Can I find out statistics on a success rate for a given career coach?


This question comes up a lot, and the question-behind-the-question is:

“I want to make sure I’m spending my money with someone who knows what they’re doing.”   (As you should.)

Unfortunately, career coaches don’t typically collect metrics, and here’s why:

1) We are only half of the equation.   We can provide expert feedback; we can offer structure; we can give insight into how the job market works and how you can evaluate career opportunities.   However, we can’t network for you, interview for you, or make the ultimate career decision for you.  To use a sports analogy, we are the swing coach, and you are the golfer.

2) There’s no good way to collect the data.   Since many coaches (but not all) work by the hour, we don’t know in advance if a particular session with a client will be the last one; they may find a job, change their minds on the job search, change their search altogether… and we may never know.  Often clients will email “just to update”, but people aren’t in the habit of that.  (You don’t email your dentist to let him/her know that the sealant is holding up well…).   Good career coaches can work with hundreds of clients per year, and we’re not in the business of harassing clients for updates.  We know that people sometimes family issues come up, or someone changes their job at work, so we don’t press for details on why someone stopped or slowed the coaching process. And, finally, I’ve tried sending surveys; there’s an automatic one that goes out after 60 days of being matched through CoachFinder, but like all surveys, only about 10% of people reply.

So… to get to the real question, how do you know if you’re spending money with someone who knows what they’re doing?

1) Look for coaches with tenure.  Check them out on LinkedIn; has a coach been coaching for only a year, or for 10?  The more, the better… as long as they’re still remaining relevant with job search updates.  If they don’t have a LinkedIn profile at all, that’s trouble.

2) Have a brief call with them to talk to them before spending money.  All experienced coaches know that a good fit is important- both ways.  This first call isn’t for specific career or job search advice; rather, it’s for you to evaluate whether or not you think they can help you, and for them to evaluate whether your needs are in line with what they offer.

3) Find out, does their kind of coaching fit what you need?  Some coaches are great with career assessment work; others are great at the job search side.  Some are truly good at both parts.  There are coaches who work best with financial services clients, and others who work best with people in the nonprofit/education arena.

4) Ask how long a typical client engagement usually lasts.  Although from a financial perspective, you may want to hear that it’s one or two sessions, actually the longer that a coach keeps his/her relationships, the better the coach is.  If the coach says that many clients are with him/her through many career transitions over the years, and that the arc of a career transition takes time, you’re with an experienced coach.  If someone leads you to believe that their “quick fix” or “career jump start” is all you need, keep looking.

You can ask a coach about his or her success rate, but they’ll likely tell you about some recent success stories, instead of answering the question.   The most valuable question is not, “has this coach helped 90% of his/her clients” – but, instead, “can this coach help ME, for MY particular situation?”