What Makes a Good Career Coach?

We all want the right solutions to solving our problems. I hear this over and over now as I speak to the many laid off journalists calling us in Poynter’s Standing Up for Journalism program. One candidate I had the privilege to coach just took a job using journalism outside the traditional media. She was excited to find the opportunity and believed her resume helped her market herself.

It got me thinking about what makes a good career coach and I thought that these tips paraphrased from money.cnn.com and taken from a 30 year career coach, John McKee, were good answers to that question.

Be sure your coach has:

1. Real world experience, at least comparable to yours so that you are understood and the advice is practical.

2. Credentials. Choose a coach who has some formal training and maintains standards of professionalism.

3. Credibility. “Your coach should be active and visible in the industry,” says McKee.

4. Testimonials. What do those coached by this person have to say about the service? Will the coach provide you with references from past clients?

5. Methods. How will you meet? How will you work together? Face to face, over the phone and one-on-one sessions are options that can be used and tailored to you. Be sure it works for you.

6. Goals. What are your priorities and how will the coach help you determine them? Can you state your expectations for what you want the coach to do and can this person meet those expectations?

7. Consultation. How does the coach extend the service? All first discussions should be free. Take that time to see if the chemistry is right between you and the coach. How well does he/she listen to you?

8. Guarantee. If you don’t get what you expected from the coach, and you stated it clearly up front, will the coach extend the time with you?

9. Fees. McKee points out that rates vary wildly, with coaches who target middle managers charging anywhere from $75 to $500 for sessions that may last an hour or a whole day.

To McKee’s list I would add:

  • Ask the coach what motivates him to help you. Why does he coach?
  • Has this coach experienced the career search himself and how long ago that was?
  • Ask the coach to tell you how his background relates to your industry. How does he work to understand you and your needs and to help you achieve your goals?

Note: No coach gets you the job. You are in charge of your career. What you want is support, good advice and confidentiality.

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