By Chrissy Scivicque
You’re feeling lost in your career and in need of a guide. Career coaching sounds like a promising idea, but how do you find the right coach for you? It seems like the quality of coaches can vary dramatically — as can the specific services they offer. Like anything in life, you’ll find a lot of great people out there and a lot of scammers too. So always be sure to do your due diligence before investing your hard-earned dollars.
To help you out, I’ve listed the eight questions you should ask before making any decisions on hiring a career coach.
1. What makes you different from others?
Any career coach worth his or her salt will have a unique perspective or something that makes their service special. Listen for reference to some kind of a system or process that the coach uses. You want to know that this person has done this enough to really be confident as your guide. New coaches can waste a lot of time figuring out next steps.
Remember that coaching is not the same as therapy. It’s a forward-looking, solution-oriented, action-based practice. A solid coach should be able to explain exactly what he or she does and how they do it in simple, easy-to-understand language.
2. What training/education do you have?
Don’t trust just anyone to be your coach. A lot of people, sadly, believe that coaching isn’t all that complicated. Surprisingly, it is. It won’t feel like it to you, as the person being coached, but your coach should be using a variety of skills and techniques to walk you through the process effortlessly.
Coaching is not just a conversation. There’s a structure to it and a good coach will know exactly how to phrase things to elicit the most compelling response from you — the response that gets to the core of what you’re feeling and what you need to do to move forward. A strong coach will have a whole toolkit to work with, full of exercises and resources to assist you in ways you’ve never even thought of. Coaches who don’t have training and education in the field will be highly underprepared and (more than likely) ineffective.
3. What exactly do you offer?
Coaching is one of those services that can mean a lot of different things to different people. Get clear on what’s included, as well as what’s not included. Some coaches focus primarily on assessments and other standardized devices, while others don’t use them at all. Most career coaches don’t offer job placement services or headhunting services, so if that’s what you’re looking for, make this clear up front. If the coach you’re speaking with doesn’t offer what you want, it’s possible he or she can provide a reference for someone else who does.
4. Do you have any client success stories that are similar to my situation?
While every situation is different, a qualified coach has probably worked with someone you could relate to. That doesn’t mean they had the same exact circumstance, but the coach probably has a client whose story will demonstrate the kind of result you could possibly expect from your work together (though there’s never a guarantee, as you’ll see in number six below).
That being said, don’t look for general “success rates.” Success means something different to every coaching client. I ask every client of mine at the very beginning of our work, “What would need to happen for you to consider our work together a success?” and every answer is different. At the end of our time, I check in and make sure we achieved the goal. If this is the measure of success, my track record stands at 100%. But recognize that the process is decidedly unscientific.
5. What do you know about my field (or the field I’m considering going into)?
This is an interesting question that is worth asking, even though I have a strong opinion that there are really only a handful of circumstances in which it matters. Truth be told, career coaching is career coaching, regardless of the field we’re talking about. You might think your industry is unique, but it’s probably not. There are a few exceptions, however, so you’re better off asking the question.
6. Do you offer a guarantee?
My advice regarding this question might surprise you…but here’s what I can tell you from my experience: No one, absolutely no one, should promise you a guarantee of any specific result from your coaching, whether it’s a job or anything else.
I know you might want a guarantee, but if a coach tells you that, he or she is lying. As a coach, I can’t guarantee anything. Why? Because coaching is only part of the equation. You are the other part. If you don’t follow through with your end of the bargain (i.e., attending sessions, doing your homework, etc.), I can’t do it for you.
7. Do you offer a free “get to know” conversation?
Never trust any coach who wants to charge you for a first conversation. That doesn’t mean you can expect every coach to be willing to do a free conversation though.
Here’s what I mean: As coaches, we have to screen our clients. It’s important to make sure that we select the right people for our services. So, if you go through a pre-screening process and the coach determines that you aren’t the right prospective candidate, the coach probably won’t schedule a free conversation. Why should he or she bother? Truth be told, if we scheduled free sessions with everyone who inquired (without any screening process), we’d never have any time for our clients! However, if you are potentially an ideal candidate, the coach should want to quickly speak with you at no cost.
Be aware that this free conversation is not the same as free coaching. Don’t expect to get all of your career problems resolved in this one conversation. It’s a discussion to learn more about one another. Remember that the coach is running a business so be respectful of time and recognize that the conversation is truly about you becoming a client. Get your questions answered and get a feel for the person, but don’t take advantage.
One more point: If you feel like a coach is trying to give you a “hard sell,” it’s a red flag. Coaching is one of those things that you either want or you don’t. Coaches know that. My motto is: If you have to drag people into coaching, you’ll have to drag them all the way through it—and that doesn’t serve you or me. During an introductory call, the coach should tell you about the service without pushing it on you.
8. How does it work?
How many times per month will we meet? Is there a minimum period of time we’ll work together? Will we meet over the phone or in person? What if I’m not happy with our progress at some point—do you offer refunds? Get the details on the structure of the services and options available.
With this list of questions in hand, you’re all prepared to explore the wonderful world of career coaching! I hope you find the perfect match for you. If you think I might be it, check out this page to learn more and apply for a free career strategy session.
About the Author
Chrissy Scivicque believes that work can be a nourishing, enriching life experience—and she loves helping professionals discover exactly what that means for them and how to achieve it. Her popular website, EatYourCareer.com, is devoted to this mission. As certified career coach and experienced corporate trainer, Chrissy brings a unique perspective to the world of professional development.