September 20, 2009
Hired help for job seekers: What you need to know before you call in a pro
Fred Alm wants a full-time job. So much so that he paid a professional $200 to make his resume sparkle.
“I figured it would be worth it, even just to see what happens,” says Alm, of Troy, N.Y., who teaches business classes part-time at a community college.
Unable to turn teaching into full-time work for the past several years, Alm, 52, decided to explore other opportunities. Whether the changes in his resume will make a difference is still to be seen.
Given the competition, most people looking for work are also looking for an edge. A resume writer, job coach or other career-services professional could improve your chances. Here’s the rundown on what you need to know.
Picking a professional
The career-services industry is not regulated; anyone can sport the title of “job coach” or “resume writer.” Professional organizations and schools offer numerous certificates, but you can go cross-eyed trying to figure out what the various acronyms mean.
For instance, the International Coach Federation, the National Resume Writers’ Association and the Career Management Alliance each offers its own credentials. It’s also possible that you’ll find a perfectly capable professional with no certifications but plenty of experience.
“People should hire coaches or resume writers whose work they’ve seen and with whom they feel trust or a rapport,” says Liz Sumner, executive director of Career Management Alliance, a trade group of about 400 career-services professionals based in Peterborough, N.H.
Whatever route you choose, ask for work samples and a free consultation before forking over any money. And get the deal in writing.
Advice on a budget
For those with limited funds to spend on personalized career advice, here are some alternatives to consider:
College career fairs are usually open to alumni and anyone in the community surrounding the campus. These fairs typically have on-site career coaches or resume writers who give free one-on-one sessions.
Many career coaches also do pro bono work.
Check with public libraries, nonprofit groups and community centers for free career workshops.
How it works
Given the sea of information online, it’s natural to wonder exactly what you’re paying for when hiring a resume writer or career coach.
With resumes, it’s not just a matter of having a proofreader check your grammar or fill in a template with your details. The process generally starts with an extensive interview that covers topics including past jobs, your work style and career goals. The writer should then compose a resume highlighting your most compelling traits. You should get a draft resume about a week after the interview, with an option to suggest changes for no extra charge.
Hiring a full-service career coach usually involves a much deeper commitment. It generally covers all aspects of the job search, including prepping for an interview and tips on networking.
Of course, most people aren’t hiring career coaches just for technical tips. Objective feedback from a professional could shed light on why you’re not getting calls back.
What you'll pay
Prices can vary greatly. Flat fees are more common for specific tasks, such as resume writing or creating a Web page. The Career Management Alliance estimates that a resume for a mid-level professional can cost $400 or more, but it’s likely that you’ll be able to find something much cheaper. Check with local job-placement firms to get a read on going rates.
For broader career guidance, you’ll probably be charged by the hour. The International Coach Federation says clients can expect to pay an average of $160 an hour, with coaches often recommending a set number of weekly or monthly sessions. Coaches might offer discounts for small group sessions or a package of services.
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