Hiring a Career Coach: Is It Worth It?
Have you ever considered hiring a career coach?
The use of a coach has attracted considerable attention over the last decade, with various articles highlighting the thought process behind hiring one and why not hiring one “could be limiting your career success.”
In the past, coaches were viewed as part of a last-ditch effort to correct bad behavior at the top rungs of leadership. It was never good news if you were encouraged — or required — to work with a career coach. These days, companies hire coaches primarily to help develop high potential (“HiPos”) employees for leadership roles. Be proud if you are encouraged to work with one on your company’s dime.
But what if your company has not tapped you on the shoulder for coaching? When is it worth hiring your own career coach? And what kind of a coach — “career,” “executive,” “life,” “business,” “branding” — do you need anyway?
A coach’s job is to ask pertinent questions and suggest thought exercises to help you:
- Understand your current reality.
- Clarify your goals.
- Identify the actions needed to achieve your goals.
- Assess your progress.
- Reflect on your success in achieving your objectives.
- Establish new goals.
To determine what kind of coach you need, ask yourself what the change or progress is that you want to make. If you isolate the goal to one of personal branding — say you want to build a reputation as a thought leader in your industry — consider a branding coach. If you want to position yourself for more senior leadership roles, look for an executive coach. If you are in the midst of a job search, a career coach may be the best fit. If your whole life feels as though it’s completely out of control and you want to be forward-facing in how you go about changing it, a life coach could be in order.
Coaching can be extremely helpful, but coaches won’t simply give you all the answers, and they won’t do the work for you. Think carefully whether your personal commitment to the hoped-for change is in line with the time and money required for a coaching relationship.
Here are some tips for connecting with coaches:
- Ask coaches about their training and certifications. Coaching is not a regulated industry, so literally anyone can claim to be a coach. Consequently, it is imperative that you investigate your potential coach’s qualifications. One of the industry’s most globally recognized credentialing bodies is the International Coach Federation (ICF), which issues the following designations: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC). The differences among these are primarily a function of the number of experience hours logged.
- Ask prospective coaches about their experience with others in your profession. It is not always essential that they have a track record with clients in a specific industry, but it is often preferable. There are coaches who have moved into the field from the investment management industry, including a few CFA® charterholders.
- After you provide a summary of your situation, expect the coach to propose a specific course of action — a coaching program — complete with any associated fees. If a coach proposes an open-ended scheme or an indefinite fee structure, ask for more details.
- Coaching fees will vary depending on the services provided. For example, entry-level career coaching is likely to be less of a financial investment than senior executive coaching.
- Mutual trust and respect is essential to a successful coaching relationship, so it does matter whether you actually like and relate to your potential coach.
Here are a few additional resources you might find helpful if you are thinking about hiring a coach:
- “All about Personal and Professional Coaching” (Free Management Library)
- “Coaching FAQs” (International Coach Federation)
- “What Can Coaches Do For You?” (Harvard Business Review)
- “How to Choose a Great Career Coach” (The Guardian)
If you have engaged the services of a coach in the past, what resources did you find helpful in your decision-making process? Please share your lessons learned in the comments.
CFA Institute members and candidates: The CFA Career Centre contains the bios of several career and executive coaches who have been vetted for previous contract experience with financial institutions. If you have questions or would like connect with these individuals, email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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