What is a transitional career coach and how can one work for you?

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Here’s what you should know about switching careers as an adult
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It is estimated that the average person will change careers five to seven times in their working life and that approximately 30 per cent of the workforce will change jobs every 12 months. But just how do people manage to do this? In some cases, they seek the help of a transitional career coach.

What is a transitional career coach?

It’s exactly how it sounds: a professional whose job it is to help you transition from one job to another, or from one career to another.

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“We help people to rethink and re-imagine what options there might be for their career — much like you would seek the services and guidance of a lawyer to understand the specifics of buying a house,” says Alan Kearns, managing partner of CareerJoy.

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“A lot of people DIY their careers, and talk to friends or family before making a decision, but a transitional career coach is a trusted professional who has a lot of experience helping people make major and strategic career transitions.”

Some companies will provide webinars and workbooks to clients, and essentially put them through a predetermined course to help them zero in on their goals. But most, like CareerJoy, will offer one-on-one guided training with a coach.

However, Kearns says, the onus is on the client to come prepared to do the work.

“You don’t need to have the answers, but you need to come with questions and be committed to the process and exploring the answers,” he says.

What will one do for you?

This isn’t like completing an online assessment and list of careers pops up; you’ll be taken through a number of tests that will zero in on your skills, abilities and educational training. In addition, your coach will take into consideration your passions, lifestyle, personality, values and areas of interest.

“The first step is to help a client develop a value proposition. In other words, to ensure they capture what they’re good at, the transferable skills they have and the likely target audience to approach,” says Bob Kuchinsky, director of client services for Equity Career Transition & Outplacement Services. “This then serves as the foundation for their outreach to the marketplace.”

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Next, you’ll work on tweaking your resume. Most people view their resume as a historical document that enumerates their jobs since the beginning of their working career, but that’s not the right way to look at it.

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“It has to be a selling tool,” Kuchinsky says. “You need to enable a prospective employer to immediately understand what you’re able to do for them and why they should be interested in you.”

Bundled in all this is a transitional career coach’s ability to identify your transferable skills — and in many cases, tell you what they are.

“An estimated 87 per cent of people don’t know their specific skills [beyond the basic tasks of their job],” Kearns says. “And that’s based on a global poll.”

In other words, while a software engineer will know they possess the necessary skills for their job (like coding and building software applications), they may not realize that their job has also equipped them with skills like project management and problem solving, which can be applied to a number of different careers.

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“A lot of people don’t realize there are three processes of skills: hard skills, educational skills and soft skills,” Kearns says. “We help determine what your transferrable hard and educational skills are, and what are your inherent soft skills — which arguably, you need now more than ever before.”

In addition, a transitional career coach can help you find — and in some cases, infiltrate — the job market. Though it may sound sinister, there is a hidden job market that most people don’t know about.

“There’s the visible job market, like the postings on job boards or company websites — applicants for these need to learn how to get the attention of the first-level screener to be considered. And then there’s a whole hidden market that’s larger, more interesting and more lucrative. It’s also a lot harder to play and people must engage in focused networking to become noticed,” Kuchinsky says.

READ MORE: Is impostor syndrome holding you back at work?

This is the market in which employers and entrepreneurs are open to new ideas or to being inspired by alternative skill sets that they believe can bolster their business. It sounds like mind-reading, but what it really comes down to is networking with the right people. Here too, a transitional career coach can help put you in touch with people and hone your networking skills.

In both cases, whether you’re looking at the visible or the hidden job market, your coach will work with you on developing interview skills and how to negotiate contracts and salaries.

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How long with it take and how much will it cost?

These are difficult questions to answer, but Kearns says on average, it could take anywhere from two to four months before finding a new job (he says CareerJoy has a 94 per cent success rate), and the rates can range from $1,000 up to $10,000 for senior and director-level positions — although the average is between $2,000 to $4,000.

While that may sound like a lot of money, Kearns points out that oftentimes, students and their parents don’t think twice about spending $60,000 on an education without really examining what the prospects will be after graduation. This, he says, is as important an investment as your education.

“The number one criteria for success is how committed is the person to really being in a better situation? That’s the fundamental question,” he says. “Because no matter how great the coach or the process, it won’t matter if the person isn’t willing to commit and put in the work.”

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