Brian Ray (pictured) is founder of Crossroads Career Network, a national, non-profit membership of churches that provides online job search/ career resources and access to career groups. He is also author of the 2010 Crossroads Career Workbook, owner of Primus Consulting executive search, and former vice president for human resources and administration for Chick-fil-A restaurants.
I was once told that professional golfer Jack Nicklaus had his own golf coach, because there was one thing the coach could do that Jack could not: Watch Jack.
The value of having a seasoned set of eyes looking at what you’re doing cannot be overstated. That’s especially true when your job search requires different skills: resume writing, web searching, personal networking, and interviewing.
"But," you might say, "I can't afford a coach!" To that, I would counter that you cannot afford to be without a coach. But here’s the good news: Not all coaches charge fees; you can hire a coach for free.
Paid coaches are usually more qualified and should always be more committed to your success and available to your needs, because you’re paying them.
On the other hand, coaches whose services are free can be extraordinarily helpful and knowledgeable. But since they’re not making money from it, you may find a limit to their availability.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
Before you look for a coach, whether for free or for a fee, ask yourself these five questions:
- What kind of help do you need? Writing resumes, networking, interviewing, negotiating, or all of the above? To get a better understanding of your needs, you can download and complete a Career Explorer Questionnaire from my web site.
- What should you expect from a coach? The primary expectation is quality counsel based on understanding your situation, goals, and needs, as well as their expertise and experience. Other expectations include confidentiality, encouragement, accountability, and contacts.
- How do you find a coach? The best way is to network. Ask people you know who have made good progress in their job search. Also, ask professionals in human resources and recruiting, or in industries and occupations you’re searching.
- How do you select the best coach for you? Evaluate potential coaches based on the specific help you need. Review their backgrounds and interview them about their experience and expertise. If you’re considering a paid coach, ask for certifications, services, fees, and references in writing.
- How do you maximize value from your coach? Be clear about what your coach will and will not do for you. For example, will they coach you on writing resumes, or will they actually write them for you? Be sure to ask questions and try what they recommend. If you begin to lose confidence in their coaching, say so, or stop working with the coach.
By now, you’re probably feeling that trust in the coach’s character and competence is the most important element in working with a coach, whether paid or not. And you’re right.
Imagine Jack Nicklaus on the 18th green in the final round of The Masters, wondering whether his coach gave him good advice. You need to trust that you've found the right coach for you, too!
Have you ever called on a career coach for help? Tell us about your experience.
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