You Can’t Convince Me that Hiring a Career Coach is a Good Idea – Or Can You?


Hiring a career coach may seem like the last item on a long to-do list of career resilience and fortification steps for mid-career professionals navigating a precarious job market. And it may seem self-serving for a career coach to wade into this conversation (because you know where I stand on this question). But I do this work because I see a generation hurtling towards a career cliff, blissfully disregarding the career impact of a disrupted and unpredictable economy. 

If you think your job is secure, think again. With half of workers slated to lose their jobs over 50 (look it up), my goal is to help people stay in the workforce. Having been fired a lot in my own 35-year management career, I know what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you: one day, your job is great. The next day, you’re on the street.

But I Don’t Need a Career Coach

Mid-career professionals are in especially precarious positions. The costs and risks of a mid-career layoff are much worse than in your early career:

  • More financial responsibilities/obligations (Mortgage, kids’ education, caregiving, inflation, etc.).
  • Salary expectations (cost-cutting may have been one reason you’re let go – will you be able to maintain parity in your next gig?).
  • Competition (the pyramid gets narrower as you climb higher –  fewer opportunities abound).
  • Ageism (you may think you’re in your prime, but virtually every client over 50 is shocked at how difficult it is to get interviews, much less offers).

And you want to navigate this situation by yourself? Even though you’ve been all comfy-cozy inside your company for the past 5 – 10 years, do you think you can just send out your resume, go to lunch, and get a slew of interview requests by EOD?

Here are the classic objections to hiring a career coach – and my counter-arguments:

“I’ve Made It This Far Without One”

Said the person who hired a fitness coach to get in shape, or the nutritionist to create a meal plan to lose weight. The world of work is more complex than it used to be – especially since the pandemic. When was the last time you were out of work? Don’t you think you could benefit from an expert who’s in this world every day?

“I Can Get Free Advice Online or From Friends”

You get what you pay for. Given the stakes, do you want to entrust your livelihood to well-meaning friends or one-size-fits-all online resources?  Would you hire your college buddy to install a new 220-volt breaker panel in your basement and make sure it’s up to code? I didn’t think so.

“I’m Too Busy to Engage with a Coach”

What’s that old line about bankruptcy? It happens slowly, and then all at once? It’s the same with your career. Don’t leave this question to chance, or put off taking action. If you see signs of instability in your company, or your boss is looking at you funny, don’t stick your head in the sand. This is precisely why hiring a career coach will save you from waking up in freefall without a net (and if you’re already out of work, then this is a ridiculous argument).

“Coaches Don’t Know My Specific Industry”

The hiring process is the same across any and all industries. The difference is how you present yourself within your industry. Hiring a career coach helps you leverage what you already know in your industry to tell your best story, highlight your relevant accomplishments, and build relationships with recruiters and referral connections. THOSE are the people you want to connect with who know your industry. 

Contrarian tip: You’re better off hiring a coach who knows nothing about your industry: their fresh perspective will force you to focus on your blindspots. They’ll ask the questions an industry insider wouldn’t think to ask.

“What If I Don’t Feel a Connection With My Coach?”

Essential and important point! Yes, It’s essential to find the right fit. Reputable career coaches offer initial consultations to gauge compatibility. Meet with two or three coaches whose backgrounds and methodologies make sense to you. Read their profiles and their blog articles, and listen to their podcasts or read their interviews. The more you learn, the more you’ll get a sense of whether they could help you (help yourself). 

Here’s a little secret: Schedule a call. If you don’t feel comfortable with a coach within the first five minutes of a discovery call, they’re probably not a good fit, regardless of their credentials or how many successful people they’ve coached. Trust your instincts.

A wooden table with a ceramic unicorn.

Coaching is So Expensive! Calculating the ROI

This is the big roadblock. Sure it’s expensive. And if you’re out of work, or about to be laid off, you may think that preserving your emergency fund is the smarter strategy.

But if the floodwaters were rising all around you and you were able to buy a boat, would you hesitate about spending the money?

The return on investment (ROI) for hiring a career coach encompasses both tangible and intangible returns. And remember that there are different kinds of programs to fit your learning style and your budgetary comfort level.

Whether you work 1:1 or in a coaching group – or take an online course to learn new skills, you should be able to find the right solution.

Land a New Job Faster? 

Let’s start here. The average time it takes to land a new job is increasing (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) If you could shave a month off the time it took you to land a new job because of the support of your coach, what would that be worth? Obviously, an extra month’s salary minus a month’s emergency expenses would be a good thing.

Salary Increase?

If hiring a career coach helps you successfully get a promotion, land your dream job, or successfully negotiate a higher salary, this is a direct monetary gain. Calculate the difference in your annual income post-coaching. What’s the percentage increase that would pay for the cost of the coaching engagement?

Skill Enhancement?

Planning a proactive career growth strategy while you’re still in your current job could include building new skills to make you eligible for the role or seniority level you desire. If your coach helps you figure out the right strategy and it leads to that job or promotion, is that a tangible return?

Network Growth? 

A good coach will likely help you expand your network and target the most strategic and advantageous contacts to access the “hidden job market” and learn about jobs before they’re even posted. If your network is your “net worth,” and your coach helps you grow your network, you win.

Avoid Career Pitfalls? 

If coaching helps prevent a costly career mistake, like a switch to an unsatisfying job that leads to a short tenure (which can be a red flag on resumes), your coach has provided real value. Avoiding a poor job choice can save relocation costs, job search expenses, and potential lost income.

Stagnation Costs? 

Are you stuck in a job that’s going nowhere? Working for a manager you don’t respect? Promised a raise or promotion that never comes? Do you think the situation is going to change on its own? How much money are you losing and how many gray hairs are you gaining, or bottles of Tums are you consuming instead of partnering with a coach to better your situation?

The Price of a Stressful Job? 

Your physical, mental, and emotional health are too important to disregard. Are you really willing to ignore the toll you’re paying in stress, unhappiness, and potential healthcare costs because you’re miserable at work or vulnerable to a corporate shift that could impact you at any moment?

Shift Your Mindset: Consider The Real Benefits

Look at some of the tangible upsides of hiring a carer coach that can lead to lasting value in your ongoing life and career. Think about the added clarity, confidence, certainty, and resilience you’ll gain.

Job Satisfaction and Retention? 

The right coach is going to help you land a job that, if not the job of your dreams, more closely fits your ideal scene for a job you want to do and can do well. Instead of accepting the first offer you receive, your coach may encourage you to hold out for a better position where you’re a better fit, may get paid more, and where you’ll thrive and grow for many years to come. ty good…

Proactive Preparation vs. Reactive Scrambling:

Layoffs and reorgs often arrive without much warning. After working with a career coach, you’ll develop a proactive strategy, ensuring you’re prepared in the event of a worst-case scenario. From an updated resume and LinkedIn profile to an activated and current professional network, your coach-driven career development routine will have you set up and ready to reach out to the colleagues, recruiters, and other contacts who are already on your team and ready to help you campaign for your next position.

Skill Gap Identification and Bridging:

One of the fears that plague mid-career professionals is the risk of outdated skills or not being perceived as technologically savvy or up-to-date. You and your career coach can address that challenge and map out a strategy to head off that negative assessment.

Quick story: one of my clients (the oldest member of his strategic analysis team) took an advanced Excel course over a Holiday break, returned to work in January, and quickly became the Excel superstar, mentoring many of his younger colleagues and raising his value and profile on the team and in the company.

Positioning for Leadership:

Hiring a career coach will help you work on your business instead of simply working in your business. This means that you’ll be taking a higher-altitude, longer-term view of your role and the impact that you’re making or could make. This mindful approach to your role will empower you to lead, innovate, or reimagine projects or initiatives. This could improve your performance, as well as your team’s and your company’s. Expect these results to get noticed and yield new opportunities for you – either inside or outside of the company.

Hiring a Career Coach = Professional Development

I’ll bet you never thought about it this way. Just like an additional degree or certification, hiring a career coach will lead to greater capability and capacity at your current job – and in your next one. It will help bolster your reputation and authority as a professional. The self-knowledge (and your ability to leverage it on the job) is an actionable professional skill set that yields permanent and life-changing benefits.

The right career coach does more than offer guidance on your next job move. They equip you with a toolkit of skills, strategies, and mindsets that build self-awareness and resilience in the face of professional upheavals. In an era where job security is elusive, hiring a career coach empowers you to be secure in your profession, regardless of whether you’re secure in your job. This sense of security is a priceless asset that will boost your confidence and become a magnet for new opportunities.

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John Tarnoff is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Fired 39% during his 35 years as a film producer, studio executive and tech entrepreneur, he learned how to turn setbacks into successes in a volatile business. He reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology to share his career lessons with others going through similar challenges.

Since leaving entertainment in 2010, John has coached individuals, groups, and led career workshops for university alumni, including for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Corporate coaching clients have included Bank of America, Bridgewater Assoc., Levi-Strauss, Softbank, TD Ameritrade, and Thrive Global.

He is the author of the best-selling Boomer Reinvention: How to Create your Dream Career Over 50 and has been named a Top Influencer in Aging by PBS/NextAvenue.


  • It really helped when you said that a career coach can help prioritize open positions and networking events that could be beneficial. I’m looking to hire a career coach since I will be graduating college this year and I want to start off by getting a good full-time job. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind with my search for a solid career coach for me.

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