While job hunting, I've been running across a lot of people with murky titles like HR, Recruiter, Career Coach. They tend to run in the same circles, but they clearly aren't the same at all. I'd heard of Career Coaching before, but never gotten a good feel for what that actually is. So when a career coach contacted me via LinkedIn (we are both in the AWIS Group), I was excited to hear from her. I mean, what the heck is a career coach??
That being said, she was fairly oblique about the reason she wanted to talk to me. We spoke (over the phone) about our AWIS discussion, and she asked me a bit about myself. Where was I located, what did I study? And then she got a little deeper- What is your dream job, where is it, who else is there and what are you all doing? And to these questions, she would say "I hear you saying that passion is important to you." or "You seem to be saying that you wish you had taken more time to develop soft skills." You know, counselor type things to say. And once we got to the central fact that I don't know what I am supposed to do with this degree, nor how to do it, she told me a little about her background and her role as a career coach.
Her role was to help her clients assess their career goals, their professional strengths and weaknesses and then to help them formulate plans to reach their goals and improve on their weaknesses. She uses assessments (which Google informs me is typical of career coaches, who should have undergone some formal training in counseling) to gauge and guide these interactions, and draws on both her background as a scientist and a former recruiter to help see that path. Many of the career coaches I've seen are HR or recruiting folks- clearly being a scientist in addition is pretty unique. She works with people who are trying to earn promotions, considering major life changes or just getting started in the job hunt. She's like a guidance counselor for adults. If you've started your own job hunt, you can probably picture how having someone on hand to occasionally explain some of the social niceties and keep you on task ("You said you were looking for jobs in drug development. Why have you applied for 4 jobs in regulatory science this week?") would be invaluable.
Ok, so this all seems warm and fuzzy- who wouldn't want a career coach? Someone with more practical job hunting experience than your boss sounds like a good person to know, right? Well, someday I will dream of being able to afford such services. I include her quoted prices to you here simply to provide some comparison should you ever want to engage your own coach. She told me she usually works for $200/hr, but for the unemployed (oh! me!) she will set up a package of 10 1-hr sessions (usually 3 a month) for $1000. And as a graduate student, she'd be willing to lower her price to $75/session for 10 sessions... This made me acutely aware of my need for gainful employment- but also gives some value to the mentoring relationships we cultivate naturally in real life. Sure, my boss might not know much about the current job market, but he's never charged me for the pleasure of sitting in his office to whine about it.