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Candidate Help & Advice

How to Choose a Career Coach

I am a practicing career coach, and at every year-end, I summarize my annual accomplishments as measured by how many people I helped and what percentage of them landed. In practicing Six Sigma principles in my career coaching, one of the ones I especially take to heart is CIP, which stands for Continuous Improvement Process. That means, I keep asking myself what I could do better for my clients in the future.

Another of the principles is measurement of performance, and in this case, my own personal performance. While doing that I’m checking out my competition to see whether my fees are aligned with those of others in the same field. This is always an amazing exercise that constantly keeps me wondering. Basically, I, too, do what many people do when searching for help with their careers: seek assistance from a coach (1) to improve a résumé, (2) to acquire the skills needed for interview preparation, or (3) to get general career guidance. I simply Google some terms such as career coaching and add a state or city. Such searches typically result in several similar service providers.

And now the real fun—and frustration—start. If I were a job seeker who landed on a career coach’s Web site, naturally I would like to get some basic impressions and information. After all, how else could I make a judgment? The problem is that most Web sites are inferior and lacking. Many of them use stock photos of, say, a handshake or some attractive young people. I would rather see a picture of the person I may want to hire and work with.

Another major problem I see is that many if not most of the Web sites are overwhelming: the landing page is confusing and uninviting because it has way too much information and offers way too many options. Job seekers want simplicity, order, and guidance, yet typically, they encounter inordinate amounts of information. I think this is a classic case where simplicity is attractive and where less is more. Career coaches help job seekers communicate eloquently and concisely, But the evidence via most of such Web sites proves the contrary. I speak with many of my counterparts and business friends. Most of them admit that their Web sites are not producing as they expected.

So what should a job seeker look for when searching for a career coach? Above all, nothing beats personal recommendations. So, testimonials and LinkedIn recommendations are essential. But of course, career coaches would not post less-than-spectacular testimonials. Next, the Web site should be clear, not confusing, and easy to get answers from regarding the services provided, the ways the services would benefit a job seeker, how to contact the service provider directly by phone, where the service provider is operating from, and the fees for each type of service. Are there any contracts to be signed? any up-front fees to be paid? any short- or long-term commitments to be signed. These are some of the basic and elementary pieces of information a job seeker needs before making a decision.

For those of you who are job seekers or are contemplating making a job change, I suggest you gather as much competitive information as you can, definitely talk with your potential career coach before making your first appointment in order to make sure there’s good chemistry between the two of you. Make sure you’ll be getting what you need and that the fees are competitive. Don’t go by price alone, because then you may end up with the proverbial “You get what you pay for.” Don’t be too impressed with academic degrees, courses, and certificates. I myself once used a coach who had two master’s degrees, had taken many relevant courses, and displayed wallpaper-like posts of certificates. Regrettably, the individual’s services turned out to be worthless yet very costly! Do your homework. Make your decision. And make sure you feel good about it.

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