Career coaching sounds like a good idea, in theory. We’re familiar with the concept of coaching as most of us have had a baseball, swimming, or other sports coach. Recently, having a personal trainer or workout coach has become a popular trend. If you’ve ever had a coach, then you know the benefit of having someone there who knows something about your current fitness, your past experiences, and your future goals.

I don’t know many people who would attempt to get involved in a new sport without the benefit of someone to coach them, at least in the beginning to understand the rules of the game, gain some basic technique, and understand winning strategies . However, when it comes to hiring a career coach, or taking advantage of career coaching that is offered through an employer, people often have the attitude that they can go it alone.

At first glance, it may seem that people are too proud, or too confident to ask for help. But, with a little deeper investigation, it’s clear that people don’t really understand what a career coach does, or how a career coach can help their unique situation.

To help clear up some of the confusion, and answer some of the most commonly asked questions, I met with Kimberly Schneiderman, RiseSmart practice development manager. Here are the top 5 questions and some advice for anyone looking for a new job or career transition of any sort.

Q: How exactly does career coaching work?

A. Seeking the advice of a career coach is one of the best ways to lift your job search efforts to the next level, and shorten the time you spend in transition. Whether you’re looking for a new job, or hoping to move up in your current position, career coaches can help you devise the best strategic plan and set actionable goals based on your unique situation, skills, expertise, and career goals.

What can a career coach do that you can’t do on your own? Plenty. Just looking in the mirror won’t show you an accurate image of yourself in the job market. Coaches are there to see you as hiring managers, recruiters, and your professional networks see you, and to provide the advice and guidance you need to establish a professional image and strategy that will get you hired.

Q: How do I find a qualified career coach?

A. Look for career coaches who hold certifications from organizations such as the International Coach Federation (ICF), CPCC, ACC/PCC/MCC. SHRM, and HCRI. Using a certified career coach will ensure that the guidance you receive will adhere to current, proven professional coaching methodologies.  Using their expertise, certified career coaches will be able to assess where you are in your job search journey and provide the tailored feedback and constant support you’ll need to find your new beginnings.

If you’ve been laid off, or are at a company going through restructuring, you may not necessarily want to find another job in the same industry or in the same role. If you’re ready to transition into something different, be sure your coach has the experience necessary to help you make the change you’re seeking.

Ask your coach if he or she has experience coaching people through any of these scenarios that are applicable to you:

  • Major career moves
  • Creative retirement
  • Redeployment within a company
  • Joining the gig economy
  • Entrepreneurship

In addition, look for a career coach that has the industry and functional knowledge that matches your career goals.

Q: Do you have any stories that demonstrate the effectiveness of coaching?

A. I have so many success stories to share, but here are two that stand out to me.

Jane’s story: When Jane started her engagement with one of RiseSmart’s career coaches she was traumatized and felt that she didn’t have any value. After speaking to her, the coach found out she had several high-dollar wins at her company that simply weren’t valued or respected by management – including earning $5.4M dollar rebate in one transaction and generally making her company several million dollars over five years – despite working in the contracts department, which is usually a cost center, not a revenue generator. Together, they worked to get her up to speed with her professional image, self-marketing documents, and interviewing skills – in addition to building her self-esteem! Jane and her coach worked together for 3 months and she interviewed at six or seven places with multiple rounds, and then received an offer.

Caitlin’s story: When Caitlin started with her coach, she immediately let her coach know she had very severe environmental allergies that literally affected her ability to leave home. She was deathly allergic to specific plants and had to use a nebulizer four times a day, which added to her restrictions. When she had her first call with her coach, she was very concerned and lacked the confidence that she would find an opportunity where she’d have the flexibility to work from home. To start, her coach helped her reframe her perspective and focus not on her disability, but on the value she brings an organization. Over the next four weeks, they worked together to create a target company list. Within one month, she was offered her dream job where she works exclusively from home!

My RiseSmart coach provided me the motivation and attitude change I really needed have an effective job search. She gave me the tools and shared insight and inside knowledge of how company recruiting works so I could modify my approach,” she said.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who has been offered career coaching as part of a severance package?

A. First, I would say – Accept the help you’re being offered. If your employer has enlisted the help of an outplacement provider who matches you with a certified career coach, you’ll get the time, support, and expert advice you need to make a successful transition to a new job faster. It’s a mistake to let your emotional reaction to your situation cloud your judgement and ignore this valuable service that is being paid for by your company.

Some organizations may provide you with a coach as part of a structured development and career growth plan. Taking advantage of the opportunity to use a career coach can help you identify growth opportunities and stay on track with a personalized professional growth plan. Your career coach can help you identify professional growth options, such as:

  • Further education
  • Skills development opportunities
  • Openings to expand responsibilities
  • Possible cross-functional duties and projects

Companies that are providing coaching for their employees during workforce transitions may also engage career coaches to provide support related to resiliency. If offered, use your career coach to help you develop the skills you need to process change – whether that change is by choice or by force. Learning how to deal with change is a skill you can use in many aspects of your life. Companies who do provide coaching and resiliency training understand that when resiliency can be developed as a skill by individuals, the company will benefit.

During a time of transition, your coach can work with you to establish a personal transition plan, set short- and long-term goals for the transition, and identify the benefits and expected outcomes of the transition.

Q: What exactly does a career coach do?

A. A career coach is there to meet you where you are and move you to the next level in your career or job search. They can provide insightful answers to specific questions, help you address a specific challenge that you’ve identified, such as salary negotiation skills, or give you the advice and guidance you need to polish your job search skills and refine your approach to looking for a job. A qualified career coach will be able to help you boost your image and develop the strategies and skills you need to land a job that best fits your abilities and desires.

Specifically, look to a career coach to provide any of the following:

  • Winning job search strategies
  • Interviewing strategies and troubleshooting
  • Mock interview practice
  • Advice to improve your digital profile
  • Social media image development
  • Networking strategies and advice
  • Salary negotiation skills
  • Career identification
  • Develop a strong personal brand that communicates your value 
  • Ascertain opportunities
  • Prioritize options 
  • Bring clarity to your myriad of career questions
  • Create a career plan
  • Provide resources and tools to put your plan into action
  • Career goal setting

Everyone needs a coach. A great coach will help you think beyond the limitations you’ve set for yourself and be there to guide you and cheer you on. See yourself as your teammates, recruiters, and hiring mangers see you – through the eyes of a coach who will find the best in you and help you to show your best to others.