Career Coaching: Worthwhile investment or waste of time?

Posted on Jun 6th, 2016 | Career, College

Whether you’re a recent college grad in pursuit of your first steady paycheck or a disgruntled employee who dreads going to work each day, the idea of working with a career coach may have crossed your mind. The question is: Are career coaches worth it?

Be Prepared to Pay
It would be one thing if career coaching were a free service magically made available to those in need, but the reality is that career coaching doesn’t tend to come cheap. On average, career coaches charge over $150 per hour, with executive coaches commanding as much as $300 or more per session. And keep in mind that in most cases, a one-time sit-down probably isn’t going to cut it. To get the maximum benefit from a career coach, you should be prepared to spend several hours working with a professional–which means the cost really can add up.

On the other hand, if you’re unemployed and in serious need of some guidance, your investment in a career coach can quickly pay for itself. If, thanks to a career coach’s assistance and advice, you land a job six weeks earlier than you would’ve done so on your own, spending $1,000 makes sense. (Plus, you can deduct what you spend on your taxes as part of your job search expenses.) Also, some coaches will offer reduced rates or sliding scale fees to clients based on income or need; so whereas a seasoned professional may be forced to pay the going rate, if you’re a recent college grad, you may find a local coach who’s willing to cut you a break.

So What Do Career Coaches Do Anyway?
Simply put, a career coach is someone who can help people at all stages of their careers find the right employment opportunities and develop rewarding, attainable career paths. Career coaches work with all types of job seekers, from entry-level hopefuls to experienced executives looking to return to the workforce. More specifically, a career coach can help you:

  • assess and highlight your talents
  • market yourself to prospective employers
  • develop career goals and take strategic steps toward achieving them
  • "rebrand" yourself and overcome barriers to employment or upward mobility within your current company
  • focus on the roles and industries that suit your personality
  • narrow your job search to increase your chances of success and approach the process more efficiently
  • Rework your resume or online profile to make you a more desirable candidate
  • Improve your networking and interviewing skills

Now you may be tempted to tap other resources before shelling out money for a career coach–namely, your buddy, who’s a resume-writing whiz; your parents, whose pep talks are guaranteed confidence boosters; or your colleagues, who know how you operate and understand the challenges you may be facing in your current role. But remember, one of the key advantages of working with a career coach is that he or she can offer solid, unbiased advice based on his or her observations, experience, and focused conversations with you. Or, as Jenny Foss, a career strategist at, puts it, "A career coach can help pull apart everything that you’re doing, figure out what might be going wrong, and then reassemble a game plan that will likely be more effective."

So is career coaching for everyone? Not necessarily. But if you’re unemployed, looking to switch fields, or stuck in a dead-end job, a career coach can be a very worthwhile investment. According to Foss, a career coach can especially benefit those who just can’t figure out what they want to do and are feeling very directionless. Furthermore, she says, "if you’ve applied for a bunch of jobs and nobody’s responding, and you don’t know what you’re doing wrong," a career coach can help you break that otherwise frustrating cycle. Ultimately, she adds, a career coach can really be valuable when he or she helps you avoid spinning your wheels, which can save you three very important things: time, money, and stress.

Photo by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography photostream via cc.