by Jessye Kass
What Is a Career Coach?
A tear rolled down Joe’s cheek when I asked him, “What are you most proud of in your current role?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m crying! I just… I feel so lost in my current role,” Joe shared, visibly embarrassed.
“Absolutely, no need to apologize. We spend the majority of our lives working, and when we experience pain points or lack of direction within our work, it can affect us deeply. You are certainly not the first person to tear up or even cry in session, and you won’t be the last!”
He smiled, and we continued our discussion—eventually landing on his desire to explore his coding interest while negotiating for a new project at work to help grow his skills within his current role at a local nonprofit.
Joe came to career coaching because he was interested in learning about new career pathways and wanted help in identifying transferable skills into other industries. There are many reasons one might pursue career coaching. Identifying transferable skills and visioning for the future are just two of them.
A career coach can support building your resume, defining your job search tactics, planning your career, developing a networking strategy, preparing for interviews, negotiating acceptance terms, creating accountability, and translating your professional story for your next role.
While some career coaches will focus on the job search—with resume reviews, cover letter support, mock interviews, and goal-setting—others will support you in your career development, offering motivational interviewing to help you identify your strengths and transferable skills and creating upskilling plans to help you reach your career goals across various industries. Many will provide a combination of the job search role and career development depending on your individual needs and their experience, and qualifications. Some coaches will have specific niches in an industry or in a specific part of the job search or career development process, so finding a coach who is right for you is essential.
Whether focused on the job search or more on visioning and development, a great career coach will also know how to hold space for the inevitable emotions that come up in this process. They will know how to create a safe, supportive space that enables you to unpack emotions related to your career while advancing your goals with tangible action steps.
Our careers are often deeply woven into our identities and, for some, even our sense of self. Finding a coach who understands the emotional toll of the job search or fighting against career stagnation can be a very important step when considering whom to hire.
5 Reasons to Hire a Career Coach
- From Job Search Stagnation to Strategy: One of the most common reasons people seek a career coach is when their current job search is not yielding the desired results—or any results at all. This can be a helpful time to get support in your materials and strategy, enhance your capacity to get noticed, and make an impression in your job application process. Coaches will also support you in building a networking strategy, giving you actionable steps, and providing support along the way.
Pro Tip: Seeking out support before you’re burnt out and exhausted from the job search will significantly improve your experience with a coach, as you’ll have more energy and motivation to engage with the tasks and action steps provided.
- Frustration or Apathy in Current Role: Perhaps you’re feeling a little bit stuck in your current role and are not sure how to grow or even what you want out of this role (or the next one). A career coach can help you identify potential next steps in your current role—or whether it’s the right time to look elsewhere. Through assessments, motivational interviewing, concrete tasks, and probing questions, a career coach can support you in both understanding your frustration or apathy in a given role, as well as steps to take in a new direction.
Pro Tip: If you’re feeling completely unmotivated and disengaged in the work, you may be better off seeking a burnout coach or mental health support first. If you’re just feeling some general frustration or apathy in the role, then a career coach can be a good fit.
- Career Path Divergence and Transition: As you evolve in your career, you may find that your current career path no longer aligns with your aspirations or needs. A career coach can support you with a shift within the same industry or to a completely different field. They can assist in identifying transferable skills, exploring new industries, and formulating a strategic plan for a successful transition.
Pro Tip: To save your resources, reflect on your goals and preferences in advance. Explore your network and set up informational interviews with people you know doing work that interests you. This will help your coach in tailoring the guidance more effectively while also building up your network.
- Professional Branding Support: Marketing yourself and building a professional brand can be exhausting, demoralizing, and frustrating—and yet, it can be critical in today’s competitive job market. If you’re struggling to define and communicate your unique value proposition to your target roles or companies, a career coach can provide you with valuable insights and applicable practice. They can guide you in crafting a resume that tells your story, optimizing your LinkedIn profile, and creating a personal brand that aligns with your career goals.
Pro Tip: While marketing yourself effectively is a part of every job search and networking strategy, developing your professional brand can elevate this further. If this is your focus, be sure you spend extra time finding the right choice that aligns with your values and the version of yourself you would like to present.
- Your Goals Aren’t Being Reached on Your Own: With the demands of everyday life, it can be challenging to invest in the job search or career development on your own. You may have the desire to update your resume and research the best tactics to build a networking strategy but feel daunted by the process or unmotivated to stick to it. Sometimes, the accountability and investment in a career coach can help support you in developing and reaching your own career goals, as well as by providing motivation and support.
Pro Tip: If you think going to a career coach is going to mean they will do all the work for you and they will get you a job… think again! To get the most out of career coaching, you must be willing to put in the work to advance your career.
Deciding to invest in career coaching can be a daunting process. If, while reading this article, you thought, “Hmm, that would be really helpful,” or “That applies directly to what I’m experiencing right now,” that might be your sign to look into hiring someone to support you in your job search or career development. Be sure to check out, "What Do Career Coaches Do and How Do I Pick the Right One?" focused on exploring different varieties of coaching, what to expect from a career coach, and how to select the right one for you.
Jessye Kass is a talent acquisition specialist, workplace wellness consultant, and coach. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn or sign up for her newsletter to learn when she offers coaching sessions, networking calls, and shares professional development opportunities.