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How to Choose and Use a Career Counselor or Coach

Career counselors and coaches are professionals who charge fees to help clients make their job searches or career changes more successful.  

See also: Tips for successful networking.

There are small but significant differences between counselors and coaches.

Career counselors hold advanced degrees, such as a master’s in counseling. Generally, these professionals specialize in helping their clients determine appropriate career paths or overall strategies. Consider a counselor if you’re at a crossroads, or if you want to understand your career goals better.

Career coaches focus more on concrete steps to achieve a goal or to improve a certain skill, such as networking, interviewing, or communication. Coaches are more goal-oriented than career counselors. Together, you would look for solutions and strategies with a coach.

How to Select a Career Professional

  • Seek personal referrals from friends, relatives, and colleagues.
  • Search the Web sites of the professional associations listed at the end of this tip sheet.
  • Request free initial consultations with several professionals.
  • Check out the credentials of the people you’re considering.
  • Request referrals from other clients.
  • Decide if you are more comfortable conferring by phone, by e-mail, or in person.
  • Walk away if you’re promised a higher-paying job, a dream job, or a better lifestyle. No one can guarantee success.

Match a Professional to Your Needs

  • Know what you want. Would you like help with the entire job-search process or with a specific skill? Signs of a good match:
  • The career adviser helps you identify your unique skills and maximize your assets in finding a job.
  • The professional has experience in working with people 50 and older.
  • You and the career consultant are partners in mapping out steps to reach your goals.
  • The contract between you and the professional specifies the outcome of your counseling, the time frame, and tools and materials that will be provided.  

Next: How much will it cost? >>

Fees

Look for a professional who charges by the hour or who charges a monthly fee that covers several sessions. Many charge an average of $100-250 an hour. It’s typical to work in 30- to 60-minute increments for six to 10 sessions during a three- to six-month period.

Beware of advance-fee career marketing firms. Don’t pay large fees up front or sign lengthy contracts. You should pay whether or not you get the job. 

Manage Your Expectations

Career professionals aren’t magicians. If you simply show up, pay, and wait for a job to land in your lap, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are putting in serious effort but are not seeing any changes within a month or so, it may be time to reevaluate.

Despite good will and hard work on both sides, a partnership with a career professional doesn’t always work out. Should you try again? That’s your call. Remember, success in landing a good job is up to you.

Professional Associations

Career professionals are not regulated. That means anyone can call himself or herself a counselor or coach. However, many are certified by the following professional associations:

  • ACP International: The Association of Career Professionals International
  • ICC International:The Institute of Career Certification International
  • ICF: The International Coach Federation 
  • NBCC: The National Board of Certified Counselors 
  • NCDA: The National Career Development Association

Career counselors and coaches are professionals who charge fees to help clients make their job searches or career changes more successful.

You may also like: Do you have an elevator speech? >>

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