The Essential Guide to Selecting a Career Coach

career coaching guide

There isn’t a single person amongst us that would want to remain stationary in their career. In fact, most people are interested in building some sort of a professional future as success, both in terms of money and in terms of job satisfaction, depends heavily on one’s achievements in the workplace.

The problem is, however, that only few people manage to develop their careers as they’d like. Climbing the corporate ladder requires a lot of effort as one does not only need to prove their skills, but they are also required to convince their boss that they are trustworthy and build a strong relationship with their colleagues. To do all of these and remain on top of your work duties, you need a deep understanding of how workplaces function, as well as a well-planned strategy.

As most professionals are rather busy however and do not generally have time to keep up with the trends of the business world, it can be hard to create an effective strategy on your own and this is where professional advisors come in.

Why You Need to Hire a Career Coach

why hire career coach

According to research, almost half of the UK workforce is interested in changing careers and it’s not hard to imagine why. Most of us are usually pushed through school to university without really taking into account our interests and passions and as such it’s not unusual for many professionals to find themselves mid-career unsure of their choices. And it’s not just a matter of having made wrong decisions; lots of professionals also find that switching professions is the answer to automation and remaining employed.

Changing careers however is never simple and it in fact requires a lot of effort and depending on the industry you’re moving into you’ll be required to do different things, including gaining hard skills, identifying transferable skills and finding a CV format that allows you to display your best features and preparing for a job interview.

Hiring someone to help guide you through this difficult process will ensure that your efforts remain targeted and that you manage to successfully change careers without having to overstress yourself.  

Get Help With Your CV

In order for your job search to be successful you’ll need to have an excellent CV and as you should never lie on your job application, you actually need to work on it so that it displays your best features while it hides your weaknesses.

A lot of effort is needed in order for this to be achieved, but with some expert help you’ll be able to receive more call-backs than ever before.

The key to do that is to get a career coach who’s not only knowledgeable about recruiters’ strategies, but to also find one that knows your industry inside out and thus knows what should be put forth and what should stay out of plain sight.

Adjust to a New Job

If you are determined to advance in the workplace then you need to adopt behaviours that will allow you to do that and this means that you should start working on gaining more skills, making friends and becoming influential the day you set foot in a new company.

However, as most people get stressed during this adjustment period they are unable to display their leadership qualities and as such remain doomed to never quite be able to demonstrate their worth in the workplace.

This could easily be adjusted with the help of an expert who will guide you through showcasing your best qualities during your first few weeks at a new job, but they’ll also help you manage your relationships as well.

Return to Job After Long-Term Leave

If you took a sabbatical, or if you were on maternity leave, or if you were absent from the workplace for an extended period of time you should know that returning to work can be quite difficult. This is because a lot of things change during  a person’s absence and even if you have a secured position, you’ll still need to prove your worth all over again and to do that you need to be very careful about how you manage your return.

Just like when getting a job, returning to work requires an adjustment period during which you should ensure that you don’t make any mistakes, while you should also pay close attention to your boss and ensure that you are current with your work duties.

How to Select & Hire

how to hire career coach

Focus on finding a professional who has the education to back up their knowledge, but also choose someone who’s actually helped people in the past and someone who you can easily communicate with. Talking to your career coach shouldn’t be a struggle so take the time to contact a few professionals before you determine who you are most comfortable with.

It’s important to select someone who has experience in helping people as they’ll be able to guarantee results, but don’t select someone simply on the basis of their recommendations; pick someone that understands your vision and is willing to create a personalised strategy to help you achieve your goals.

Follow the strategy mapped out below and you’ll find that finding a professional who you can effectively communicate with is not as hard as you may have thought.

Step 1: Check the CDI’s Register of Professionals

The CDI is the only UK-wide professional body for professionals working in the fields relevant to career education and advice and as such it should be your number one stop in finding a career coach.

Their register includes professionals who hold qualifications in career development to at least graduate level and who maintain and update their skills and knowledge by undertaking a minimum of 25 hours of related work per year.

Essentially this means that CDI accredited professionals are both qualified and current enough to be able to help you with your career goals. Their search engine allows you to filter professionals by location, type of service, type of client and method of delivery which means that you are bound to find at least a few professionals that match your specific needs. The CDI also encourages people to contact two or three of the advisors generated in the results before they make up their mind as it’s important to make an informed decision about who can help you best.

Step 2: Check Linkedin Recommendations

Linkedin can be an extremely effective tool in your search as it allows you to learn more about a professional’s accomplishments. If you scroll down to the recommendations section of a person’s profile you’ll see reviews of people who actually worked with them which will allow you to make a more informed decision.

If you are invested in finding the best professional for your needs you may want to consider contacting some of the people who’ve written the reviews and ask them about their personal experience. They’ll probably have lots of tips that will help make the selection process easier.

Keep in mind that reading reviews and contacting other people is not all that Linkedin can do for you. In fact, you can use Linkedin to find out more about the person you’re thinking of hiring; so if for example they have a blog, or write articles for other websites, you’ll find links on their Linkedin which will allow you to get a better insight on their techniques and strategies.

Step 3: Request a Get-Together

After you’ve narrowed down your list to just a couple of candidates you should contact them and ask to meet with them for an in-take session. Specify that you just want to get a feel of things and that you want to get to know them before deciding whether to hire them or not.

This opportunity will allow you to get to know what working with this person is really like, while it will also help you understand if your professional visions align. As such, you should share your hopes for the future and see what talking to them is like. Keep in mind that discussing things is a big part of coaching and you need to ensure that talking to this person comes naturally.

It’s also important to note that a career coach is supposed to motivate you even when you feel like giving up so you should use this opportunity as a chance to test their reflexes. So, if you are someone who wants to be pushed in order to get motivated make sure that they’ll be able to do that otherwise there’s not much point in hiring them.

Of course, you shouldn’t expect them to make suggestions about your specific problems on this trial meeting, but you should treat this meeting as a casual job interview so have a few questions ready to ask. These could include ‘What has been your biggest success?’ ‘What has been your biggest failure?’ ’Why did you choose this profession?’ ‘Why should I choose you?’ etc.

Step 4: Find Out How They Charge for Their Services

The truth is that hiring a career coach can be costly, so you need to ensure that the fees range of the person you want to hire are within your budget. Some offer package services, which means that you’ll need to pay for the whole package right at the beginning (or you can agree on an instalment schedule), while others will charge an initial fee and then charge per session.

Bear in mind that prices will depend heavily on what you hope to achieve. So if for example you are at the beginning of your career and you want someone to work on your CV and coach you through interviews the cost will be less than someone who’s trying to get an executive position.

Of course, you’ll also find that there are plenty of professionals who offer their services for free, while there’s a lot of expert advice online but it really depends on how tailored you want the experience to be.

Qualities to Look for in a Career Coach

career coach qualities

If you’ve determined that you need to hire a career coach, you should know that in order to get the best results possible you should focus on finding an advisor that’s right for you. However, as there’s a good chance that you’ve never actually hired an expert advisor, you might not know what to look out for. The list below features the main characteristics a great coach should possess and as such it can help you identify the best one for your needs.

#1 Excellent Communication Skills

As discussed extensively, it’s important to hire someone who you can talk to about your aspirations, as such, it’s important for this professional to have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.

This means that they should make their suggestions as relatable to you as possible and to do that you’ll need to ensure that the chosen professional listens and understands your specific needs, while they should also be able to present their suggestions in a way that is applicable to your specific situation.

Don’t settle for someone who makes communicating impossible as advancing in your career requires effort and as such is a pretty stressful decision which you don’t need to overcomplicate by hiring someone you can’t communicate with.

#2 Cares About People

Career coaching is much more than a profession, it’s actually a calling and in order to choose an expert that’s actually good at their job you should select someone who sees it as a calling as well. Essentially, a counsellor helps people get through some of the most stressful periods of their lives and as such it’s important to choose someone who actually cares about people.

Of course, determining someone’s motives is never easy unless you ask, so don’t be afraid to be direct and ask them blatantly. It’s important to conduct an effective job interview as it will allow you to get a better understanding of the motives and level of commitment of the person you want to hire.

#3 Prepares for Each Session

Although it would be preferable if the process to career advancement was more straightforward, the reality is that it’s a rather complex process that requires a lot of dedication and as such it’s essential that you choose someone who’s just as dedicated to your coach as you are.

This means that they shouldn’t just present you with suggestions at the beginning and then feel to follow up or to provide constructive feedback. In order to succeed you need to know whether what you are doing is right or wrong which means that you’ll require your coach to take the time to listen to you as well as come up with ideas and suggestions during each session that can help you get closer to your goal.

A great coach however will be someone who’s willing to go the extra mile and takes initiative and has different suggestions to help you move forward. From finding volunteering opportunities that are suitable for you to helping you get a new job, a great coach should take the time to research your specific problem before each session in order to present you with solutions.

#4 They are Supportive

The workplace is a space where you’ll fail lots of times and make even more mistakes but in order to achieve success you need to be able to push yourself past these negative experiences. The problem many professionals face however is that they are unable to understand that they should turn every mistake into a learning experience and push themselves further and this is precisely how hiring someone to help you with your career aspirations can assist you.

However, pushing should never be equated to bullying and this means that you should feel at ease with your coach. It’s important that your counsellor creates a safe and supportive space where you can openly talk about your worries and fears as well as devise plans on how to achieve your goals.

#5 Allow You to Discuss Ideas & Suggestions

It’s important to note that no one knows your situation as well as you do and this means that no matter how qualified the professional you’ve hired is, there’s little chance they’ll know your workplace and/or your boss as well as you do. This means that you should make the most of this knowledge by reviewing the coach’s suggestions and ensuring that they’d be applicable to your workplace, while you should also make your own suggestions.

You’ll find that most advisors will shoot down all of your ideas as they are under the impression that they are more knowledgeable in everything that relates to careers, but it’s important to find someone that allows you to make your own input and is willing to tweak ideas if you tell them that they need adjustments.

#6 They are Proactive

Of course, it’s essential that you don’t expect every single suggestion that your advisor makes to work out. Remember that they too are people, and that as they don’t really know your workplace, they might make suggestions which could work elsewhere, but might not work in your particular workplace.

However, a great career coach is someone who’ll be proactive when things don’t work out. He or she will have solutions on how to fix situations, while they’ll also have alternatives that will allow you to continue on your path to success.

If you are interested in finding out whether your coach is indeed proactive pose an impossible scenario to them and ask them what plan B would be. The speed with which they respond will help indicate just how proactive they are.

#7 They Follow Up

It’s also important for your counsellor to be professional, this means that they should not only manage your relationship in a professional manner, but that they should also follow etiquette and make sure to follow up with you after discussing the implementation of a strategy.

This shouldn’t be done just for the sake of etiquette however; rather it should be done so that they can provide you with support and feedback after every step. A great career coach will be interested to know what happened after all, especially if you’re following their advice.

#8 Use Various Tools

In order for their work to be more effective, counsellors should make the most of tools available. This means that a great coach will bring you lots of worksheets to work on, as well as help you create a vision board with your career goals.

Materials that allow you to self-assess and redefine your goals whenever there’s a shift in the workplace will allow you to remain strategic and focused on your goals.

#9 Able to Personalize Coaching Techniques

Perhaps the most important characteristic that you should look out for is for is personalised advice. This means that they should take the time to listen and understand your situation, then help you identify your goals and offer suggestions and ideas that are applicable to your situation.

It’s important that the advice you’re given makes sense to you as you are paying for someone to help you with your development at work and not just offer generalized advice that you can probably find online anyway.


Hiring a career coach could make a real difference in your work experience while it will also assist you in achieving your career aspirations. The key is to select someone that listens to you and understands you and tries to make the experience as personalised as possible. Choose someone who you feel comfortable with but who’s also eager and creative and wants to see him succeed as well.

Do you have any other tips for choosing a career coach? Let us know in the comment section below.