How To Choose A Career Change Coach: A Checklist
Struggling with your possible career change, a coach can help you get clarity and direction. But what is coaching, exactly? Who is it right for?
For most individuals contemplating a career change, some deep-dive, serious support is advantageous. Career-change coaching may only seem like a worthwhile investment when you're really at the end of your tether. Maybe it even feels like asking for help in this area of your life is akin to admitting defeat.
And yet, more people are finding there's enormous power in reaching out for help at all stages of the journey. Coaching is increasingly recognized as an exciting and powerful way to invest in yourself and your life and discover more about yourself so you can make fully educated decisions.
Some career changers value the energy and peer support in a group coaching program, others love the personal depth of one-on-one sessions.
So, if you've decided it's time for you to step your shift up a gear and get some professional support, where do you start?
Here's a practical checklist:
1. Know what you’re getting into
Coaching can be an enjoyable, powerful, and enormously effective way of identifying and working toward your goals.
But it's not right for everyone.
Make sure you understand, first of all, what coaching is not:
· A coach is not a teacher, trainer or consultant. A good coach will not tell you what to do.
· A coach is not a counselor. Coaches are not trained in the treatment of poor mental health; if you're depressed or suffering from other symptoms of emotional or psychological vulnerability, a coach is not the right person to seek support from.
· Coaching also isn't a rent-a-friend service! Your coach's job is not to listen to you vent for an hour, or to necessarily accept what you say to be true.
Instead, a coach will help you clarify what you want to achieve, come up with solutions and strategies to reach your goals, and build in a structure to get there.
They will listen to you on a deep and powerful level, and ask artful questions to give you access to a new perspective or set of options to move forward with.
You'll explore the blockages (both internal and external) that hold you back from making progress, in a space that's equally safe and challenging.
At every step, you'll be in the driving seat – expected to hold up your end of the bargain by taking action – and constructing your future in a way that works for you.
You'll need to be brave and committed to doing the legwork to get to where you want to be.
2. Identify your target
Consider: what kind of coach could you get the most value from working with?
If you're a procrastinator who responds best to a firm hand, this isn't the time to be looking for a forgiving, laid-back acquaintance. Or if you're a high-power, high-energy 'do' person, someone gentler who can help you tap into new parts of yourself could be a great choice.
You might want a coach who works over the phone, because you don't have the time to travel to and from appointments.
Be as specific as you can – and then go into your search with an open mind. Be willing to be surprised!
3. Test the water
Most coaches will offer a short consultation, free of charge, to help you find out more about them. Take it.
This is a fantastic way for you to learn more about them, ask any questions you have, and often to get a taste of what coaching is actually like.
Ask as many questions as you can. Find out about their background and experience, their approach and style, and share any uncertainties or concerns you have. You can ask for specifics, too, like what to expect from a session, or what happens if you need to press pause for a few weeks.
It can also be a good idea to bring a specific challenge or goal to this initial session: share it with your potential coach and see how they respond.
Pay attention to how you feel when you finish the consultation. Are you inspired and energized? Do you feel seen and understood? Was there a 'click' of chemistry? (See more below on this). Do you trust them?
Even if the first coach you speak to sounds wonderful and you're ready to sign up on the spot, hold back and speak to a few more before you make your decision. This isn't a race; it's an investment of time and money that could make a real impact on your future, so don't rush your decision.
4. Feel for chemistry
Alongside skill, chemistry is the most important element of a successful coaching relationship.
Look for someone who leaves you both inspired and at ease – someone you respect, and who you can be yourself around. Good coaches will be able to adapt their style to fit you, but only to a point.
Your potential coach's website will be a good starting point to get a feel for who they are.
Check out their 'About' page for some background and history, and pay close attention to the tone of their website.
All these things will give you clues as to what they're like – and the stronger a sense of their personality and interests you can get, the better.
5. Agree the outcomes
Take some time to ask yourself what you'd like to achieve from your coaching.
Are there particular aspects of your shift where you keep getting stuck? Do you want support with practicalities, like your CV and cover letter, or is your preferred outcome more to do with clarity, or confidence?
Do you have time constraints on your work together (are you within a notice period at work, for example, or have you been made redundant recently)?
What are your expectations about how fast you'll achieve these goals? Note these down, too, so you can discuss them with potential coaches.
Bring 3–5 specific ideal outcomes to your initial consultation conversations. Rather than having a generic conversation about coaching alone, your potential coach can then also speak directly to your goals and concerns, and explain how they'd work with you to achieve what you want.
6. Find an approach that works for you
Some coaches work face to face, others over the telephone or online.
Some follow a structured process, using a predetermined set of exercises and tasks to take you from start to finish. Others work in a more ad hoc manner, tailoring what you discuss and do to your specific situation, session by session.
It's likely you'll have an immediate preference for one approach over another, and while this is worth paying attention to, it's also a good idea to have a conversation with at least one coach whose approach you wouldn't normally be drawn to.
Explore the different options available to you and keep an open mind.
7. Get clear on price
Coaches typically charge in one of two ways: either on an hourly basis, or as a package of support.
Hourly fees can range from $75 to $450 per hour – and beyond. Packages can typically start from $500 and go into the thousands.
In general, the more experienced the coach, the higher the hourly fee. But this isn't an absolute rule. There are plenty of highly talented and effective coaches at the lower end of the spectrum as well as at the top.
So, define a price range to play within.
What could you reasonably afford to pay for a coaching package? What would you be willing to stretch to, if you found the perfect coach?
Once you've defined your range, you can start filtering coaches based on what's reasonable for you.
8. Enjoy the ride
Once you've chosen a coach, savor the experience.
Coaching can (and should be) challenging. It can also be a deeply fulfilling and eye-opening journey – one that can profoundly change your life, as well as your career.