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Advice / Job Search / Networking

5 Times a Career Coach Is Well Worth the Splurge

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I once was a single mom, with a very young daughter, two cats, and a dog. To say my hands were full would be an understatement. One day, in the midst of a rather stressful economic stretch, a giant rainstorm came. In no time at all, it was raining in my dining room—on me, on my very young daughter, on my two (notably ticked off) cats, and on my incredibly resilient dog (who frankly didn’t seem to mind this turn of events one bit).

As one who has long been a resourceful, scrappy do-it-yourselfer, I recall having a moment of temporary insanity during which I pondered ways I could remedy this most unfortunate, highly overwhelming situation myself. I thought, “I can figure this out! I can do this myself!”

But the reality was (and still is), I don’t know the first thing about roof repair, and I completely hate heights. So, after much sighing, I counted up my pennies, called around for a referral, and found the best roof guy I could possibly afford.

My problem was fixed, in a very short period of time. In spite of my limited funds, I’d recognized that this was no time to half-ass my way through the project on my own; it was time to bring in the pros.

So how about when you’re looking for a new job? When is it time to ditch your DIY plans and bring in the big guns? When is it time to hire a career coach?

Here are five such instances:

1. You’re Flat-Out Stuck

The easiest thing for me to do right here would be to launch into the age old, “What’s the definition of crazy?” speech. I’ll refrain (especially since I just admitted that I was seriously contemplating fixing my own roof).

But, for real. If you’re feeling at an impasse and totally unsure about how to get yourself out of the muck and back rolling, stop right there and bring in a professional.

What type of pro should you engage? This is an important question, because not all coaches are alike, personality-wise, process-wise, or core area of focus-wise. If you’re stuck in terms of your direction, you’ll want to find a career coach who specializes in the exploratory work that would precede the actual job search. I call these the “What Color Is My Rainbow?” coaches. Often, this person will have you take some sort of talents or strengths assessment test (e.g., StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs) and then, together, you’ll work through the types of roles that may be most suitable and meaningful.

If you have a decent idea of what you want to do next, but simply aren’t making progress in your job search, consider someone who actually specializes in job search strategy. (Yes—that’s a thing!) Coaches in this arena will typically take a look at what you’re doing (and what you’re not doing), review the “paperwork” you’re using to market yourself (resume, LinkedIn profile, you know the drill) and then help you build or fine-tune a game plan and revise your materials to line up with your desired direction.

Allowing yourself to slunk around in stuck mode for too long can be damaging to your mental and physical health, and (at worst) detrimental to your long-term career. If you can’t seem to get out of the sludge, hire someone to help excavate you.

2. You’ve Sent Out (Insert Big Number Here) Resumes Without Success

I once worked with a client who hired me only after applying for 429 jobs within six months. He’d received precisely three replies. That’s 2.35 jobs a day, every single day, for six months. And three replies. You can imagine his mood and level of frustration by the time he got to our doorstep.

Now, we were fortunately able to swiftly decipher what was going wrong (his resume was not aligned to his target market, and he was doing zero networking through the search process) and construct a new plan. This helped him start landing interviews within five weeks of our initial meeting.

If this sounds remotely like you, stop what you’re doing and think about enlisting a coach who understands how this works. So many job seekers don’t understand how, specifically, the process works today. They know nothing about the resume scanning software that typically reviews applications before a human ever lays eyes on it, no less how to strategize around the so-called resume black hole.

A career coach—particularly one who understands the recruitment process inside and out—can help you understand the game, and enable you to avoid the endless rounds of “apply now,” “apply now,” “apply now” that so many of us endure.

3. You’re Attempting a Major Career Pivot

Making any sort of job transition can be challenging at best. Making a major career pivot? Lord have mercy. These sorts of moves can drive even the best of us to near lunacy.

Rather than flying by the seat of your pants through a big transition, sleuth out a coach with experience in these types of moves. You want to find someone who can help you talk through the rationale behind your desires, evaluate how realistic the move may be, and then construct a strategy, and (potentially) a new resume to support this new direction.

4. Interviewing Paralyzes You

If you’re making it to the point at which potential employers are inviting you in for interviews, huge congrats. This is a big accomplishment considering how cutthroat the competition is for a lot of positions.

But what happens if, after you land these meetings, you go into crash and burn mode every time you walk through their doors? I’ll tell you what happens: You don’t land a new job. And that’s pretty much the entire purpose of this whole song and dance.

If you’re someone who goes all deer-in-the-headlights upon seeing a hiring manager in the flesh, bring in the pros, stat. Find someone who will conduct mock interviews with you, walk you through the process, and help you strategize on how you’ll deal with each step and potential scenario. There’s no point in hustling your rear end off to capture an employer’s interest if you’re going to freeze the millisecond the rubber meets the road. Get help.

5. You’d Rather Have a Root Canal Than Deal With Networking

This is a big one for so many people. Networking is hard for most people—so hard that plenty avoid it and, instead, stick with applying for job after job via online application.

In order to accelerate your search, you need to get comfortable with engaging your network. You need to learn how to cultivate new relationships with people working at the companies you’ve got your eye on. You’ve got to understand that most hiring managers will look at the resume of someone who has been referred long before one that comes in among the big blob of other online applicants.

And if this makes you freak right the heck out, this would be yet one more instance in which you need to hire someone who understands (and is good at) networking (and, preferably, LinkedIn). And, yes, that’s a thing too.

Look, I get it. Sometimes, you have people around you insisting that you can do all of this by yourself. A few may even imply there’s something wrong with you if you can’t pull it off on your own. And every now and then, it’s going to be your own inner critic making you feel ridiculous for needing help in the first place.

But if one of the above scenarios is yours, ignore them all. Some projects just aren’t meant to be a do-it-yourself production. Know your capabilities, know your limitations. Strategize accordingly. Hire a coach if you think it’s the best decision for you.

And for heaven’s sake: Don’t settle for endless dinners in the rain.

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