Does career coaching really pay for itself? A guide to costs and value

June 7, 2022 - 14 min read

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What is the role of a career coach?

How much does career coaching cost?

What are the benefits of career coaching?

What to look for in a career coach

Once you’ve started meeting with a coach, it’s easy to understand the benefits of career coaching. Since we spend so much time of our time at work, finding someone who can help you get the most out of your time and efforts is critical. Planning and developing a career is an investment in your financial security and your life satisfaction — but it plays out over time.

But if you’ve never worked with a coach before, understanding what they do can be a bit fuzzy. Coaching can represent a significant investment of both time and money. You might be (understandably) hesitant to move forward if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.

For some people, the entire concept of a career is a bit of a mystery. Maybe you weren’t around adults who talked about having careers when you were growing up. After all, much of the workforce is focused on paying their bills today and not thinking past their current job.

For others who are thinking in terms of a career, it can still be confusing to know how to develop a career — given constant technological change and economic disruptions. 

Keep reading to understand the role of a career coach, how much it should cost, how to find one, and what to expect out of your coaching experience.

What is the role of a career coach?

A career coach is part-mentor, part-guidance counselor. Career coaches use their skills and experience to help you identify your unique strengths and interests, develop career goals that align with them, and fulfill your potential

Practically speaking, coaches also help provide accountability so that you take the actions, explore the paths, and make the connections that you say you want to. 

As you can see, career coaching sessions can span every aspect of your professional life. You and your coach will work together to set the direction for your sessions. Specific career coaching services can help you with any or all of the following:

  • Finding a new job
  • Navigating a career change
  • Rewriting your cover letter and resume
  • Conducting mock job interviews and aptitude assessments
  • Discovering your life’s purpose
  • Starting your own business
  • Developing new career and leadership skills
  • Researching and negotiating your salary

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The role of a coach, even a career coach, can change over time. Their guidance will shift to reflect the needs of the client, the current stage of their career, and the overall work landscape. 

Our individual experiences will also change what we’re looking for in our coaching sessions. Pre-pandemic, BetterUp noted that Members were focused on leading and influencing others. They sought coaching around being an inspiration, career advancement, influence, empowering others, and managing up.

That’s changed dramatically in the last few years. Over the course of the pandemic, as people began to understand the unique challenges of working from home, what they wanted out of coaching changed too. In the last three years, BetterUp Members have begun to focus more on work-life balance, emotional intelligence, physical health, and dealing with uncertainty. The needs of professionals today extend well past traditional career coaching.

How much does career coaching cost?

Career coaching can be affordable, especially when you consider the potential return on investment. A good coach will pay for themselves many times over in higher salary, more opportunities, greater job satisfaction, and maybe even landing that dream job.

These hourly rates reflect the average cost of career counseling and coaching. But not every coach charges by the hour. Since most career advice is most helpful over the long-term (like career planning or help navigating a job search), professional coaches may offer coaching packages. These are designed to encourage a long-term relationship, build rapport with your coach and give you more accountability.

It can take a few tries to find the right coach for you. Some coaches offer free consultations but plan on investing some time into the process. These introductory sessions are a great way for you and your coach to determine if you’re a good fit and set the direction for your coaching experience.

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What are the benefits of career coaching?

Simply put, a career coach helps you get from point A to point B. Their role is to achieve a certain result or milestone, rather than driving behavior change. Career coaches focus exclusively on your career path and professional development.

Broadly speaking, there are five reasons that people seek career coaching:

1. Plan your career

Unsure about which direction to go in? Much like college guidance counselors, a career coach can help you narrow down a broad interest to a clear direction. No matter what stage of your career you’re in, a coach can help you continually evaluate if you’re on track. Career planning is an ongoing process that you revisit as you grow.

JLL, a BetterUp customer, talks about how individualized coaching can help retain its employees to grow their careers within JLL. 

2. Choose which skills to master

At any point in your career, there’s a seemingly endless number of possible skills to learn. It can be hard to know what to focus on next. A career coach can help you align your skills development to your goals. You’ll be able to pinpoint what you need to do well in your current role or land a new one.

3. Improve your interview skills

Whether you’re a brand-new job seeker or interviewing for an executive role, a career coach can help. While everyone has had the experience of interviewing for a job, few of us get feedback on how the interview went. By doing mock interviews, you can hone your skills and get ready for the real deal.

4. Navigate career transitions

After years of working in a certain field, you may not be sure of how to make the leap into a new role — or even what’s available. Or maybe you want to stay in the same industry, but you want to transition out of an individual contributor role. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, career coaches can help you uncover how to get to that next level.

5. Earn more money

When you’re navigating the professional world alone, salary negotiations can be a bit of a mystery. Working with a professional coach can help you have those nerve-wracking money conversations. They can practice negotiating, provide upfront insight into the market trends, and help you know whether to accept or turn down that job offer.

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What to look for in a career coach

Your ideal career coach might be different than your friends’, coworkers, or at different points in your career. If you’re looking to start working with a coach, here are three ways to determine if they’re a good fit for you:

1. Expertise

There are plenty of career coaches that are equipped to help with a broad range of skills. But it’s almost certain that you’ll get the most out of working with someone that specializes in your field. 

In my career, I’ve worked with a number of brilliant coaches. But the magic happened when I realized that I wanted to become a writer. That insight led me to a coach that worked primarily with content creators. Her insight and encouragement led me to BetterUp, and to a job I never could have imagined when we started working together.

2. Format

When you imagine working with a coach, what do you have in mind? Do you meet daily, weekly, or as needed? Are they one-on-one meetings or group coaching? Would you prefer in-person sessions or virtual coaching? Do you want to build an ongoing relationship, or attend a set series of meetings?

Not every coach offers the same coaching format, so you’ll need to find something that works with your schedule. Certain goals might work better for certain formats. For example, developing leadership skills might happen over several months. On the other hand, revising your resume might only need a session or two.

3. Outcomes

What are you out to accomplish? Do you want to find a new job, develop skills to excel where you are, or start a new business? Whatever it is, you’ll be more satisfied working with a coach who is confident with the results you want.

If the coach has a website, look for testimonials from past clients to get an idea of what to expect. Ask them what kind of results they think are possible within a given time frame. Just keep in mind that in order to make the most out of a coaching relationship, you’ll have to put in the work, too.

4. Breadth

As our BetterUp Member data shows, most professionals have a range of needs that extend beyond just career coaching. That doesn’t mean a single coach should be expected to cover everything you need — BetterUp offers Extended Network coaching to provide access to specialized coaching expertise in nutrition, sleep, and grief, among others. Many excellent coaches specialize in career coaching while also being skilled leadership, communication, or executive coaches. 

Another consideration? The questions we have about our careers almost always involve other questions, about our values, well-being, and personal goals. Be wary of a career coach that maps out a plan against your stated career goal without digging in to understand your motivations and obstacles.

Final thoughts

Career coaching is a great way to give context to your professional development and streamline your efforts. A coach can help you set a clear path for growth and learn from the mistakes of others.

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, reach out to BetterUp for a demo. We offer flexible scheduling, consistent pricing, and evidence-based coaching to help you achieve your full potential.

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Published June 7, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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