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How to find a great career coach

ar5f2kd6sn2hnkhrl77fStuck in a rut at work or can’t seem to get past the interview stage? A career coach could be the answer – as long as you’re able to find the best professional for you.

‘The right career coach can make an enormous difference to your career success,’ says Corinne Mills, ( Managing Director of Personal Career Management. ‘So it’s worth investing time to find the right person for you.’

If you’re not sure where to start, John Lees (, career coach and author How To Get A Job You’ll Love, suggests going by personal recommendation.

‘Word of mouth is often the best way. Ask around, especially people who have made a career change themselves.’

If that fails, Corinne’s advice is to contact a few different career coaching companies to contrast and compare their approaches. ‘Most of the reputable ones also offer a free initial meeting where you can find out more about their services.’

How career coaching works

A good career coach will provide you with a mix of guidance and coaching. As well as giving you information and feedback, they should be able to offer advice and motivational support – helping you to see what you need to start doing differently and how to do it.

Consultants may work alone or in small organisations; some will have experience in your particular industry while others may specialise in areas that you need particular help with.

‘Be aware that many individual consultants are not exclusively career specialists,’ says John.

‘They may also work in coaching, training, personal development or recruitment. Some careers specialists are also qualified occupational psychologists. Who you chose to go with depends on your particular set of needs and what you’re hoping to achieve.’

How much will it cost?

Before you decide whose services to hire, ask upfront about costs. A package of meetings and support from a professional careers consultancy can cost anywhere between £400 to £1,000 – and fees of £10,000 are not unheard of in larger London firms.

Independent coaches tend to have fewer overheads and so have lower fees as a result. While some offer a fee package, others charge an hour rate. Again, this can vary – typically between £50 to £100 per hour outside London, and from £70 to £200 per hour in the capital. Whether you pay per hour or for a package, you’re likely to be charged VAT on top.

Just remember that cost, whether low or high, does not necessarily indicate value.

John says: ‘Be cautious about paying large sums of money to a career consultant when you may be able to achieve similar results by supporting yourself some of the way and then hiring a coach with more modest fees who can help you with the parts you find difficult.’

If you’re on a very tight budget, it may be worth checking out what your local adult guidance provider or, if you are a graduate, your University Careers Service, has to offer.

‘Be aware that consultants may not have a great deal of business experience and you may only get a short amount of time,’ warns John.

Who to avoid

Like most things in life, it’s best to go with your gut instincts when choosing a career coach. Just be sure to spend enough time talking on the phone, or make the most of a free initial meeting, to get a good idea of what they can offer and how the sessions work.

Having said that, there are certain companies you would do well to avoid.

‘Be cautious should a company promise to ‘market you’ – as this can turn out to be costly and you could lose control over the people you are trying to influence,’ warns John.

‘Similarly, beware of any firm that says it can give you access to ‘hidden’ vacancies. No-one can guarantee access to hidden vacancies – a professional career coach shouldn’t take over the task for you, but give you the tools to develop and control your own career.’

What to ask

In addition to cost, it’s important to get a good understanding of how support will be offered. If you’re paying for a package, will you get support via email or telephone or only during face-to-face meetings? What happens if you, or they, feel they can’t help you?

Should you have no idea what you want to do next, what strategies will they use to help you? If the answer includes tests, what tests are they and who approves them?

‘You might spend days or weeks interviewing potential coaches in person or on the phone but don’t rush the process,’ advises Corinne. ‘Regardless of costs, finding the right career coach could be the best investment you ever make in yourself so it pays to get it right.’

Book links

Career Coach: Your personal workbook for a better career by Corinne Mills:

How To Get A Job You’ll Love by John Lees:

Image: © topshots –


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