5 Career Coach/Consultants in 5 Days: Al Smith

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Hiring a career coach/consultant is a very serious decision, and must be done with great research and thought. In the spirit of helping job seekers, I am going to present five coaches in five days who are all nationally known and widely respected in their fields; each will give their advice on hiring a coach/consultant.

I met Al Smith, the Director of the Unity North Atlanta Church Career Ministry, through a networking contact and have participated in his coaching group sessions. He's been an executive for seven companies in five industries and has in excess of 35 years of management, sales, marketing, training and coaching experience. Al's record of success as a multiple award-winner in each industry speaks to his innate ability to transfer skills to changing landscapes. Those skills now aid candidates with their most challenging "sales" and "marketing" experience: job transition. A national trainer for three companies in two industries, Al has adapted techniques from Xerox, Kimberly-Clark, American Management Association, Miller-Heiman, Systema, and others. He has combined life-tested experiences with a proprietary methodology, along with a trademark bolt of self-deprecating humor.


Al Smith - Atlanta - Transition Sherpa LLC - Author:HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media , Speaker, Dir. Career Ministry Unity NA

Here in Al's words:

I bet you were good at your job and probably could teach a novice to do that job better and much more quickly than someone who tried to learn it alone. The person you advised (coached) would learn intricacies of the job faster, increase their productivity, and save money in the process. The non-coached person would make costly mistakes with a much longer learning curve. Learning the ropes from an expert saves money.

Job searches are no different. Similarly, hiring a job coach can cut months off one's search time (currently about nine months in the US), and thereby potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages in the process. Unfortunately, it can be a money pit if the wrong coach is chosen.

Here are five things to look for in a job coach:
  1. Multi-dimensional Approach - There is no single job search method that works for everyone all the time, so the more methods you employ simultaneously, the more likely you will get hired sooner. If the coach hawks mainly resumes, cover letters and other traditional methods, keep looking.
  2. Logic-based Methodology - Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't know it well enough." Ask about the reasoning behind each aspect of the coach's methodology. If it doesn't make logical sense, you will be less likely to put that part of the methodology into play. You MUST be comfortable with both the coach and the methods. If it doesn't feel right, fly!
  3. Sales & Marketing Focus - Like it or not, job search is a sales and marketing experience. Every successful product launched (you) must differentiate itself from other similar products, have a unique (personal) brand, and focused targeting (few companies hire generalists). The coach you choose should help you present your value proposition. If you want to "buy" the coach's service, great. If feel like you are being sold, say "no thanks."
  4. Well Referenced - Contact both current and former clients. Research their background thoroughly. What makes them a job search expert? Ask about their overall experience, hidden fees, length of time it took them to land, accessibility and what methods the person used to secure the new job. Be sure to ask if the coach pushed them outside their comfort zone. Job coaching isn't a feel-good session. The coach you choose should be willing to give you a swift kick in the tail if you're not working hard enough.
  5. Single Fee - This might be the most controversial topic in the eyes of most job coaches. Good! Single-fee coaches are highly motivated to help you get a job more quickly, whereas those who charge per session are rewarded financially the longer that person remains a paying client. Price is less important than value.
As a final note, look for a coach who can assist the most necessary effort of all: keyword discovery and keyword loading. Eighty-two percent of all jobs are never posted (the hidden job market) and recruiters are looking for people like you through the use of boolean searches of keywords. Uncovering your keywords, then populating your resume and online profiles is essential if you want the right people to find you.

Your coach of choice must know how to get this done.
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