Guest Post by Dawid Wiacek, CPCC
There is a coach for everything these days, not just sports. Business coach. Relationship coach. Money coach. Happiness coach. Parenting coach. Crystal healing coach. A coach for coaches. How did our ancestors ever survive without coaches? Well, they often relied on stronger familial or community ties, but that’s a story for another day.
What is a Coach?
First, let’s quickly define coaching by what it’s not.
- Coaching is not therapy, though it may at times feel cathartic and ‘therapeutic’.
- Coaching is not training, though it may have elements of training around soft and hard skills.
- Coaching is not mentoring, though there might be a slight overlap.
- Coaching is the act of supporting and mobilizing others to reach their potential.
However, if you have never worked with a coach before, there are some potential pitfalls and warning signs to consider before shelling out your hard-earned cash. Here are some key things to consider before you partner with a coach.
What Do I Do as a Coach?
As a coach, I work both with under-performers (to get them back on track) and Type A over-achievers (to optimize and elevate their careers or businesses, and sometimes to get them to unwind and breathe).
Working with mid-level and senior-level professionals across industries all over the US and abroad, I am rarely the expert in my client’s field. But I have the tools and training to successfully coach clients across many different career backgrounds.
Together, we work on building up the client’s confidence and self-esteem. We practice things like communication skills, interviewing, salary negotiation, cross-functional and cross-cultural collaboration skills, management and feedback-giving, and much more. We’ll work on self-identity and branding, helping clients craft their elevator pitch and confidently share it with the world. And we explore thought leadership, getting clients to write, publish, or speak more often and more intentionally. Sometimes we work on prioritization and accountability.
Do Your Research: Does the coach deliver results?
It may seem fun and trendy these days to hire a coach for your next pain point or career stumbling block, but are you going to get the ROI you expect? Is the coach someone who genuinely supports and transforms people’s lives, or are they a get-rich-quick-guru-wannabe who loves to hear themselves talk?
Do the research. Ask around. Reach out to other clients.
Find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about their coaching experience. Check out Yelp reviews, Google reviews, and LinkedIn recommendations if available. Obviously, anything online can be faked and forged, but do your due diligence, and have some faith (if you feel hopeless and jaded, that might be part of the problem, and a great coach can help restore some of that long-lost faith, too).
Values & Personality Matter. Is it a Good Fit for You?
The magic of a coaching relationship happens when you feel safe and supported by the coach, enough so that you can be vulnerable and honest about your insecurities, fears and flaws (breaking news: we all have them). If you force yourself to work with a coach that’s just not a good fit for you, you won’t be as engaged, you might not do the necessary work required for growth, and you’ll end up resenting the coach (and yourself) for even trying. What a waste of money, energy and time that would be.
When looking for a coach, don’t necessarily seek out someone who shares your personality or even sociocultural background. A fresh perspective is part of the benefit. Maybe you’re a subject matter expert deeply embedded in your industry, or you struggle to see the forest for the trees. Your coach doesn’t have to be an expert in your field. In fact, their objectivity can be a major asset in getting you to view things through a new and unexpected lens, which may help you unlock the key to overcoming that next career or life obstacle.
In looking for a coach, consider their values and whether they align with yours. This may not seem important to you, but given my experience of having coached hundreds of clients across various industries, when our values are aligned, the work becomes deeper, more transformative, and more sustainable.
As a coach, I refuse to work with those who are close-minded and arrogant from the get-go, unless they’re genuinely ready to admit that their arrogance is something that they want to work on.
Perhaps the best way to answer the question of ‘fit’ is to request a complimentary 10-minute consultation. If you don’t like the coach’s vibe in the first few minutes, you probably won’t enjoy working with them for weeks, months or even years—depending on how deep or ambitious your goals are.
Credentials Don’t Tell the Full Story
Coaching certifications can be helpful, but do you really care what school, ashram, or online course your coach completed? If you come across a coach who is constantly toting their certifications, chances are they are recent graduates of a certain program, or they don’t have enough of a client base to garner word-of-mouth referrals. And that’s fine—we all had to start somewhere. But don’t let the coach rest on their paper laurels.
To be sure, I have several credentials related to coaching, resume writing, training, management, and psychology, but the individual certifications aren’t so important to me (and clients almost never ask about those). It’s the totality of all of my life experience, my career, and the fact that I’m constantly learning that might be more important to my clients.
As a coach, I make it a point to read industry magazines, attend webinars, and connect with industry leaders. I’m always learning, and a single piece of paper can’t fully capture my value as a coach. What is more important than my credentials are my attitudes, values, and the results I help deliver. As I mentioned earlier, do your research. Talk to former clients. Get a broad picture of the coach’s style and effectiveness.
Consider the Investment in Terms of ROI
Coaching rates vary greatly by market and individual. Whether you spend $100 or $10,000 on a coach, if the experience leads to you landing a job that pays $50K more than you made at your last job, might it not have been worth it?
If you spend a lot on a coach but you’re able to move through life with more purpose, less anxiety, and more confidence, would that not be worth it? Some results are priceless in that a monetary value cannot be attached to it. If you work with a coach and they help you become a better speaker, thought leader, manager, executive, or anything else —can you even begin to quantify the positive impact that could have on your life? Think about it.
Most executive coaches charge hundreds of dollars an hour, and they’re worth every dime. If a coach is charging, say, $40 a session in a high-cost of living city (HCOL) and they claim to be a top-tier executive coach, I would be suspicious about their level of experience and expertise. Do more digging. Why is the coach charging so little? Is the coach themselves not valuing their own time? That could negatively reflect on how you see yourself.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of paying for a coach. I volunteer often and not all of my clients are wealthy executives. But I know that some people fall on hard times. I have so much confidence in my abilities as a coach (I say that assertively, but not arrogantly) to enable growth and success in other people, that I will occasionally take on clients for free (pro bono) when they can’t immediately pay, but when they land their next high-paying job, you can bet that they pay me handsomely, not just with kind words and smiles.
Ask Yourself Why – And Whether You’re Ready to Work with a Coach
There is no shame in admitting that you need a bit of focused support and guidance. We all excel at some things and not other areas. Be sure that you’re seeking coaching for a healthy reason, and not just because your boss, spouse, or ex suggested it.
Are you ready to keep an open mind in the coaching relationships? Are you ready to learn about yourself, and pick up new (healthier, more productive) habits around your career or life journey? If you’re not sure you’re ready, you’re probably not ready. But you can always request a free consultation and see what transpires. Who knows? The coach might surprise you and open your eyes to a new way of seeing the world—and yourself.
Coaching Takes Work – Be Realistic About the Results
If you’ve tried 20 times to quit smoking, and have failed each time, can you reasonably expect that this time will be any different? If so, why?
Are you willing to put in the often hard work, time and energy to improve yourself? If you can’t allocate an hour or two a week for your own professional growth and development, perhaps now is not the time to get a coach. Wait until your priorities and commitments are more focused and clear. Then again, some coaches help you figure that out, too. Sometimes it’s about taking a leap of faith, and being open minded to the possibilities of coaching.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer, a therapist, a writer, a social worker, an advertising and branding executive, a PR and communications guy, and an astronaut chef—I’m grateful to announce that in my job as a coach, I’m able to do almost all of these things (in some way), except the astronaut part. I tell myself it’s because I have poor eyesight—but maybe I just need a NASA coach to help open my eyes to the possibilities.
David (Dawid) Wiacek is a career coach, resume writer, and brand strategist who helps his clients overcome career obstacles, endless excuses, as well as personal fears and insecurities to land more fulfilling, better-paying jobs. He is a proud member of the Brooklyn Resume Studio team, having served as a consulting senior writer since 2016. His dog Nacho is the best assistant coach ever: all ears, always listening, with no trace of judgment.