If you're putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.
Most of us excel in our jobs because of our technical expertise in our fields, but often, it is the "people" skills, such as managing and motivating staff, that trip us up.
A career coach can help you figure out behavior changes to help you advance, strategies for a new direction, or an action plan to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
"Think of a career coach as an objective person to talk to who doesn't have a vested interest in anything but your success and satisfaction," said Teressa Moore Griffin, an executive coach and founder of Spirit of Purpose.
As the job market opens, more people, particularly younger workers, are turning to career coaches. In a survey of 12,000 professional coaches by the International Coach Federation, 60 percent of respondents reported an increase in the number of clients over the previous 12 months and more than 75 percent said they anticipated increases in clients and revenue over the next 12 months.
Coaching, once perceived as a luxury available only to senior executives, is increasingly appealing to younger generations, according to the International Coach Federation's 2014 Global Consumer Awareness Study. Of the 18,800 workers surveyed, 35 percent of those between 25 and 34 years old said they already had participated in a coaching relationship.
Employers, spending once again on leadership development, are hiring coaches for managers, vice presidents and high-level executives who have hit an obstacle in their career progressions or face new challenges. Griffin said that like coaches who work with athletes, she encourages corporate leaders to see how a small change in behavior affects performance: "Often, the person thinks the organization is the problem. I have to get them to see that if they want the team or boss or customer to behave differently, change starts with them."
Hiring a career coach is different from hiring most other professionals, and can be costly. Expect to pay $100 to $350 for a one-hour session, according to the International Coach Federation. Most professionals work with their coaches for six months to a year.
There is no official licensing agency for career coaches, which has led to a wide range of quality among those claiming to be experts. However, the International Coach Federation has built a worldwide network of more than 12,000 credentialed coaches with a minimum level of training and certification. When selecting, Miami career coach Marlene Green advises asking for recommendations, checking references and asking questions "just as you would when hiring an attorney."
To be clear, a coach differs from a business consultant. Where a consultant identifies a business problem and gives a solution, a coach asks questions and encourages the client to find answers.
"You have to ask yourself, 'Do I have financial resources and time resources to get coached and am I in a place where I'm ready to have self-introspection?' " said Alexa Sherr Hartley, president of South Florida's Premier Leadership Coaching. "You're paying for a coach to help you figure it out, not to figure it out for you."
After she was twice passed over for a management position at her company, Jenna Altman decided it was time to hire a career coach. "I felt like I was doing everything right and I needed to figure out why I wasn't being promoted," she said. Altman says her coach asked her questions that made her think differently about her strengths and weaknesses and how she adds value to her company.
She ended up asking for, and getting, a completely different position that she had never previously considered.
"When you have tried all the tools in your toolkit and you can't move from your current state to your desired one, that is the help a coach provides," Hartley explained. Research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of business success comes from personality — the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.
Shockingly, only 15 percent is attributed to technical knowledge. But Hartley says that with coaching, those soft skills can be learned and practiced at work and home: "That's why investing in coaching makes sense."