Each stage of your career opens the door to new possibilities, whether finding your footing as a new graduate or climbing the ladder to tech leadership. At the same time, mapping your path to career success can leave you with more questions than answers. And if you’re struggling to define your vision of success and create an actionable plan to reach your goals, it might be time to connect with a career coach.
On the other hand, the job search can be a vulnerable experience. Maybe you’re wondering if you want to devote even more time to an already time-consuming process only to spend money on revealing personal details to a stranger. From this standpoint, are career coaches really worth it?
Career coaches help you navigate any stage of your career, from tailoring your resume to eliminating career advancement hurdles, and they offer personalized advice based on your individual path and ambitions. Whether you connect with a career coach for free on Seen or seek one out on your own, that small upfront investment can pay off in dividends. Here’s how.
Career coaches are worth it when…
1. You need help defining the right career path
It’s not uncommon to question if your career is moving in the right direction, or if you’re even on the correct path. In reality, finding a fulfilling career is difficult—and not just for new grads entering the professional world. According to Gallup, 70% of American workers aren’t engaged at work.
Although a career coach won’t make important life decisions for you, they’ll assess your goals, strengths and needs to offer advice that can give you clarity. Trouble pinpointing goals or the root cause of career dissatisfaction? Coaches are professionally trained to help you identify these uncertainties so you can find your way.
Sound similar to a mentor? It is, with a few key differences.
A career coach can equip you with actionable, goal-oriented steps to achieve your professional goals, whether in your current role or a new profession. On the other hand, a mentor likely shares a similar role or field as yours (often times at the same employer) and offers insight and guidance based on their own experience and learnings. A mentor-mentee relationship may be long-term and is intended to help you succeed in your career.
2. You want to climb the career ladder
Interested in shifting from an individual contributor role to leadership? Longing for that (possibly overdue) promotion? Maybe, along the way, you discovered that moving into a higher-level role is less straightforward than expected.
Much like the job search, advancing in your career can be competitive. On top of your colleagues vying for the same position, you may have trouble communicating your skills and accomplishments—or even downplay your achievements. Perhaps you’re struggling to step out of your comfort zone, accept additional responsibilities or deliver above and beyond your job description, thus being overlooked for new opportunities as other employees or external hires take the spotlight.
Securing a promotion is a direct result of investing in yourself—and pushing yourself harder to bring your employer success, too. But if you’re not sure where or how to start, a career coach can help you pinpoint and strategically break down the barriers holding you back.
3. You’re pivoting into a new career
Navigating through any career transition can be tricky, especially if you’re changing careers altogether. You may have no real-world experience in the new field and minimal transferable hard skills.
For example, if you’re moving into software development without a CS degree or technical training (beyond self-learning a few basic HTML tags), how do you build your skill set and market your strengths? Or properly communicate your career goals in your resume to clear up confusion for the recruiter?
At any stage of pivoting into a new career, a coach can help you both identify knowledge gaps and build a solid plan (with an accompanying timeline) to reach your end goal faster.
If you’re moving into an entirely new field, for instance, a coach can help you determine how to build up your education. Or, if you’re moving from engineering to product management, one can show you how to present a strong transferable skill set. What’s more, a career coach can teach you the best ways to be clear and upfront about your new path, both in your resume and when speaking with a recruiter.
4. You’re searching for a new role
You’re going to go through the job search process multiple times throughout your career—and every time puts you in a unique set of circumstances—whether searching for your first role out of coding bootcamp, job hopping to develop your tech skills or growing into a director-level role. In fact, these days, the median employee tenure for top tech companies hovers around two years.
Life after bootcamp: How to Land a Job After a Coding Bootcamp
Instead of mindlessly pushing out countless applications and hoping for the best, a career coach can guide you to make smarter decisions overall, stay on track and tell your story most effectively for the greatest impact.
For example, what’s the very first thing you should do when you decide to start your search? Ingrid, a career coach with Seen, recommends you ask yourself a series of questions to dive deep into what you’re looking for in a new role (e.g., salary and benefits, location, work/life balance, growth potential).
Once you pinpoint your top priorities, you can hone in on the best places to find your next role (e.g., websites, job boards, meetup groups) based on your needs and wants. And when you start having conversations with recruiters and hiring managers, you’ll be able to better communicate what you’re looking for in a new opportunity.
A few questions to get you started:
- Why are you considering new opportunities?
- What’s most important to you in your next role?
- When you think about your career, what do you value in a role and what motivates you on a day-to-day basis?
5. You don’t know how (or what it means) to build a personal brand
Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. A compelling brand differentiates you from other candidates, builds credibility and determines what you’ll be known for. Depending on your role, that could be a portfolio, website, blog or range of social profiles.
But what are the stages of developing and growing a personal brand? What kind of message do you want to send? Are you sending the wrong message?
When it comes to building a cohesive personal brand, a career coach can guide you from start to finish, including finding your voice and aligning your online presence (e.g., social media, professional and alumni networks, portfolios) to networking and marketing yourself to your target audience.
Looking for inspiration? Lillian Pierson, former engineer turned data consultant to Fortune 500 companies, has developed a strong, consistent personal brand and online presence across her channels, including a Facebook group that connects industry leaders.
7. Your resume needs a boost
With only seconds to wow the recruiter, your resume needs to pop—for every role you apply for. After all, it’s the first hurdle to whether or not you move forward in the hiring process.
But crafting a resume that sells isn’t always clear-cut. For instance, knowing whether or not to add a summary, how to build an impressive technical skills section or if listing more than 10 years of experience is going overboard. And be honest, how many times have you sent out resume after resume—without tailoring each one for that particular role? And then heard crickets?
A career coach can give you valuable feedback, like how to format your resume (e.g., layout, font, text size, bullet points), find and weave in the right keywords based on the job description and communicate your most impactful achievements using powerful, data-driven language.
Pack a punch: 50 Verbs to Improve Your Resume
Let’s look at Steve, a software engineer who landed his dream role in 30 days. His career coach on Prime gave him clear, actionable advice to improve his resume:
“I had one or two sessions where we went through my resume and they gave me pointers about what could be changed and what could be worded better. That was really helpful because anyone can use a second set of eyes to help make their resume look better and more attractive to recruiters. It was hugely beneficial.”
8. You want to perfect your interviewing skills
When you’re actively searching, you’ll build up practice in interviews, which can include a phone screen, onsite interview and panel interview. But if your first interview in your search is at your dream role, do you want that to be your “practice” round after years of inexperience?
Because each interview has its purpose in helping the employer determine if you’re a great fit—and help you feel out if the role and company culture is right for you—maybe you’re wondering what types of questions you can expect in each based on the job description and your experience. Or how you can point out your adaptability and problem-solving skills. Or what kind of questions you should be asking the interviewer?
Take questions like these to a career coach—they can help you know what to expect and how to put yourself in the best light.
For example, a coach who preaches the STAR method, a way of answering behavioral interview questions, may teach you how to recognize when to follow the method and how to answer with real-life examples. So if you’re interviewing for a cloud engineering role, you’ll know the best way to answer questions like: “What barriers have you previously encountered when migrating to the cloud?”
More than training you how to answer common—and oddball—interview questions like a pro, a career coach can also help you capture the employer’s interest off the bat, from your attire (taking into consideration the company’s culture) to non-verbal communication. For extra practice, ask your coach if they offer mock interview sessions to kick those pre-interview jitters to the curb.
9. Your negotiation techniques are a bit rusty
Odds are, the salary you accept will play into your earnings for years to come. Raises and bonuses are, a lot of times, based on your annual salary, plus your current salary will likely affect future initial offers. Not to mention, you may be able to bargain for non-salary perks (e.g., vacation days, commuter benefits, higher-level role title) to sweeten the deal.
However, it’s difficult to know when and how to approach these negotiations. You can read all the articles you want, but your situation isn’t the same as anyone else’s. Without a doubt, there are right ways—and wrong ways—to lead into these conversations and come out ahead.
Because a lot of career coaches have a recruiting background, they’ve been personally involved in conversations like these. Using their first-hand experience and guidance, you can better understand your worth and how to leverage your strong points using negotiation best practices.
Still having doubts if a career coach is worth it? Think of it this way: The upfront cost of a coach might be several hundred dollars, but you could wind up seeing an immediate return of several thousand dollars in salary negotiation.
10. You feel stuck
Unmotivated, discouraged or confused about your career or job search? Find positivity and a sense of empowerment once again. A career coach can help you uncover the root of unhappiness, and work alongside you to build a personalized step-by-step plan that’s best for you.
If you’re unsure whether your current role is the right role, for instance, a coach may have you complete a talent assessment to pinpoint more fulfilling roles. Haven’t heard back after submitting a sea of applications? Get unstuck (mentally and job-wise) with a coach who can show you how to tweak your technique for better results. After all, the last thing you want to do is search for a role and accept an offer, only to realize you’re just as unhappy in that role as your last one.
Power your career, embrace the journey
As it turns out, a career coach is worth it, and can be a positive impact to help you navigate through any stage of your career—not only after you’ve submitted hundreds of applications to no avail. Using their professional training and knowledge, they’ll provide you with the right tools and resources (and a proper, action-oriented plan) to take the next step in your career.