Investing in a great career coach can be one of the best life decisions you ever make.
Career coaching is the fastest way for you to land that dream job, negotiate that dream salary, and actually do work you love.
But the processes of finding the right career coach who will actually help you get those results can be confusing and downright frustrating.
The internet has paved the way for anyone to write “career coach” in their LinkedIn profile or on their website and try to sell you their services.
Let me be clear – all coaches are NOT created equal.
One of the most common things I hear from people in the discovery calls I do is, “I've spent $X on coaching before and didn't get any results – it was incredibly disappointing.”
Your results are only going to be as good as the coach you hire, and that's exactly why I created this guide. I'm going to walk you through the process of hiring a great career coach the first time around.
We'll specifically cover topics like:
- Who I am and why the heck I'm even qualified to talk about this?
- Why should you hire a career coach in the first place?
- When should you hire a career coach?
- A 4 step vetting process to help ensure that you get your money's worth (the first time)
- Some career services and career coaching client stories to help you get started
Let's start at the top:
Who Am I To Talk About Career Coaching?
That's a great question! I figured we'd lead off with this because, as we'll discuss later, it's extremely important to know who you're getting your information from and why they're qualified to give it.
If we haven't met, my name is Austin and I'm the founder of this site, CultivatedCulture.com, where I teach people how to land jobs they love without applying online.
The idea for Cultivated Culture stemmed from my journey transitioning from a recent grad with a 2.58 GPA, a biology degree, and a job in healthcare to landing interviews and offers in digital advertising at Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and many other companies.
I eventually accepted the role at Microsoft and have worked there for 4.5 years being promoted twice and winning the company's Platinum Club award for being in the top 1% of sales attainers at Microsoft.
As a result, I've had the chance to meet some pretty cool people, like this guy:
I've been running this site and coaching people since 2016. Since that time, the community has grown to to 130,000+ professionals who have leveraged my strategies to land jobs at some pretty amazing places — many of them without “traditional” experience and without submitting an online application:
When it comes to coaching, my clients have a 90%+ success rate and they are typically landing jobs in less than 3 months from the day we start. My clients also average a 35%-45% salary increase in the new roles I help them land.
I've worked with people across the full range of experience from college students to CEOs and I've helped people land jobs in pretty much every industry you can imagine — Tech, Software Engineering, Sales, Graphic Design, Data Science, Marketing, HR, Healthcare, Consulting, Sports — you name it!
I'm not saying any of this to brag. I'm using it as a preface for the info I'm going to share below so you know that it's coming from someone who has seen success as a job seeker, a professional, and as a career coach.
Why Should You Hire A Career Coach?
When it comes to success and achieving your goals, there are two ways to make it happen.
The first is the DIY method. You're out there putting in the work, soaking up the knowledge, testing, experimenting, failing, and persisting.
The second is the mentorship/coaching method. You find someone who's already achieved the success you want to replicate, and you have them guide you along every step of the path. They show you how to do the right things the first time, they steer you away from mistakes and pitfalls, and they pass on knowledge they wish they had when they were in your shoes.
While the DIY method is free, it requires a LOT of work and a LOT of patience. If you're in uncharted territory, there is no roadmap. It's up to you to try new things and, as is the case with most experiments, a lot of them won't work out the first time.
You may even find yourself in a situation where you're doing everything you're “supposed to do” but you're still not seeing results.
That's where coaching comes in.
The main reason you hire a career coach is to help you create and execute a proven strategy that will help you land a better job, earn more money, and do work that makes you fulfilled and happy.
I'll give you an example to contrast the two options I mentioned above. I used the DIY method for my job search and it took me 2 years to figure out the process before I landed my job at Microsoft. Earlier this year, I coached a recent grad who ended up landing a job offer from Microsoft 3 months after we started working together.
We were both new grads with the same level of experience when we started. The difference was that she had someone to show her exactly what to do to get in the door — that knowledge saved her 21 months of trial and error.
The ROI of Job Searching & Career Acceleration
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week.
We have 168 hours each week and we spend 56 of them sleeping, which means we spend ~40% of our waking hours at work.
On top of that, for the vast majority of people, our job is our primary source of income which determines important things like how easy it is to pay off debt, the area you live in, the type of place you live in, the opportunities you can afford for yourself and your kids.
There is a lot of data out there showing that switching jobs can lead to more money in both the short and long term.
For example, Forbes mentioned that employees who stay put can earn up to 50% less and a 2017 study from ADP found that people who moved into a new job earned more money than those who stayed put.
The data I see corroborates this, my clients see an average salary increase of 36%-44% when they land their new roles.
So why should you care about any of this?
Because you should be looking at the ROI of your coaching decision. Let's say you spend $5,000 on career coaching (which is very high), and you net a 35% increase in salary. Even with conservative estimates of an 8-10% bump, your coaching will pay for itself if you're making more than $50,000 / year.
I recently coached a VP who worked at a financial firm. He spent $2,300 on coaching with me and we ended up landing him a $70,000 raise and a job at Amazon.
I also coached a recent grad from an Account Manager position into a Senior Account Manager position at a new company. She spent ~$800 on coaching and she ended up scoring a 50% raise taking her from $40,000/year to $60,000/year.
Both of these people understood that making an investment in themselves could yield massive results. That's the beautiful part about the job search, if you do it right, there's no other investment out there that yields the same level of return.
When Should You Hire A Career Coach?
This answer is going to be different for everyone, but it boils down to two main buckets:
- When you want to accelerate the process and get better results
- When you've tried to DIY you job search and you've hit the point where nothing seems to be working
The first scenario is pretty straightforward.
Hiring A Coach To From The Get-Go
Hiring a career coach is going to speed up the time it takes for you to see the results you want from your job search. You're paying someone to share their knowledge at every twist and turn in the road so you get things right the first time.
On top of that, you're going to end up with better results. This person will push you to go for roles you might have avoided or thought you were “unqualified” for and they'll show you how to get them. They can also helped you during negotiations to make sure you get a great compensation package.
If you have the means to hire a coach from the very beginning (or even before you start your search), you can expect a faster process and better results.
Hiring A Coach When You Feel Like Nothing Is Working
The second scenario is where most people find themselves.
You've been reading all of the blog posts, watching the webinars, and trying to implement the advice on your own without results.
You feel like you've done everything you can do, everything you're “supposed” to do, but you're getting nowhere.
If that's the case, hiring a career coach can be a life changing move.
They will come in and help you identify what you're doing wrong so you can fix it and begin to get results. You'd be surprised at how small changes to specific parts of the process can be the difference between zero responses and a pipeline full of job interviews.
The Major Takeaway: The Earlier The Better
This may sound salesy coming from a career coach, but the earlier you hire a career coach, the better off you're going to be.
Now I totally understand that everyone has different situations and budgets, which is totally fine! You should make the best decision for your situation.
With that said, the earlier you bring on a career coach, the fewer headaches you'll have and the faster you'll land that job and salary you've been targeting.
How To Hire The Right Person The First Time
The vast majority of the people who come to me for coaching usually tell me the same thing:
“I tried working with another [career coach, resume writer, etc.] and I didn't see the results or value I was looking for.”
Like any investment, it's absolutely critical to do your due diligence before you hand over your credit card info. If you don't, you end up wasting money and, even worse, you delay the results you're looking for.
In today's internet driven world, anyone can call themselves a career coach. In fact, a lot of people do! If you run a search for “Career Coach” on LinkedIn, you get ~814,000 results:
That's a lot of coaches!
So how do you figure out which ones are any good at what they do and which ones will be a good fit for you (both are equally important)?
I've hired a lot of coaches during my career. I've hired coaches to help me with my career, I've hired coaches to help me become a better writer, I've hired coaches to help me grow my business.
Whenever I'm looking to hire a coach for something, I look at four major pieces of criteria:
- Find Someone Who Has Been Where You Want To Go
- Get Proof That Their System Has Worked For Other People Like You
- Read Through The Free Advice They Share To Gauge Their Value
- Chat With Them Before You Commit
Let's dive into each of these in a little more detail so you can steal this framework and use it confidently with the prospective coaches you vet.
Find A Coach Who Has Been Where You Want Go
When I decided to make my transition from healthcare into tech, I went to the people we always go to for advice — friends, family, career counselors, and Google searches.
Most of them gave similar advice. Tweak your resume, apply online, rinse and repeat until something sticks.
Per their advice, I submitted over 300 online applications for jobs, but I only heard back from one or two for interviews.
It wasn't until later that I realized the issue. While these people had been successful in their own right, they hadn't been down the path I was trying to walk. None of them had worked at Google or Microsoft and none of them had done it coming from a completely different background.
I realized that if I wanted to see success I needed to take advice from people who already had what I wanted.
This is true for career coaching and everything else in life.
Want to lose 20 pounds as a busy Mom? Go find a busy Mom who already lost 20+ pounds.
Want to start a side business that makes $20k/month without funding? Go find someone who started a side business with no funding that makes $20k/month.
If your coach hasn't seen the same kind of success you're hoping to achieve, how can you expect them to help you get there?
Get Proof That Their System Has Worked For Other People (Like You!)
The saying goes, “once is luck, twice is coincidence, three times is a pattern.”
The coach you're looking to hire should be able to give you proof that their system has worked for a critical mass of other people. Sample size is key here. This person should be able to provide proof from many clients, and they should be able to provide proof across a range of scenarios.
This proof can come in many different forms:
- Look for testimonials on their website (or ask for them)
- Read through their LinkedIn recommendations
- Ask to speak with previous clients
If a coach is unwilling or unable to provide you with testimonials or proof, that's a big red flag that you shouldn't ignore.
If you're going to invest your hard earned money with someone, you need to make sure they're able to replicate the results they promise with consistency!
Read Through Their Free Advice To Gauge Their Value
One of the biggest things I look for in a coach is the value they add in their free material.
I'm not expecting people to share every detail of the strategy, but I am expecting to see an illustration of their ideas and how they work.
One of the most frustrating things I ran into as a job seeker was coaches or “gurus” who would tell you what to do, but not how to do it. Telling me to “network” or telling me to “optimize my resume” isn't helpful without actionable steps.
If I've never networked before and/or I've never optimized my resume, I'm going to have a million questions and no idea where to start!
If people's free advice is vague or general, that's a red flag to me.
How do I know what actions we'll be taking if we work together? How do I know you're not just throwing ideas out there without any history of actually executing on them? How do I know they will work for me?
Before I hire anyone, I usually dive into their free content and put it into practice. If I start to see results, then I have a lot more confidence in the legitimacy of this person's advice.
If you want to check out some of mine, here are a few free guides to help you get started:
- How to land a job anywhere without applying online
- How to write a resume that actually gets you hired
- How to create an amazing LinkedIn profile
If you're more of a video person, here's a great breakdown of the job search system I recommend (and why it works in today's market):
Chat With Your Coach Before You Commit
A good coach should always be willing to hop on a free discovery call with you before you commit.
I personally offer free 20 minute calls with every single one of my prospective clients so I can get to know them, understand what they're looking for, chat with them about my process, and answer any questions they have.
These calls are HUGE for figuring out whether you're a good fit as coach and client, which is a massive part of your ability to achieve success.
You can hire a coach with the best strategies, but if they don't get where you're coming from, or their personality/style doesn't jive with yours, it's not going to be a good experience and you're probably not going to end up getting the results you want.
Before handing over your money, ask to hop on a quick call with your prospective career coach and have some questions prepared to get a better understanding of who they are and how they work.
Results From Real Career Coaching Clients
Now that I've spent all this time telling you what to look for, I figured I'd give you some real world examples!
Here are some stories from the people I've worked with:
Who & What: Anton Changed Industries & Landed A Six Figure Salary While Moving From Minneapolis To Amsterdam
Industry: Sales / Information Technology
Job: Principle Sales Specialist at IHS Markit
“The second that I signed up with Austin, I realized that I had a lot of gaps in my own interview skills. I worked on these and within 2 months I landed 3 final round interviews with absolutely fantastic companies paying me WAY upwards of six figures.”
Who & What: Paula Landed A Marketing Director Role A Few Short Weeks After Being Laid Off
Industry: Public Relations & Marketing, Health & Wellness
Job: Global Head of PR & Content Marketing at Gympass (formerly Director of Commercial & Provider Marketing at Talkspace)
“Last year I went on vacation and when I came back on the Tuesday after Christmas, my boss reached out to me and said, ‘are you available to talk?’ I said I was and he told we were having cash problems and he wouldn’t be able to afford me or the entire team in the new year so our last day would be Friday…
Looking for a job [this] time was a bit different because there was a time crunch. [After taking Austin’s course] I was kind of a pro at cold emailing so I started reaching out and applying…and then I had two offers! One for the SEO side…and then I have this offer for a very high position from [Talkspace].
That all happened in two weeks, I would say 17 days tops…I ended up make a lot more money than I would have otherwise.”
Who & What: Queen Landed Her Dream Job Setup In San Francisco And Tripled Her Salary In The Process
Industry: Customer Success
Job: Queen is now fully self employed as the founder of her own Customer Success Consultancy
Who & What: David Landed A Job Halfway Across The Country With A $5,000 Raise
Industry: Digital Marketing / Consulting
Job: Senior Account Director at dig
“Following Austin’s system led to a job doing something I’m passionate about working with clients and colleagues I really enjoy, all while netting a $5,000 (read “$15,000” based on my new cost of living) salary increase and working significantly fewer hours.
The return on investment alone ($500 upfront cost for a $5,000 return = 1,000% ROI) makes this course worth every penny, and that’s not even accounting for the tremendous lifestyle difference and joy I have from having a job that I look forward to doing all while having more time to spend with my family!”
Who & What: Rick Made The Jump From Service Delivery Manager To Front End Developer With No Previous Experience
Industry: Web Development
Job: Front End Developer at RedVentures
Who & What: Claire Landed A Job With Visa Sponsorship At A Fortune 50 Company As A New Grad
Industry: Data Analysis / Business Intelligence
Job: Business Intelligence Advisor at Dell
Career Coaching Services: I'd Love To Help You Land Your Dream Job!
If you read all of this and you're looking for some career coaching, I'd love to help!
I've coached thousands of job seekers from new grads to CEOs, from 21 year olds to 60+ year olds, and I've helped them land jobs at some pretty amazing places. I'd love to work together to get you those same results.
If you're interested, shoot me a note using the form below (just mention “Career Coaching” in your Subject Line) and we'll find some time to chat!
Finally, if you have any other questions about career coaches – scroll down and leave them in a comment below! I read and reply to every comment on here and I'm happy to answer.