"Even many legitimate career coaches impart advice from a theoretical perspective, since they have little or no field experience" in the areas where they're presuming to counsel you," says John McKee (www.johnmmckee.com), himself an executive coach with 30 years' experience. To increase your chances of identifying a good coach, McKee offers this checklist on what to look -- and look out -- for:
1. Work experience. Does the coach have real-world work experience that is comparable to yours? McKee notes that about 80% of self-designated career coaches have actually been trained in life coaching, and may have few practical suggestions on how to help you achieve your work-related goals.
"If you needed surgery, would you rather have it done by someone who has performed the operation before, or by someone who has only studied it?" asks McKee.
2. Credentials. Choose a coach who belongs to trade organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC). These designations are a sign of some formal training, and of adherence to general standards of professionalism.
3. Credibility. "Your coach should be active and visible in the industry," says McKee. Has he or she written any books? Published articles in, or been interviewed by, major media? Been asked to speak at professional conferences?
"Substantiating the person's reputation is crucial," says McKee. "You want a coach for whom coaching was a first career choice, not a default choice that he or she may not be 100% committed to."
4. Testimonials. Will the coach provide you with references from past clients? If not, or if you're offered just one or two, beware: There may be less there than meets the eye.
5. Methods. Some coaches insist that you come to their offices in person; others will meet with you at the local coffee shop if you like, or work with you by phone or e-mail. If you would prefer a particular approach to meeting, make sure the coach you're considering offers it. McKee has doubts about the value of group sessions, by the way: "To get the most bang for your buck, it's generally better to conduct your sessions one-on-one."
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