Is A Career Coach Worth The Money?

The use of career coaches is on the rise, says the International Coaching Federation. But when should you hire one?
The use of career coaches is on the rise, says the International Coaching Federation. But when should you hire one?

Tami Hausman was about to turn 40 and felt stuck. Working at a small Manhattan public relations firm, she saw no way to grow in her career. "The way the firm was structured, I couldn't expand," she says, adding that she felt confused. "I really didn't know how to take the next step. Should I change fields? Should I start my own firm?"

For help with these questions, Hausman (pictured right, speaking at a marketing event at the Center for Architecture in New York last year) hired a career coach. Over four sessions in 2007, she met with Michael Melcher, the founder of the New York-based Next Step Partners coaching firm, and two months later she had a goal: And her own communications firm, Hausman LLC, was founded in January 2008. (Melcher doesn't make public how much he charges clients, but says his fees are"similar to lawyers' rates." According to coaches interviewed for this article, coaching can often cost around $100-an-hour for consultations that in end can cost up to thousands of dollars.)

While coaches have been used primarily by executives, more clients like Hausman are now turning to them to launch or transition to a new career. A survey last year by the Lexington, Ky.-based International Coaching Federation found that there were 47,500 professional career coaches worldwide, and nearly two-thirds of them said they'd experienced an increase in clients in the prior year alone. Graduate schools such as the MBA program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at University of Texas, Dallas, even have begun to include career coaches in their job placement services.

For Magdalena Mook, the CEO and executive director of the ICF, an increase in spending on career coaches -- despite tough economic times -- makes sense. "When more has to be done with less, people are seeing that coaching is a way to truly take advantage of their potential," she says. And as proof she points to a 2009 study conducted by the ICF in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP which found that 99 percent of professionals who had used a career coach emerged either somewhat or very satisfied from the experience. (The study polled 2,200 clients of career coaches.)

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But given that coaches charge from $100 an hour to several thousand dollars for a consultation, when is it worth doing? And how do you find a good one?