How To Find A Career Coach Or Mentor, According To Experts

At some point, you may need a career coach. Perhaps you had a steady job for years, but were suddenly laid off. Or maybe you want to switch careers altogether, but aren't sure what the next steps would be. In any case, you could use a boost from a professional. But you may wonder how to find a career coach or mentor. Though it may seem intimidating, it's much easier than you may think; plus, more affordable than you may think. Since your career — or soon-to-be future career — is literally at stake, the monetary investment made now will likely have big rewards later.

"A career coach can be a wonderful asset for any professional women at a career crossroads," Rachel Bitte, Chief People Officer of Jobvite, tells Bustle. "Whether you're just starting out and unsure which path to take, you're hoping to find a new passion, or you're ready to move to the next level, getting an outside perspective from a professional can be extremely helpful."

In fact, some studies show that not everyone is clear about where their career is headed. For instance, Capital One surveyed 1,000 people in May and found that nearly one in five, 19 percent, of female millennials haven't yet identified a career path. Additionally, 66 percent of female millennials don't feel like they have as much control as they would like in shaping their career paths. Plus, 80 percent of female millennials have taken a job that didn't match their career values. I find that last statistic the most alarming — 80 percent?! So that's exactly where a career coach could come into play — to help that 80 percent figure out how to get into career fields they truly want to be in.

"It should come as no surprise that the best career coaches are the ones who have a mission to align who you are with what you do," Debra Bednar Clark, Founder and CEO of DB+co, tells Bustle. "They are typically strategists and critical thinkers with big hearts at their core who take a holistic approach to understanding your values, skills, strengths, aspirations, and personal style so they can pinpoint growth areas and customize a multi-tiered action plan that is 100 percent personalized for you." Sounds amazing, but the question is: How do you find a career coach or life mentor whom you can trust? After all, some cities (erm, Los Angeles!) have many people who pedal themselves as a "life coach," but then you find out they have no credibility in the field.

To get to the bottom of how to find a trustworthy career coach who's after your best interests, not theirs, I spoke to a few reputable career and life coaches for advice.

1Find Someone Whose Career You Admire

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When you want to make a career move, whether it's at the same company or at a new one, it's good to find others who have done what you want to do. But, they don't have to be in the exact same field in order for you to learn from them.

"It's not about finding someone who has your exact field experience, but rather, finding someone who has accomplished great things in their career," says Bednar Clark. "To find these coaches, get outside of your typical day job and open yourself up to finding people you admire across a range of industries. Yes, they should be experienced and knowledgeable (book and street smarts), but they also need to be someone who has stayed true to their authentic, whole self, and was resourceful, creative, driven, and strategic enough to overcome the always-present individual and organizational barriers that can deter even the most well-intentioned from realizing their goals."

Kali Rogers, Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, agrees. "Take an inventory of current professors, leaders, or advisors within your network," she says. "Those people lend themselves to being considerate and invested in others' successes, and naturally would enjoy helping someone develop personally and professionally."

2Reach Out To Associations And Organizations You're Involved In

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Chances are, you're in some networking, alumni, and/or Meetup groups, and each one provides you with a way to find a career coach or mentor. You can also reach out to someone whose career you admire at your current workplace. "You must remember that asking someone to be your mentor is [and honor]," says Rogers. "That means not only do you admire the life path that they chose, but you trust them enough to actually take their advice! Most of us don't feel super influential in our daily lives, so this is a great chance for them to make an impact. People enjoy helping others more than you realize. So reach out to people who have similar interests as you and see if they'd be interested in helping you carve out your own path!"

3Don't Forget About Family Friends, Too

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You may have forgotten about your mom's friend who used to work in publishing, but now that you want to make a career change and get into that field, now's as good a time as any to ask your mom about her. Or, maybe you just need a more unbiased person, your mom's friend who doesn't work in publishing, to give you some good old-fashioned motherly advice.

"If you are looking for a mentor, chances are you have parents who have enhanced your self-development over the years," says Rogers. "Therefore, look at your parents' friends — people who share similar values to your parents but could offer a fresh perspective about your future. There's already a hint of a mentor/mentee relationship in utero, so you might as well establish it!"

4Do Research, And Look At Membership-Based Coaching Groups

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As previously mentioned, Rogers owns Blush Online Life Coaching, and they offer one-on-one professional career and life coaching for a low monthly membership fee. "We work with professional women across the globe who need a mentor and a coach for both their personal and professional lives," says Rogers. "There is absolutely no way we are the only company out there, so I'm sure there are plenty of options online if you take the time to look!"

Ama La Vida is another coaching platform you can use. "Nowadays, it seems like everybody on social media is a 'coach' of some sort, but many of these people adopt the title without any formal training," Nicole Wood, CEO and Co-Founder of Ama La Vida, tells Bustle. "The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the regulatory body which accredits coach training programs. At Ama La Vida, we require that all of our coaches have undergone an ICF-accredited training program or something equivalent. However, even with the existence of the ICF, the types of certifications vary greatly, so be sure to ask potential coaches details about their training such as how many hours they trained, the types of competencies they have developed, and the focus of the program they underwent. Rigorous training and certification is the bare minimum — there are many other things to consider."

5Vet Your Potential Coaches

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Like anything in life — dates you go on, people you choose to make your friends — you have to vet them, and the same goes for a career coach. "When you contact coaching candidates, share why they inspire you and ask to arrange an exploratory call to learn more about their journey (i.e., think of yourself as a journalist, seeking to understand their story)," says Bednar Clark. "When you share why their story/mission resonates with you, consider these questions: Do you feel a genuine connect to this person? Do they ask you about you and your mission? Are they interested in who you are, what makes you unique, and what you want to accomplish? Do they immediately offer ways they can help you realize your goals? Do you feel fueled and inspired after your conversation? If so, hire them as your career coach ASAP!"

Wood agrees about the vetting process. "Make sure you ask them about their methodology and approach to coaching," she says. "At Ama La Vida, we utilize a coaching methodology called ADIT. First we Assess where you're at, we Discover your goals and objectives, we Implement changes in your life, and then we Transition the skills you've developed over to you so you can continue to thrive after the completion of the engagement. Following a proven methodology with data-driven assessments ensures the coaching is effective and achieves what was intended."

6Interview Them, Too

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You may think your potential future career coach is interviewing *you*, but you need to be interviewing them, too. "Ask them for case studies or testimonials to demonstrate they have had success with others in a similar situation to you," says Wood. "While of course every engagement is unique, this at least demonstrates they have relevant experience and likely the resources and approaches which will be helpful to you and your situation."

7Before You Commit, Ask For A Free Consultation

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With many things in life, you can get a free trial before you commit, and the same goes when trying to choose a career coach. "Most coaches will offer a free consult, which is a great way to get a better understanding of what it would be like to work with them and confirm that your personalities are a match," says Wood. She suggests asking yourself these questions: "When you speak with your coach, do you immediately feel safe opening up and confiding in this person? Does your coach understand what your needs are and where you're coming from? If, after speaking with your coach, you don't walk away thinking, 'Wow, that person really gets me,' you may want to keep looking."

If you're still on the fence about getting a career coach, just think about whether or not you can see yourself doing what you're doing years down the line. Ask yourself: What is my future? Is this it?! "Coaching sessions can be very personal experiences because, to get to the core of who you are, you need to be open, honest, and vulnerable to let down your guard and peel back the layers (which may include sharing your history, experiences, fears, insecurities, and dreams)," says Bednar Clark. "That's why the ideal coach is someone who is part career coach + part life coach + part therapist + part personal stylist, so they can help you connect all of the multifaceted dots that make you, you!"

I think we could all use mentor sometimes, because wouldn't you rather be in a career you truly love versus just a mediocre one that pays the bills, but doesn't leave much room for personal fulfillment?