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A career coach helps you search for and land the perfect job

There’s an American tradition of talented individuals singlehandedly blazing a trail to success. Among the mythmakers are Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling and Muhammad Ali.

The reality is a bit different: Jobs performed his magic with Steve Wozniak (at least at the outset), Rowling leaned on her editors and corporate marketing, and Ali relied on a man in his corner named Angelo Dundee. These business, literary and sports stars weren’t created in a vacuum. They had help.

Despite the mythology, almost any undertaking can be made easier with some collaborative advice, or coaching. This is especially true when it comes to advancing your career.

But for most people who find themselves at an employment crossroads, the first thought is “I’ve done it before by myself, I can do it again.” The problem is that the employment market changes and the techniques involved in getting a job change right along with it.

These details don’t stop most people from taking the same old steps of checking the job posting boards, adding a few new lines to the lifeless resume, and contacting the nearest relative with a secure job to see if they are hiring.

The amended resume is sent out to any organization with an opening, regardless of the “fit,” and the brother-in-law’s company is a longshot at best. And the myth lives on.

This is the career transition model followed by millions of people who never considered the alternative: hiring a professional coach whose job it is to guide them through the process. Even after repeated rejections, or worse, hearing nothing at all for a job they’re thoroughly qualified to perform, the old model prevails.

For many, this cycle can go on and on and on: trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.

A coach can play a pivotal role in directing you down the right path, while keeping you from making costly mistakes.

So how do you know when it’s time to change the way you conduct your job search? How do you determine that you could use a coach’s help? What follows are some important reminders concerning career transition.


Do a quick screening exercise

Ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Am I identifying every opportunity?

This is more than visiting, scanning the postings and sending in your resume for every job you are at least minimally qualified to perform. It involves networking, both formally and informally; researching companies and identifying their needs to discover non-posted opportunities, and checking job postings for a good fit and to discover companies that are in a hiring mode. A coach can help you identify the range of opportunities tied to each of these steps.

  • Am I getting the results I expected?

Results, by definition, include getting a job. But other, secondary events can happen along the way. So it’s important to set a range of expectations at the outset, including establishing new relationships. If you’re not reaching out to a broad range of people, the job you’re looking for may never appear on your radar. You’ll never know it existed. A coach can help you identify areas to maximize your results.

  • Is the process taking longer than I wanted it to?

Everyone wants a new job now. It rarely works this way. Be sure you’re using your time as wisely and systematically as you can. When you set up a program and follow it, the time factor will take care of itself. None of it will be wasted. A coach can help you put together a schedule and mile markers that work for you.

Do research

Become familiar with industries you are interested in, local companies within those industries, their histories and how they’re performing now. This genuine interest will help to motivate you, initially, and keep you headed in the right direction.

Do hire someone with relevant experience

There’s a bias of favoring large career coaching organizations because of name recognition and a calculated sales pitch. But their overall approach may not serve you best. If you seek out a coach, look for someone with experience, who can provide you with the best information leading to a realistic outcome.

Do commit to the process

Make sure you understand the coaching program you’re getting involved in and commit to making it work. There will always be other things bidding for your attention, but landing your next job should be your priority.

Do network (even if you don’t want to)

The process of networking is as simple as meeting a friend for coffee and as complex as mingling with managers from industries where you have no experience. There are advantages to using a range of networking approaches because 75 percent of jobs are landed through networking.

Do let people know you’re looking

Don’t be shy about letting friends, neighbors, coworkers and other connections know you’re in the market for a new job. People want to be helpful. This is one of the most efficient ways to tap insider knowledge and discover opportunities that are never posted to the public.


Do not give up hope

Unemployment or bad employment is a temporary situation. Find a coach you’re comfortable with, put together a workable, reasonable plan, and dedicate yourself to executing it. Do this and you can reduce your search time significantly. Remember that you will ultimately land a job.

Do not overpay for the service

Coaching is worth paying for, but it is only worth so much. If the quoted amount approaches one-quarter or more of your expected annual income, find another service. It is reasonable to pay in the range of $100-$150 per hour.

Do not expect the coach to do the work

The nature of coaching is telling, showing or demonstrating how something is done. The role of a career coach is no different. Your coach can guide you in a variety of ways: networking, resume building, letter writing, negotiating. But your coach won’t do it for you. This is a learning opportunity for you.

Do not lose momentum

It’s easy to wish you had a job without doing the work. A coach can make the process manageable, but the process still has to play out. Dedicate at least six hours every day to your program. Until you land a paying job, finding that job is your job.

Do not return to your shell

Finding your next job requires you to step out of your comfort zone, at least it is for most people. But the payoff, in addition to your new job, are links to people and situations you didn’t have before. Be sure to maintain periodic contact with these people once you return to work. There is no telling how these new relationships might help you moving forward.

Jumping cartoon

The vast majority of people pride themselves on their ability to fend for themselves. The myth of self-sufficiency touches almost every aspect of our lives. But each of us reaches a point where our knowledge and skills just aren’t enough. We can’t know everything, including the most effective way to land the next job. Reaching out for help can be one of the smartest, timesaving investments you can make.

More expert advice about Managing Your Career as an Employee

Photo Credits: hjalmeida/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Michael KerriganFounder and President

Michael Kerrigan is founder and president of LifeTime Services, LLC, and He has been a career coach since 2004 and has worked directly with more than 1,000 people in some phase of job development or employment transition. ...

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