What is a Career Coach?

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For many people, finding their dream job is an elusive goal. Particularly during times of economic hardship, just landing work of any kind can be difficult enough. If you’re looking to take your career up a notch and enter a field where you’ll find true satisfaction, you may want to seek out the services of a career coach.

Career coaches offer a variety of services, and definitions of career coaching can vary from person to person, but they generally provide a combination of concrete job search assistance and emotional support. On the concrete side, career coaches may help a person plan his or her career and take steps to implement that plan. They might provide help with writing cover letters, crafting resumes, and maintaining a professional presence on social media sites, or they might help plot a career trajectory. In terms of emotional assistance, career coaches help clients identify the kinds of jobs that fit their personalities and that provide fulfillment or a sense of meaning. In addition, coaches might examine the personal stumbling blocks that could be hurting their clients professionally, such as interpersonal conflicts, emotional issues, and unfounded fears.

Working with a career coach isn’t a silver bullet for career woes, and you shouldn’t expect a coach to immediately find you a job. The process can take multiple counseling sessions to yield results, and you should be prepared to be challenged, particularly when confronting problems with the way you’re conducting your job search. Most career coaches ask many questions en route to determining clients’ strengths and weaknesses and helping them set goals, and this inquiry can touch on personal issues that are standing in the way of professional success, like a painful past you might be sharing too much of while networking.

Because career coaches can vary so much in their methods and personalities, and because the relationship between a career coach and a client should be a close and relaxed one, it’s important to seek out a good match. Before hiring a coach, make a list of several candidates and get in touch with each one to discuss your needs and how he or she can fulfill them. Ask about each coach’s experience and process, and be sure your coaching relationship has clear goals and a finite timeline.

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