When you’re returning to work, everyone seems to have advice — friends, colleagues,and family members — who offer support and opinions. Figuring out whom to listen to can be confusing, which is where a career coach can help you focus and get back to work faster.
For me, hiring a coach was an important step in my return-to-work process and easily one of the best investments I have ever made in myself and my future.
Like friends and family, a career coach is also a support — just a neutral one. They’re trained in career coaching and counseling and can provide you with insight, confidence and encouragement. They’ll also hold you accountable, which is key because some aspects of returning to work can be tedious and occasionally downright depressing.
Specifically, not only was I returning to work, I was also changing industries. I spent one hour a week for 10 weeks on a phone call with my coach (this is common and some work by video conference).
Part of what a good coach does is similar to therapy, because the entire job-search/career change process is fraught with anxiety, insecurity and lack of direction, even if you are a very confident person. Job searches or career changes take time and effort and very focused attention, which is where a highly-skilled career coach can make all the difference.
How it works
Each situation is individual so each course of action will be different, but in my example I was considering a complete change of career. My coach recommended some reading and a few self-guided written exercises, but mostly we talked and he gave me some very useful concrete ways to conduct my job search. Here’s what I learned:
1) How to work smart, instead of working hard, and I still find myself giving his advice to my friends who are looking, because it worked for me.
2) How to effectively use LinkedIn, making the most of networking opportunities, interview refinement and interest confirmation (because I generally knew what I wanted to be doing). Those were the topics, although there were a few times we discussed quality of life as it relates to career choices.
3) Whether, in my case, continuing in the same industry or a complete change of direction was the better choice.
Career coaches generally will do an introductory assessment prior to starting a course of sessions which generally are done in 10-week increments. Costs can vary from $100 to several hundred dollars an hour. Initially 10 weeks seemed like a lot of time, but it was exactly right for me, and may not be enough for others depending on where you are in your search.
Finding the right coach
I have always felt most comfortable when going on a recommendation of a friend or colleague. If you plan to invest a good chunk of time and money, be sure to find someone who has been through a vetting process. Your alma mater or graduate school may have some names if your contacts come up short, or you can check with other moms in forums.
There are so many things we need to have in our stronghold on the return-to-work journey, and the support and advice of a good career coach is definitely worth consideration. And the good news, I’m back to work!