Careers and Job Search – Should I Get Help?

How can you make the “right” decision about using professional assistance to enhance and accelerate your career change or job search?  This article defines the main questions you need to ask yourself, and provides clear criteria for assessing your needs. To further support your decision-making, the article offers a simple cost-benefits analysis for using a career coach to increase both the probability and the speed of a successful job search. Since this step may influence your direction and career goals, as well as the “landing time” to reach your next job, it is clearly an important decision, with both short and long-term impact on your life.

If you are in transition to a new career or a new job, for whatever reason, you may have asked yourself the question: “can I do this on my own, or might I benefit from the advice and guidance of a professional career coach and resume writer?” Even knowing that the job search is a difficult task in today’s treacherous economic environment and high unemployment with few new jobs, our sense of independence, self-confidence and the desire to conserve cash all urge us to do this on our own. But for a more reliable answer to this question, set aside your gut reaction and consider the key factors below with tough, business-like objectivity, and decide how they apply to you and your situation.

Are you equipped for this potentially difficult battle with:

  1. Clearly defined career goals and objectives?
  2. Significant experience in successfully transitioning to new careers or jobs?
  3. Good networking skills and contacts in the field of your interest?
  4. The skills to promote yourself, conveying your accomplishments effectively, but without boasting?
  5. An understanding of the recruiting process and the opportunities in your field of interest?
  6. Strong resume writing skills?
  7. Clear, concise and persuasive verbal communication skills?
  8. Several job-leads/opportunities that would meet your career goals and needs?
  9. A resume that has generated several job interviews in your current situation?
  10. Interviews that have generated at least one job offer?
  11. Family, financial and geographic flexibility, without limitations on career or job selection?

 If you can answer 8 or more of these questions with a firm “yes”, you probably have the resources and skills to drive your job search without external help.  But if you answer “no” to  4 or more questions, then you are lacking some key attributes or resources for an effective job campaign in today’s unforgiving and competitive jobs market, and should consider some professional assistance.

This is not to say you cannot be successful on your own, with a great deal of perseverance and some luck. However, a capable career coach can dramatically improve the odds of success and greatly accelerate transition to new careers or jobs by:

  1.  Helping you think through your situation and options in a caring but very objective way
  2. Guiding you to develop a personal career and marketing strategy and an action plan
  3. Helping you to fill in some of the gaps in your “arsenal”
  4. Coaching you to present yourself in the best possible and most competitive position: armed with a powerful resume and well-prepared for job interviews and negotiating job offers
  5. Helping you achieve your defined goals, based on a well-thought through strategic plan

If you decide that external help would be appropriate, then you still need to ask one more basic question: “are the benefits of professional assistance worth the cost?” To answer this, first recognize that using a career coach can often be the key to defining your career goals and strategy, and then in getting the “right job”. The great value of this to a job seeker is incalculable, because it tends to enhance initial salary, ultimate job satisfaction, promotability and long term career success. However, beyond this great but qualitative benefit, consider the following more quantitative analysis:

  • Statistical evidence summarized from several sources* indicate that 1) 33.3% of the unemployed are now out of work for 27 weeks or more – a higher level than in any recession since 1950; 2) the average unemployment duration is now about 6 months, with a range of 1 to 12 months, twice what it was a year ago; and 3) higher salary levels and older  age statistically increase “landing time” to reemployment.

  •  Anecdotal evidence from numerous articles and presentations suggest that a good strategy, a powerful resume and solid interview preparation – benefits that can come from the assistance of a career coach – can accelerate the job search and significantly reduce your personal “landing time”, though individual success cannot be guaranteed.
  • Since “hard” statistics on the benefits of career coaching is unavailable, for the purpose of a simple and very conservative cost-benefits analysis, assume that the result of career coaching is finding the right job just  one month sooner than you would otherwise. If, for the typical coaching cost of about $1,000 (for a strong resume and 5-6 hours of consulting), you find a suitable $60,000/yr job just  one month sooner, then you get a $5,000 return on a $1,000 expense – which is far better than any conventional investment performance! And at higher salary and/or shorter landing time in the job search, the return on your investment is even better! This return is so good, that even if the coaching costs were significantly higher, the benefits would still remain very attractive.

After considering the key criteria discussed, if it is clear that you do need professional help, then do your own cost-benefits analysis to convince yourself that the investment in your career, to accelerate your job search, is truly cost effective. As the saying goes, the “view is worth the climb”!