Firstly, I'd argue don't look for a coach look for a coach and psychologist. I just think anyone purporting to work with people must have some idea of how the human mind works and what the evidence suggests is a reliable intervention. Call me old fashioned.
But after that, I agree with every word in this article, published in Psychology Today. Highlights below.
Here are 10 tips for finding and using a career coach:
1. Find out if they are they a member of a coaching organization, such as the International Coach Federation. While this membership is attained by simply paying a fee, the association does have professional standards which they agree to abide by. You can learn more about coaching standards here.
2. Obtain a copy of their resume and/or their biography which states their education and experience related to coaching. Ask if they possess any certificates or licenses. Currently, there are no licenses in coaching, so the most accreditation a coach can get is a certificate from a coaching training program. Ask for the name of the training program and look it up online. Notice what the coach had to do to complete the certificate, and what qualifications they had to have to enroll in the program. For instance, some coaching certificate programs require that their students already possess a license in a mental health field. You will be able to quickly ascertain if the program is legitimate. (Please note: I cannot recommend private practitioners or coaching training programs.)
3. Make sure you get a full disclosure of all costs or fees connected with the service. As a client, you have a right to receive an "informed consent" document. This document should list the credentials of the service provider (including any licenses or certifications), the procedures and/or treatments they will use, other sources where you could receive assistance, their fees for services, and a statement of the confidentiality level they can provide. (Note: in most states there is no assumption of confidentiality between a coach and client; if you are part of a legal proceeding, the coach can be called to testify about your meetings). You should review this form and it should be signed by both you and the coach.
4. Even if your coach also has a counseling or psychology license, they will likely refer you to another mental health practitioner if you require services for a mental health issue. Coaching is not therapy, and practitioners need to distinguish their clients and their practices. Coaching can be particularly powerful when offered in tandem with psychological services, for instance, in the case of someone being treated for an anxiety disorder related to their job search by a mental health practitioner while at the same time receiving concrete job-search techniques from their coach.
5. Ask for client references. Not just testimonials posted on a website-- ask to speak with a client or two. Because this is career coaching and not therapy, the coach should have a few clients who are willing to speak about the value of their services without concerns for confidentiality. Ask them to tell you about specific success experiences of their clients.
6. Ask what their coaching philosophy is. What knowledge base, theories or approaches do they use? If they state a particular theory, ask what training or education they have received in that approach. A good coach will be able to tell you their coaching philosophy and how they have developed it through their training and experience.
7. Ask about their scope of practice-- do they generally work with individuals with your particular situation? Although many career issues are common to all job-seekers, different groups will experience different challenges. A coach who mostly serves college students, for example, may not be the best coach for someone trying to plan their retirement.
8. As with any other business or service, check the name of the coach or their business name with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed and the outcome of those complaints.
9. Ask if you can have one appointment (maybe at a reduced rate?) before signing up for services. Determine if you enjoy speaking with this person and if they have services you would find helpful. Some coaches offer package deals, such as "5 sessions for $___ ." Find out what will take place in those sessions-- is there a standard method of service provision? Determine for yourself if you need that many sessions, or if one or two sessions are enough. Find out the fees for additional sessions if you go beyond the package price.
10. Once you've found a great career coach take full advantage of their knowledge and services. Make a commitment to be an active participant in the process-- not just a passive recipient of their information. Show up for your appointments with questions, issues, ideas, etc. If you're given homework assignments, do them. Bottom line: career coaching can provide valuable assistance to your job search, but in the end it will be YOU who gets the job.