My question relates to these firms that allege to provide an executive career coach who will work with you to help you attain higher positions with higher earnings within an average of 60-90 days. They will redo your resume and LinkedIn profile, create your executive presence, and help you develop your personal brand. (One offers an $800 “quick action package.”) Everyone can use coaching from time to time as we all have things to work on, but $5,000 seems to be a lot, particularly when one is out of work and searching for their next role. Your thoughts?
There is an awful lot of marketing and, well, B.S. in what many of these firms are selling. It’s no accident that they throw a lot of implied promises at you very quickly and want their fee in advance.
There are some very good career coaches out there. Finding one that’s trustworthy and helpful is another story. The cost of entry to the coaching business is small, making it an easy rip-off of one degree or another. There are loads of “certifications” and questionable“credentials” that virtually anyone can buy to advertise coaching services.
How to find a good career coach
Let’s cut to the chase, then we’ll discuss some of the gotchas to look out for when you feel you need a career coach.
The best way to find a really good coach is through their happy clients. In other words, ignore the marketing. Talk with others in your field, and at your level of work, and ask what coach they’ve used and recommend. Ask why, exactly, they like the coach. Then consider whether the coach might address your specific needs.
But don’t sign up because you were solicited or even because your employer recommended a particular coaching service when they laid you off. Just like a personal referral is an excellent way to land a job, a trusted referral is how to find a good career coach.
How can you spot a likely rip-off? Let’s look at the tip-offs in the promises they market for those big up-front fees:
- Higher positions
- Higher pay
- 60-90 day time frames
- Quick action package
- Executive presence
- Personal brand
Higher job and pay
Much of the time, coaching (including for executives) is all about finding and getting a better job and more pay. The simple truth is that there can be no guarantees about an outcome over which neither the coach nor the client have any real control. Only an employer can make a job offer (or offer a raise), and I’ve yet to meet the coach that controls job offers or raises.
Job hunting, at any level, is a daunting task and often a depressing experience. There are a lot of questionable services purporting to help you get a job because there are a lot of potential suckers desperate to avoid the hard work of getting a job.
Here’s the lesson:
Please — even if you’re not really a sucker — consider what it really means when someone claims they’ll get you a better job and more pay if you’ll pay them.
“Guaranteed!” 60 – 90 days or less!
Some of the best coaches I’ve known have taken upwards of a year to help a client get the job and compensation they want. Sometimes the agreed-upon objectives are never attained. That doesn’t mean the coach isn’t a good one. But it does explain why the bad ones want the money up front.
A good coach will never promise, or even imply, a time frame in which you will reach your goals (and definitely not 60-90 days!). To do so is dishonest simply because every client is different — and so are their goals. At most, all a coach can promise is that they will improve your knowledge, understanding and skills about your career development.
Here’s the lesson:
Claims and promises of a job are different from an ironclad, written money-back guarantee. Some windbags will charge you thousands up front and promise to continue coaching you “for as long as necessary.” That is, for as long as you can swallow their questionable advice. So if there’s a big fee up front, ask for a signed money-back guarantee to help you get ahead with a new job at the pay you expect.
Never pay a a career coach a big fee up front
Does a therapist charge $5,000 in advance to solve your emotional problems? Of course not! Because no one can actually control whether you will get a job for the pay you want, unsavory practitioners want a sizable fee in advance because the longer it takes you to meet your goals, the less satisfied you will be — and the more you will wish you hadn’t already paid all that money.
$5,000, $10,000 and higher in-advance fees are common. The justification is wrapped around a marketing trick: They’re not merely coaching you, they’re selling “a program” or “an engagement.” They want to lock you in — and that should also tip you off that the coaching will be canned, not customized for your needs.
It’s an old confidence game: Take the sucker’s money all at once, because by the time the “client” realizes what the game is, their money’s gone.
Here’s the lesson:
Pay as you go, or don’t do it. If the coach is good and you are happy with the progress, you are free to continue — just as you would with a therapist. This guarantees a stop-loss mechanism. If you find you’re not satisfied, you can terminate the relationship at any time without any further losses.
Quick action for a small added fee?
This one is a dead giveaway. If I could get employers to make quicker job offers for an extra $800 I’d be a genius! There are no geniuses in the career coaching business, just a lot of very frustrated, and thus gullible, job seekers. Everyone’s in a hurry and someone’s glad to charge an extra fee because you’re eager to pay it.
Executive presence and personal brand
Find me an employer that includes these requirements in a job description and I’ll be glad to charge you oh, another $800 for a nice, starched white shirt to wear to interviews and for a cute logo you can stamp on your resume and forehead.
Gimme a break. Desperate job seekers call for fatter fees and fancy terms for “great reputation” — which no one can sell you!
Virtually all of what career coaches deliver is available free online or at your local library. Nonetheless, you still might want help, especially to address specific hurdles and challenges. Ask around. What coach do respected people in your field vouch for? Discuss what the deliverables are and understand the important distinctions between advertising and guarantees. Pay as you go, and monitor progress closely.
Good help really is hard to find. Don’t make me ask, “You paid HOW MUCH for career coaching?”
How much have you paid to hire a career coach? Did you pay up-front or as-you-go? What was the outcome? What’s your advice to this reader? Did you ever get burned? What would you do differently?