Career coaches can be an amazingly helpful resource — for those who need them. They're not a one-size-fits-all solution to your employment woes, and the same is true of the expensive, intensive programs that offer "high end" coaching that's oftentimes best suited for executives and professionals.

This post will explore both the pros and cons of career coaching as well as what you should know before hiring a coach.

What exactly is career coaching?

Career coaching is a type of guidance and advice service. A coach helps you uncover and clarify your goals, and guides you in making career decisions to help you achieve those goals. Career coaches often work with individuals, although some do offer group workshops or classes that explore certain aspects of career management.

I'm sure that most of us can think of a time where we've needed such help — whether it's the difficulty we felt in deciding on a college major, picking a job after graduation, exploring different fields or even leaving our current jobs to do something else. This post is not a how-to guide, but I would encourage those seeking career guidance to try to take advantage of as many resource sources as possible. The more avenues you have to pick from, the better.

Reasons Why You Need A Career Coach

Here are some common reasons you might want to use a career coach:

  1. You are facing the decision to stay with your employer or move on.
  2. You may be so unhappy in your job that you're ready to quit, but you just aren't sure if this is the right time. A coach can help you sort through all of your options and guide you into making the best choice for yourself. You do not have such guidance within your company.
  3. Perhaps you don't feel that there is anyone within your organization who knows who you are and what makes you thrive.
  4. A career coach can offer business advice based on your goals and work styles, rather than on the policies of your company or industry alone.
  5. You are an entrepreneur. If you're starting your own business, you may have specific concerns that are outside of the realm of your current employer. For example, you may want to talk through marketing strategies or begin to build a personal brand.
It's important to note that the definition of "career coach" is very broad. But if you search on Indeed or Google for "career coach," you'll notice that the results are dominated by expensive executive coaches who work with clients who are out of work or unhappy in their current roles (see above). If you're an entrepreneur who needs guidance on how to grow your business, try looking for career coaches who focus on entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Career coaches aren't for everyone.

The most common career coaching clients tend to be job seekers with little business experience looking to advance in their careers; however, there is no shortage of corporate and organizational leaders who also hire career coaches in order to make strategic, long-term changes in their personal and professional lives.

One possible solution: Coach your coaches. Though you may want a career coach — especially if you know what you want — finding a coach who understands your strengths and interests is challenging. And then there's the issue of setting boundaries: Who makes the final decision about when it's time to call it quits? This can quickly become a toxic relationship if not handled properly, which can result in personal and professional setbacks.

Does a career coach work for me or for my company?

It's important to note that a coach does not work for your company. If you're an employee, it's up to you decide which professional services provider will help propel your career forward by developing and managing your personal brand. You may want to consider joining a professional organization or network that offers benefits such as access to content and support from other members who might be facing similar issues.

But if you're not an employee, you may want to have your career coach work directly with your employer if they have career development programs that you can access. It will be up to your boss to decide whether or not they wish to hire a coach to work with their direct reports.

Should I talk to my company first?

It's important for all parties involved in the hiring process to have these conversations before the search begins. If you are already employed by a company, it is likely that they already have some structure in place for career management. If this is the case, then it's possible that they will be able to direct you toward specific services that are available for employees.