Why You Need a Career Coach and How to Make the Most of the Experience

Updated Dec 21, 20225 min
Why You Need a Career Coach and How to Make the Most of the Experience

Why You Need a Career Coach and How to Make the Most of the Experience

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20225 min
Why You Need a Career Coach and How to Make the Most of the Experience

Let’s say you’re a talented soccer player, wouldn’t it be great to work with a professional Major League Soccer (MLS) player and up your game? What if you’re an amazing coder, how cool would it be to work with an expert and see how they develop their architecture?

Experts, like career and sports coaches, possess experience, knowledge, and even instincts that others don’t. If you are looking for ways to jump-start your career, take full advantage of a career expert when you get the opportunity.

This article explains how you can benefit from a career coach. It describes some common scenarios where people might seek out a coach’s guidance, how a coach can lift you out of a career plateau, and offers tips on making the most of your time with a career professional.

What Is a Career Coach, and Do I Really Need One?

A career coach is a trained professional who is qualified to help you navigate through life, particularly your career path. A good coach will have excellent people skills and a passion for helping them find the perfect career.

Sure, there are plenty of career websites, blogs, books, and discussion forums that advise you on a job search, getting a promotion, or changing careers. But how reliable is that advice, and is it right for your situation? Everyone is unique, so getting advice that you trust requires consulting with someone who knows you and your career goals.

Whether you hired a career coach independently or your company is offering you access to one, consulting with a career professional is a valuable opportunity that you should seize. Their years of career coaching experience is well worth tapping.

That said, there is no magic bullet that will take you to the higher echelons of our chosen field. Much of what you can gain from a career coach depends on how much effort you are willing to put into the coaching process.

Be Prepared to Do the Work

If you think of a sports coach, be it track or soccer, the coach designs and guides a training program. They have the most up-to-date knowledge and experience in drills, exercise, and nutrition that will lead to results. But really, the hard work and training are done by the athlete. It’s the same with a career coach. For the relationship to be successful, you must be willing to do the work to reach your goal.

Decide What You Want to Get Out of the Coaching Relationship

A good coach will ask the athlete or client what they want to achieve. Think about what your particular goals are before you engage with a career coach. That way, you can both be on the same page and work toward the same thing.

There are many reasons why a person seeks out a career coach. They might be trying to find a job but not having any luck. They might be feeling lost and contemplating a career change, or they might want to fast-track their career. 

Whatever your reason, write down the areas you want to concentrate on. Don’t limit your ideas at this stage. When you meet with your career coach, the two of you can narrow down the list, prioritize, and decide what makes sense and is achievable.

This is imperative because you have limited time with your coach, and there’s no point wasting it on things that aren’t related to your needs.

Great Reasons to Consult a Career Coach

Whatever stage you are at in your career, a career coach can help. Here are four scenarios that most of us find ourselves in at some time or another where a little help can make all the difference.

1. You’ve Lost Your Confidence

Most of us have experienced being fired or at least had a job that sucked. There’s nothing like a bad work experience to dash your confidence and make you doubt your career decisions.

A career coach can help you rationalize what happened and to find your confidence once again. Many bad experiences come down to a bad fit, and an objective third party can help you find the right niche.

For more on building confidence at work, read "Overcoming Insecurity at Work"

2. You‘re Struggling to Find Direction

Career professionals are life coaches too. You have to work to live, but, it would be nice if you could also live to work by turning what you enjoy into a money maker. A career coach has tools to help you self-analyze and better understand yourself and what you would find fulfilling. They may also have suggestions that would not occur to you otherwise and put you on the road to a new job or a new career you are excited about.

To gain better balance, read "Work-Life Integration: Gaining Control of Your Life"

3. You’re Landing Interviews, But Not the Job

Landing a job interview is confirmation that your resume and cover letter are up to snuff. But what if you persistently can’t get to the next round of interviews? A career coach can help you identify what you can do to improve your performance for the next job.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to see ourselves as others do. A career professional can help you differentiate yourself and leverage your uniqueness. A career professional can conduct mock interviews with you, coach you through difficult interview questions, and polish your communication and interviewing skills.

Related: "Describe a Difficult Task You Were Faced with and How You Addressed It"

4. You Don’t Know How to Get to the Next Level in Your Career

A career coach can help you understand your organization's culture and what it will take for you to get to the next level in your current job. For example, a coach can interpret your performance appraisal to determine your next steps for career development, whether it is leadership training or obtaining certain certifications.

Your career coach might tell you that you’ve outgrown your current employer and a move to another company is your best move for advancement. They can help you build your personal brand on social media, transform your LinkedIn profile, navigate the current job market, and negotiate job offers.

How to Approach Your Time with a Career Coach

We’ve already mentioned setting goals as the first step in setting yourself up for success with a career coach. Here are some tips to get the most out of your coaching sessions.

1. Take Notes

Jot down questions that you want to ask. You’re likely to think of things as you go about your day. Keep a record of your sessions and what you have learned to refer to later. Alternatively, ask if you can record the sessions for review later.

2. Take Time for Reflection

Take the time to reflect on what you learn. Otherwise, the career planning lessons may go in one ear and out the other. Process your sessions, and build on each one. Slow down and apply the lessons consistently. That’s when you’ll start to see results.

3. Do Your Homework

Your coach may assign you tasks or suggest ways to change your behaviors, just like an athletic coach assigns cardo and strength drills. To see results, follow their advice religiously. Career growth often occurs when we dare to go out of our comfort zone, so commit to pushing yourself if you really want to see progress in your professional development.

For more on career development, read "How to Be More Resilient in Your Career"

A Word of Warning

A career coach is not a magician. They are skilled and knowledgeable, but they cannot fix your situation; the solution ultimately comes from you. The right coach can give you the tools you need to find your dream job, but it’s up to you to use them.

Lastly, if you select a career coach, make sure they are a good fit. Check they have credentials in the areas you want to work on and they are certified by a respected organization like the International Coaching Federation. Look for recommendations for coaches on industry websites and publications. Find out their coaching style so that it aligns with the best asset you have, yourself.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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