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5 Key Ingredients to Look For When Choosing a Career Coach

Are you wanting to make a career change with the help of a career coach? Do you want to hire someone who can help you develop your career path but not sure what to look for in a career coach?

In a previous post, I answered the question of what to look for in a life coach by drawing on my many years of experience and anecdotal evidence matching thousands of coaches and clients through, the professional coach directory. In this post, I would like to take a fresh look at the same topic by presenting the science of career interventions.

Given the proliferation of job dissatisfaction, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that researchers have explored what makes a career intervention successful. By looking a variety of career interventions, researchers have concluded that there are five key ingredients that lead to better career outcomes and you should look for all five of those ingredients when choosing a career coach.

1. Does your career coach offer worksheets and goal setting exercises?

It’s not surprising that filling out worksheets and establishing career goals is helpful at changing careers. It’s the first step to thinking critically about your career, what you want and where you hope to be years from now.

The good news is that pretty much every career coach will offer this. In particular, at the beginning of your engagement, your coach will likely ask you to fill in one or more intake forms to uncover your values, your strengths, a little bit about your past successes and failures and more.

2. Does your career coach offer objective information about potential careers?

In order to make a successful move into a new career, it’s beneficial to know the details of the new position. For example, if you are thinking about going into dentistry, you want to answer some basic questions such as:

  • What does a typical work day look like?
  • How stressful is it?
  • What is the work environment like?
  • What tasks do you need to be really good at?
  • What’s the pay like?
  • And more.

Many career coaches have a background in HR so they have interacted with many different people in different positions – everything from front-line staff to executives and CEOs. Other career coaches have held a variety of positions themselves and have firsthand experience of what those positions are like. And the most senior career coaches have helped hundreds or thousands of other people make successful career transitions, thereby exposing them to more of the details of those positions.

If the career coach that you intend to hire does not have deep knowledge of the types of positions within the industry you intend to enter, no problem. Most career coaches will encourage their clients to conduct informational interviews with people who hold positions they are exploring. The key is that you collect the right data before you make a career decision.

3. Does your career coach offer individualized interpretation and feedback?

This question almost doesn’t need to be answered. Of course career coaches offer individualized interpretation and feedback, but you have to remember that the academics looked at interventions, some of which were things like online career programs that are cookie-cutter solutions for everyone who uses them.

If you are looking to hire a career coach, you may have a limited budget and while hiring a professional for one-on-one services may be optimal, some coaches will offer group coaching or some form of a do-it-yourself program. While these alternatives to one-on-one coaching may be less costly, the old saying of “you get what you pay for” may hold true here. One-on-one coaching may be the most expensive but it’s likely to be the most impactful because it supplies you with the most individualized feedback.

From my own personal experience, I’ve completed at least five different personality and career assessments and in most cases, I was given a generic report that was a little bit useful. Then I hired a coach to interpret the results and from that, I developed practical action steps that I could put into action right away. Now looking back upon the experience, I may not recall anything from the reports, but I do recall the conversations I had with those coaches because they were personalized to my situation.

4. Does your career coach provide support?

Not surprisingly, attention to building support was one of the key ingredients to an effective career intervention. When you hire a career coach, find out what level of support they offer during the coaching. Some coaches are more involved than others. Some coaches will send random texts throughout the week to see how you’re doing, others will employ daily accountability tools, and some will do very little between coaching sessions.

As you pursue your career change, find out what your career coach will do to support you throughout the process.

5. Can your career coach model the type of career change you are looking to make?

If you want to become better at tennis, it makes sense that you will find someone who is a pretty good tennis player to teach you how to improve. The same holds true for career coaching. Try to find a career coach that can relate to your situation and perhaps was where you are a few years ago. Try to find someone who can model the outcomes and behaviour you want. Science has shown that to be a necessary ingredient.

So, there you have it. A list of five ingredients to look for when choosing a career coach, backed by science.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you land your dream job? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

About the Author Stephan Wiedner

Stephan Wiedner is the Co-Founder and Head Coach of Stephan helps entrepreneurs and free thinkers forge their own unique career path. He can be found on Noomii and

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