The Career Coach: Worthwhile or Worthless?

I began this series with the article Want to Find Employment? Stop Looking for a Job! — the result of my interview with career coach Randy Block. In this second installment to the series, we’ll dive right into the question of whether hiring a career coach is a worthwhile investment.


It should come as no surprise that a career coach like Randy is in favor of being hired. But for those of us seeking career opportunities — and especially for those of us who lack a source of income — deciding where to invest, and in whom to invest, is a major decision.

Should I Hire a Coach?

Do we spend the money, or go it alone?

I’m active with a Linked In group called “Executives in Transition” where there is currently a discussion about the value of a career coach. One career coach posted that what he brings to the table is “objectivity.”

Sure — most of us are a bit blinded when it comes to evaluating ourselves, and the unbiased opinion of someone with credentials is a worthwhile endeavor — but do we need to PAY for it? Aren’t there plenty of free “evaluation” services out there?

"You can do it -- Yes You Can -- You can do it -- You're the Man!"

What are other reasons given to hire a coach?

In the Linked In discussion noted above, another professional coach points out that some coaches are employed to act simply as a cheerleader, to boost the confidence of the client.

But my mom will do that for me, or my kids, at no charge. (In fact, even my ex-husband will sing my praises, gratis.) So, why would I want to pay a pro to don the pom-poms?

Nearly every comment (on the Linked In discussion) from a coach, in fact, points out that there are many approaches a coach takes depending upon the needs of the client: acting as a confidant; acting as an advisor; pointing out alternative perspectives and approaches; and so on. And, again I say, “Can’t we get all of this for free?” I strongly believe the answer is “Yes.”


I asked Randy, “Why use a career coach, especially given the plethora of free advice that one can find on the internet?” His answer — so simple and honest — is one that is hard to counter.

Randy said, “Even Michael Jordan uses a coach.”

He went on to explain that while one can easily find great advice on the internet — advice that might cost you money if obtained directly from a coach — the internet does not hold you accountable. A good career coach will.


Finally, an answer I can buy!

We humans typically perform better with an audience, even if it is a one-person audience on the payroll.  We don’t like to disappoint our audience, and we especially don’t want that audience to see us fail.  Knowing that someone is watching, we kick into high gear and do our best.

For example, both a coach and a free blog article might advise you (as I do, elsewhere) to make 3 weekly appointments with 3 different contacts. But then what? You either do it, or you don’t, right? If you’ve hired a good coach however, he will call or email you to say, “Have you set up those appointments yet?”  Knowing that our coach expects us to say, “Yes,” most people probably will.  Then, they’ll immediately make those appointments if they haven’t done so already.

There is something to this “being held accountable” thing.

The "tough love" approach works for many.

How many of us, for example, have a much better chance of success in our weight loss efforts if we arrange to exercise under the watchful eye of a hired personal trainer? Jillian Michaels (from the Biggest Loser) is a great example. Her ability to push her clients — to hold them accountable — is perhaps the best known modern example of the principle. In fact, she’s so successful that people invest $1000s just to be able to hear and see a recording of her on their treadmills!

Being yelled at by a pro somehow makes us push harder and keep at it until we reach our goal — especially one that is being paid to do so.  Not only do we want to perform and achieve in front of our audience, we want to get our money’s worth.

What professional athlete, for example, has ever reached his goals by “going it alone” or simply by reading a blog?

We can use the buddy system — partnering with another job-seeker — with the intention of holding one another accountable.  In fact, this is the method I currently use to a certain degree.  And, it’s free.  But it misses the element of “getting one’s money worth.”

Or, there are some folks who don’t need to be held accountable, who can — on their own — follow through without fail.  These folks are rare.

Still others of us are better able to stick to it when we offer help to others in some way.  This blog, for example, is what holds me accountable.

But for the majority, we perform better with a coach.  It’s the nature of being human.


Though humans have differing needs, differing personalities, and differing goals, we share certain things in common.  Most don’t want to fail, especially when someone is watching.  Neglecting to make those weekly appointments or to send out that “Thank you” note after an interview makes a world of difference when we have an audience.  Is that audience worth “buying”?  For most people, the answer is “Yes.”

~ Lynda C. Watts

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