Is Career Coaching Worth the Cost?

Professional coaches can help you take your career to the next level, break into a new field or launch a business.

But, the average cost in 2012 for a one-hour session with a coach in North America was $214, according to the latest study by the International Coach Federation (ICF). Hiring a coach means spending money to make money, so you have to ask yourself: Is it worth the investment? Here are 5 questions to help you decide.

1. Are you ready to do your part?

Wendy Balman, president of ICF’s Chicago chapter, says coaches can provide resources and inspiration, but you have to do some work. Timing is also critical. If you’re under extreme financial stress or caring for sick parents, now might not be the time to invest in coaching. “Part of the coaching process is helping someone grow, and you can’t access those creative resources when you’re in the middle of traumatic events or in survival mode,” Balman says.

2. Is the coach qualified?

Coaches aren’t as tightly regulated as, say, psychologists, but Balman says you can check for certifications on ICF’s website. Coaches with ICF designations have undergone at least 60 hours of training, 10 hours of mentor coaching and 100 hours of coaching with clients.

3. Is your problem coachable?

If you’re depressed or struggling with serious esteem issues, a therapist may be more helpful than a coach. Balman says whereas therapy often focuses on the past, coaching focuses on the future. Coaching is most successful when clients are “creative, resourceful and whole,” she says.

4. Do you need to create accountability?

Last year Park Ridge entrepreneur and mother Leanne Berry started her own business: Mom Corps. She says working with Chicago coach Deborah Sakelaris helped her stay on track—making the expense a worthwhile investment. “You’re coming back every week to follow up on what you discussed the week before,” Berry says. “It’s kind of like if you had a trainer getting you to the gym every week.”

5. Are you stuck?

After a divorce and a cross-country move, Wilmette mom Linda Nichols decided she wanted to take her architecture career in a new direction. Nichols wasn’t having much luck on her own, so she hired Chicago coach Jill MacFadyen. After periodic coaching sessions over a few months, Nichols landed a new job at a firm with colleagues who share her values and where she’s been able to satisfy her goal of focusing on residential architecture. Nichols says MacFadyen’s guidance helped her find the right path. “People often know what they want to do, but they just need someone pull it out of them,” MacFadyen says.