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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. July 30, 2021

Your Guide to Getting the Most Out of a Career Coach

And how to know which career coach is right for you

Woman typing on a computer
Photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto

Have you ever wondered how to take your career to the next level? 

Well, my clients do! As a career coach, I support a diverse range of job seekers who want to improve their careers. Some clients want to find a new job or change careers while others want to climb the ladder. I coach women and men of varying ages and backgrounds seeking work in multiple industries, including the arts, marketing, customer support, and tech. 

While I work for my own small business, career coaches can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Colleges and universities

  • Trade and vocational schools

  • Private education companies (e.g., coding bootcamps)

  • Employment agencies

  • Outplacement and career transition firms

Read more: Is a Career Coach Worth the Cost?

What is it like to be a career coach?  

A big part of my job is helping clients develop their careers and navigate tough issues, such as layoffs, lack of mobility, workplace discrimination, and burnout. I enjoy helping people strategize solutions to these issues and love that no two days are exactly alike. A typical day for a career coach varies based on workload, client needs, services offered, and other factors. These days, a typical day for me looks like this: 

7–9 a.m. 

After preparing a light breakfast and making a to-do list, I start answering client emails. The most common topic I see in my inbox is services; new and returning clients want to know what services I offer that can help them move their careers forward. My most popular service is the resume review.

9–11 a.m.

I usually take three to four client calls per day starting around 9 a.m. To learn more about my clients, provide a great coaching experience, and maximize our call time, I gather information about their needs and goals beforehand. 

11 a.m.–1 p.m.

As with most jobs, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of sending and receiving emails, taking calls, and scheduling meetings without taking breaks. To prevent this, I use this time to get a snack and regroup. After my break, I get a head start on client work. In career coaching, meeting with clients is only one part of the job; it also includes providing written feedback on the client’s job search materials, researching potential job prospects, or planning mock interviews.    

1–4 p.m. 

On a quiet day, I use this time to tie up loose ends: responding to more emails, finalizing pending work, and preparing for the next day. Whenever possible, I work ahead of schedule to position my clients for success. 

In addition to these daily responsibilities, I work diligently to keep my business in order by tracking expenses, ordering supplies, and managing invoices. Other duties career coaches perform include:

  • Marketing services to prospective clients

  • Participating in training or professional development

  • Hosting career webinars or workshops

  • Administering career or personality assessments

  • Networking with recruiters, employers, or potential clients

Read more: What Does a Technical Recruiter Do?

Qualities to look for in a career coach 

Career coaches vary in personality, work style, and service delivery. Still, there are a few qualities all career coaches should possess so that you benefit from working with them. 

Respectful

There’s nothing wrong with a good laugh during your coaching session, but it should never be at your expense. You want a coach who’s going to challenge you and respect your boundaries. 

Punctual

Your coach should be making every effort to be on time. Low responsiveness could adversely impact you and your job search, specifically if you have any upcoming deadlines for job applications.  

Collaborative

Career coaching is all about synergy! You will get the best results if you and your coach work together, combine ideas, and consider each other’s suggestions. 

Knowledgeable 

I pride myself on providing clients with helpful information and your career coach should, too! Even when I help a client score an interview with their dream company or negotiate a great salary, I still make time for continuous learning. Your career coach should have information about the job market, potential career paths, and job search techniques. 

How do you know whether a coach is a good fit for you? 

Even if your career coach has all the “right” qualities, they still might not be the best choice. Here are a few signs that a coach is a good fit for you: 

1. They take your concerns seriously.

Whether you’re worried about making more money at your next job, dealing with a difficult manager, or figuring out your next move, your concerns are valid. If a coach makes you feel otherwise, this could be a sign that they’re not a good fit. 

2. You scheduled your session easily.

The scheduling process says a lot about how your coach works, so if you have to jump through a lot of hoops to schedule a session, proceed with caution.  

3. They gather information before your session.

By being prepared, coaches show you that they want to make the most of your session. I always assess my clients’ needs before meeting with them and have found that it gives the client a chance to reflect, which is a part of a good career coaching experience.

4. They have good client reviews. 

Hearing from people who have already worked with a coach is one of the best ways to determine fit. If the coach doesn’t have public reviews, ask if they can share some with you before you book a session. 

5. They empower you to meet your goals

Even though career coaches can’t magically improve your career, they should empower you to do it through hands-on consultation. In addition to giving you a great pep talk, your career coach should be identifying proven strategies you can use to meet your goals. 

Read more: 4 Ways to Respond to a Recruiter Email

What are the most frequently asked questions of career coaches? 

Anytime I’ve ever wanted to make a change in my life, I had a ton of questions. As a career coach, I get to help people just like me who have lots of questions about their next steps. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get: 

How you can prepare for career coaching  

By taking a few steps ahead of your first session, you can make the best use of your time. 

1. Know what you’re getting. 

Review any contracts or invoices the coach provides. You will be paying for the service, so it’s important that you know exactly what you are investing in. 

2. Complete preliminary assessments or evaluations. 

I’ve had a handful of folks try to bypass my pre-coaching assessment, but it is required. Unless the assessment includes questions that make you uncomfortable, complete it so that your coach can better understand your needs. 

3. Be responsive. 

Respond to calls or emails as soon as you can to help your coach provide better service. 

4. Keep an open mind. 

If you feel your coach is guiding you in the wrong direction, speak up. But if you’re rejecting their advice because you’re scared to try something new, resist the urge. Qualified coaches have the experience and training needed to make useful suggestions. 

5. Don’t spend too much time on career woes. 

I love that my clients feel heard during our sessions! In fact, it’s one of the best parts of my job. But I have worked with people who were so focused on what didn’t go well in the past that they forgot to focus on the future. Once you talk it out, try to move forward so that you can start working on solutions with your coach. 

Read more: 2 Career Women on Change, Reinvention & Thriving

What you should be prepared to talk about 

Maximizing your time is central to a good career coaching experience! Be ready to talk through a few things in detail, including: 

  • Skills and strengths

  • Professional goals and achievements

  • Ideal job title, function, and/or industry

  • Potential barriers to career success

To further explore these topics before your session, take a free online career assessment, pull three job postings you find interesting, or research a company you’d love to work for. Share these details with your coach to show them what you want in your career and where you need their guidance most. 

Read more: How to Get Hired Fast, According to a Career Coach

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Photo of Kaila Kea-Lewis

Kaila Kea-Lewis

Contributor

Kaila Kea-Lewis is a career coach and freelance writer, mainly covering career changes, job searching, and self-development. As a long-time advocate for remote work, she also enjoys writing about remaining productive while working from home. Her bylines include InHerSight, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, and ZipRecruiter.

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