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When you should (or shouldn’t) get a career coach

Whether you’re looking for assistance on finding someone you can share forever-and-ever (and your Netflix) account with, or you can’t tell your right foot from your left, there seems to be an expert available to assist. From life gurus to fitness instructors and matchmakers and anyone else for hire, we are part of an age where self-improvement isn’t just healthy but trendy. While the concept of a career coach isn’t a modern concept, in recent years, it has become more popular and accessible to various budgets, allowing more professionals to utilize their wisdom. But what do they do exactly?

Career advice expert for TopInterview Amanda Augustine explains these smarties possess a unique combination of expertise to help you navigate the murky waters of job seeking and management, helping you to come out confident at the end. If you’ve considered investing in this one-on-one approach, it’s important to know the benefits and uses, along with areas a career coach isn’t meant to rescue you.

Here, the do’s and don’ts of hiring your new mentor:

Do: When you are lost or stuck in your career

Even if you used to be enamored with your job, everyone goes through periods where well, they just can’t. Career and branding expert Wendi Weiner says when you’ve hit a crossroads in your career and you aren’t sure on how to move forward, a career coach can come in handy. Not only do they help you ask the right questions but they provide resources and support for figuring out the next rung on the ladder.

“Think of someone who has been on a diet for a long time but isn’t seeing results, It would be advisable for him or her to hire a nutritionist or a personal trainer. A career coach is a similar type of trained professional, except in the professional world,” Weiner continues.

Don’t: If you are looking for greater help in your personal life

Repeat after Weiner: a career coach isn’t a therapist. Though they can inspire you to think differently about your professional life and ask some tough questions that get to the heart of your motivations, if you’re looking for emotional support, this isn’t your best avenue.

“If you are dealing with personal issues in your life, and you feel you are struggling in certain personal relationships or personal things going on, then you would be better off seeking a mental health counselor as opposed to a career coach,” she suggests.

Do: You want to make a major career change.

So you studied accounting—but you were born to be in marketing. You thought you’d enjoy nursing, but you are dissatisfied with your daily schedule. Augustine says when you’re making a major career change by switching industries, relocating or a mixture of the two, a coach could be your buddy in the process.

“A coach can help you explore new opportunities to determine how you can realistically turn your passion into a paycheck or leverage your existing skill set to target an entirely different field,” she explains.

Don’t: You aren’t open-minded to the advice of a career coach

In theory, having a big brother or sister of sorts to aid your path to success seems great. But if you doubt the validity or the effectiveness, Weiner says chances are high you’re going to end up in an unproductive situation. In addition to an open mind, you also need to follow instructions.

“You must be willing to listen to the advice from the career coach and equally open to doing the homework that is asked of you and the assessments in order to best understand your strengths and skills,” she continues. “If you aren’t willing to partake in the structured advice of the career coach, you will find yourself at a crossroad again.”

Do: Your resume isn’t getting traction—and neither are interviews.

You’ve lost count of how many applications you’ve filled out online — and yet, you’re not getting any callbacks. Or, you manage to get first-round interviews, but then potential employers ghost on you. These experiences are frustrating and can threaten your self-esteem to keep on keepin’ on. Augustine says a career coach is a perfect person to take a glance at your resume and know exactly what to shift. Or with the use of a mock interview, identify places you can improve.

“They can evaluate your entire career narrative and help determine if there are specific skills or experience you need in order to be a more attractive candidate for the role you’re pursuing,” she continues. “If you’re landing interviews but never making it to the next round, there may be an underlying issue that’s standing in your way. A career coach can assess your strengths and weaknesses, and develop a custom plan to help you overcome these challenges and make you a more confident interviewer.”

Don’t: You want a magician.

By definition, a career coach, well, coaches. Think of it how you would your old high school basketball or softball team leader: they ran through drills, critiqued your performance and gave you pointers — but you were the one actually on the field. Augustine says a career coach isn’t meant to do all of the hard work for you but to provide the skills necessary for you to arrive at your goal.

“At the end of the day, it’s your life and your career. A coach can educate you on the latest job-search best practices and keep you on task throughout the process. A coach can help you practice your interview skills so feel more confident when it really counts, but they cannot attend the actual interview in your place,” she continues. “Just like you can’t outsource your weight loss to a dietician, you can’t outsource your job search to a career coach. In order for it to work, you need to regard it as a two-way partnership.”


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