Are Career Coaches Worth It?

Over the course of job searching, my confidence has gone through many ebbs and flows.

Some days I feel super confident, like when I felt good enough to turn down an offer. Other days I feel like the only thing I’m qualified to get paid for is donating my plasma.

In either case, my feelings are volatile and highly subjective. In hopes of anchoring my expectations to “reality”, I sought out an external sounding board: I hired a career coach.

I’ve hired a career coach in the past, to mediocre effect. My previous career coach didn’t have specific experience in tech and gave some generic resume advice, nothing I felt like I couldn’t get off of self-help articles I found online.

This round, though, I found a career coach with specific knowledge in tech recruiting and, let me tell you, the difference was like night and day. She gave me very targeted information about how to restructure my resume and LinkedIn for making a career change, which job boards are used for which section of the market, which recruiting firms and Meetups to target in my area, and what to ask and expect for compensation down to the company level which is a big f’ing deal and worth her advice for that point alone.

One major downside though is that career coaching is not cheap. I paid ~$200 for each session of coaching (about an hour each), though it also included some amount of prep time and follow up from my coaches. If they help me secure a job or avoid making a multi-thousand dollar mistake, though, the price seems incredibly worth it in comparison.

If ever I’m in this situation again in the future, or for others who might be, I would say career coaches are only worth it if they:

  • have experience recruiting in your specific industry of interest,
  • have knowledge of your regional job market,
  • have reviews and testimonials which indicate they can give specific and actionable advice, and
  • are of roughly the same generation / target demographic or otherwise have insight into career development for your cohort for things like, e.g. what can I expect for maternity?

Have you ever used a career coach? Did you feel it was worth the money?

Lowest Common Denominator

Anxiety has started to set in as I begin to approach my leave date. It’s still three months away, but that’s basically tomorrow in anxious-brain time.

As I get closer I’m working through some worst-case scenario plans to hopefully put my mind at ease. For instance, if my projections are correct, I should be able to make it seven months (until the end of 2018) just on my cash earnings between now and my leave date. Which means, assuming I don’t make one red cent after I quit, I shouldn’t be moving “backwards” but just stuck in my March 2018 net worth. That feels like a nicer way of framing the situation than saying I’m drawing down my cash reserves.

Ideally, though, it’d be good to have some small stream of incomes coming in to buffer myself. For whatever reason, though, I never think of doing anything tech-y or managerial (my highest ROI skill areas). If I consulted at the market rate for my current work, for instance, I could probably live off of doing 10 hours/week indefinitely. No, when I think of generating small side streams, I think of: donating my body to science, participating in psychology studies, tutoring. All relatively low-ROI but easy things to do, like I’m a college student again strapped for cash.

The better way to approach this, obviously, is to figure out how to do high-pay work part time.

The first stop, I think, is to see if my employer would be willing to hire me as a contractor to finish up some of my ongoing work. This would let me build up a fat cash cushion and walk away from some of the internal dynamics that are making me unhappy, but may or may not pan out due to various state regulations. I have enough contacts that I’m sure I could dredge up clients on my own, but unfortunately, I can’t consult in my field outside my company for at least two years due to my non-compete.

The second stop, then, would be to retrain for a closely related but not identical area of consulting that I can probably get certified to do in a month.

The third stop would be, I guess, to find part time jobs that play to my skills (assuming I can’t get a full time job that plays to my skills?). This is where I start drawing a blank. Maybe if it gets really bad I could do some freelance coding, but it’s difficult for me to imagine scoring freelance coding gigs and not just signing up for a FT position at a start-up since the job market here is pretty favorable to employees. In any case, it’s an option and probably a better one than selling my eggs.

Do you have a list of Plan B jobs? Do they adequately utilize your high ROI skills?

Making The Decision To Leave

I’ve hinted in some other posts that I’m not feeling entirely fulfilled at my current job. But it wasn’t until this week that I decided it was time to move on.

The decision was a hard one to make. I’ve been at my employer for over five years. This was my first job out of college and the only offer I received at the time and since. I worry that once I quit this job, I won’t be able to find another. That, as has happened time and time again, I’ll put myself out there to be judged by hiring committees only to be rejected again and again and again. And with fiancé unemployed as well, the stakes feel even higher.

I don’t have an offer yet, but the reality is I can’t stay here. Staying means I only half-heartedly look for other positions. Staying means I keep coming home day after day feeling depressed, despondent, and useless. This Reddit thread comes as close to mirroring my feelings without actually being me. As much as my FI plans mean to me, and as much as quitting will put those plans on ice, I can’t use delayed satisfaction as an excuse to keep wishing years of my life away.

So, here’s the plan: annual bonuses in my company get distributed mid-March. After those are sent out, I will inform my manager of my intention to leave the company. I will stay at my company until June 1st unless I get another offer before then. That gives me four months to job search and squirrel away some cash. In the “worst case” scenario, I take the summer off in the city, which is the best time to be idle around these parts.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll go into the financial preparations I’ll be taking for this potential self-funded sabbatical. Also, you’ll get to see me try to spin up some side hustles that will (hopefully) help tide me over should I remain unemployed for a while.

In any case, wish me luck.

Have you left a job without an offer lined up? Am I foolish to quit a stable, well-paid position?