether the coach clearly distinguishes between coaching, consulting and counseling or therapy.

6 Steps to Choosing the Right Career Coach for You

  1. Gather names. Word of mouth and referrals from friends and trusted colleagues is a great place to start. Also, check out the coaching credentialing organizations for online directories of coaches.
  • Find out more. Learn as much as you can about the coach by reading their websites, LinkedIn profile, blogposts and articles. These will tell you a lot about a coach’s professional interests, background and strengths.
  • Check references thoroughly. Ask coaches you are considering to give you names of references, including current and past clients. Don’t stop there though. Take the time to contact each reference and ask about the pros and cons of their experience with the coach.
  • Interview coaches you’re considering hiring. Ask about the basics, like their training, credentials, experience, methodology and costs, then dive deeper by asking them to discuss:
  • Specific experiences with clients whose situations or goals are were similar to yours, including their process and outcomes;
  • professional experience outside coaching;
  • their strengths and weaknesses;
  • numbers of clients coached.
  • Schedule a complimentary introductory session. A reputable coach will be willing to schedule a free first session.
  • Pay attention to personality, chemistry and style. Do you feel comfortable and at ease with the coach? Is it important to you that they have a sense of humor? Or do prefer someone who’s no-nonsense in their manner. Just as importantly, do you sense that the coach challenge you to grow?

Free Resource. Contact The Workplace Coach today to download a free copy of our Consumer’s Guide to Coaching or to set up a complimentary coaching session.

Donna Cooper, ACC, MS, NCC, is an ICF-certified coach and a member of The Workplace Coach’s award-winning team of professional coaches. Donna has specialized in career management, encore career planning, entrepreneur coaching and onboarding for more than 20 years. She excels at helping clients become more successful, resilient and self-actualized through the development of their talents and skills.