Many of the top career book authors these days call themselves "career coaches." If you've never heard the term before, it might sound a little funny. Do they blow whistles at people and make them run laps if they have a bad job interview?
In April 2006, I attended the Career Masters Institute (now Career Management Alliance) conference in San Francisco. I go to this conference as often as I can to support my authors (who are founding members) and hopefully find some new authors. At the end of the conference they were giving out door prizes, and I ended up winning one. It turned out to be two free sessions with a career coach named Wendy Terwelp of Opportunity Knocks in Wisconsin.
I figured, what better way to understand what career coaches do than to be coached a little? So we scheduled our two hour-long sessions. We started by getting to know each other. Turns out, Wendy was a journalist in her early career. So she could relate to me.
Wendy asked a lot of questions, and pretty quickly was able to pinpoint my issues and size up what's holding me back in my career. She gave me assignments and held me responsible for tackling my issues. She also helped me lay the foundations of a plan for career progress. I kept her advice in my head and it played a big role in my recent promotion.
I didn't end up paying for more sessions because, well, it would have been expensive (at that time, her services ran about $200 an hour). But she has stayed in contact with me, sending Christmas cards and birthday wishes each year, and occasionally touching base by e-mail.
So if you are feeling really stuck in your career or your job search, I can recommend giving a career coach a try. Just a few sessions can make a big difference. Check out the Career Coach Academy website for a listing of coaches around the country (but remember that you don't have to be in the same place--coaching works fine over the phone).