You’re at home Googling “when to hire a career coach,” all the while thinking, “Do I really need a career coach? Other people find careers they love. Why can’t I figure this out?”

You are not alone. Many people are in the same situation, so there is no shame or blame for not having figured it out yet. Here’s how to consider if it’s time to stop trying to do it all yourself and get help:

There are two ways to think about this: situations when you might hire a career coach and signs that it’s time for help. In this post, we’ll tackle both.

Situations When to Hire a Career Coach

Who you hire depends on what your primary question or dilemma is. Coaches often have specialties, and you want to pick the right coach for your stage.

Think of career questions on a timeline with four distinct stages:

Stage 1: Deciding Should I/Shouldn’t I?

This is the early “I don’t know IF I should change careers, quit my job, or return to work” struggle where you’re deciding if any change is needed and would be most beneficial.

For these “should I stay or should I go” questions, you might be able to work with a life coach, therapist, or career coach to come to a decision that honors you.

Stage 2: What Do I Want?

Once you know you want a change, then comes the “I know I want to work/change, but I don’t know what I want to do. What job do I want? What business do I want to start?” stage.

This is often the most uncomfortable stage because it introduces the most uncertainty. You know you need to leave the familiar, but you don’t know what’s next.

This is my area of speciality. Clients often describe this stage as feeling lost, feeling adrift, as not having a compass or North Star, or as being out to sea with no land in sight.

To safely navigate this stage, you really want to upgrade from a therapist or life coach to a career coach, career change strategist, or career mentor who has direct experience supporting clients through this kind of change.

Pay less attention to what they call themselves (that’s marketing) and more attention to the results they help people get.

Stage 3: How Do I Get There?

Once you know what you want, you’ve graduated to the “I know what I want to do, but I don’t know HOW to do it” stage.

In this stage, you might with a job search coach or strategist who can help you communicate your value through your resume, LinkedIn profile, interviews, networking, and figure out where and how to find opportunities + pursue them.

If you’re starting a business, then you want a business coach who can help you launch your first offer and set the groundwork for a sustainable, profitable business.

Stage 4: How Can I Do It Better?

This stage is about maximizing and refining where you are. It’s the “I’m in the right place/at least the right lane – how do I do it better?” stage.

Depending on your goals, you might want a career coach, strategic planner, leadership coach, business coach, or equity-centered coach.

Get clear on your challenge and then find the kind of coach that supports clients in the desired outcome or result.

Now that you know the different situations in which you might hire a career coach, let’s talk signs that it’s time for you to hire. Since I specialize in the “What Do I Want?” stage, I’ll focus on signs for that stage.

Signs That It’s Time To Hire a Career Coach

Sign 1: You feel like you’ve tried it all.

I often work with clients who say they have tried it all; therapist, career coach, life coach, professional development, journaling, books, online courses, volunteering, informational interviews, you name it.

If you feel like you’ve tried it all, don’t lose hope – try to identify what has NOT worked or been incomplete about those things and look for a more complete, supportive approach or coach.

Sign 2: You have the drive but not the direction.

It’s time to get the structure, processes, guidance, and accountability to channel your energy toward reaching the desired outcome.

Sign 3: You want results faster.

Results are almost easier to reach when you have some runway. It can take time to get a quality resume. It takes time to go through a discovery process. Every service provider is a little different, and they’ll have their own turn-around time.

But working with a professional will almost always get you a quality result faster.

Sign 4: You want guardrails to help keep you safe.

An experienced career coach will know common mistakes and can help you avoid them.

Sign 5: You want to save money.

This may sound counter-intuitive if you’re investing in hiring a coach, but it’s almost always more financially sound to fix a career problem than prolong it.

How much money are you losing due to unemployment, under-employment, under-earning, poor lead flow in your business, or a an under-performing sales process? Less that you’d spend fixing those problems, most likely.

Sign 6: You’re in the sweet spot of MOTIVATED but not PANICKED.

Motivation is personal and is based on your unique nervous systems, executive functioning, relationship to time, stress, goals, capacity, and your support systems.

Motivation often resembles a combination of:

  • You have hope that your circumstances can change
  • You are prepared to invest time and money
  • And you’re ready to be coachable to reach your goal

Panic is usually caused by a TIME CRUNCH/MONEY CRUNCH or EMOTIONAL CRUNCH.

TIME/MONEY CRUNCH: “My contract is about to be up; I want to be out before the start of the next school year or tax season; I just got laid off.”

A coach can save you time, but it’s not an overnight thing. Once you get that whiff that layoffs are coming, don’t wait. If you know you don’t want to be there is the start of the next year or season, don’t wait.

EMOTIONAL CRUNCH: “I’m afraid I’ll just snap and quit this job!”

If you are starting to feel angry, resentful, or feel burnout coming on, don’t wait. Get support and make your exit plan now.

You CAN work through a crunch with a coach (I’ve done that with clients), but it will be a much better experience for you if the pressure is not sky-high and you have Motivation without Panic.

Now you know the situations and signs of when to hire a career coach. Good luck, and happy hiring!

RELATED: How To Choose A Career Coach: Avoid These 7 Red Flags

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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