IS hiring a Life Coach worth the $$
March 22, 2010 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever used a life coach / career counselor? I'm unemployed and at some crossroads and wondering if this may be the shot in the arm I need to find some direction...

I have been unemployed going on 13 months now from an ultra stressful sales job which towards the ends really started to eat away at my soul. In a way, I was happy to see it end. I have a comfortable nest egg, married, two young kids. I enjoyed the last year unwinding, and playing with my kids. Money is still not a major issue, but I don't want to live off it forever. I want to hold onto the nest egg in hopes of being able to retire sooner than later.

I do not want to go back into sales. I didn't like it and the position I had was a very cushy & easy sales position. I want to try something different. I do not know what that is though? I have been thinking about it for months. I definitely want to work. I just don't know doing what? And all these books and sites I look at arent helping me find a new path...

Through a google search, I came across this guy Jeff Aulenbach ( who is a certified life coach...He has been on Oprah; wrote some best seller books; has tons of clients with a overwhelmingly high success rate; yadda yadda...

I have the money, although I shouldn't be spending it foolishly....Is this stuff for real? Can life coaches really teach me anything that isn't just plain common sense, or that I can easily find in a book? Or will a life coach take on more of a role as a mentor and just give me the kick in the *ss I need and focus, on taking steps towards a new career and more happiness?

I'm a rather cynical person and I would easily agree with anyone who tells me to save my money and that I just have to get off my ass and make things happen..But it is always easy to preach advice then take your own....I know what needs to be done...I just don't have the direction and feel I need a bit of that kind of help..

So, anyone ever use a life coach or know of Jeff Aulenbach personally and can share some thoughts?
posted by TwilightKid to Work & Money (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Real quick, I tend to recommend to my candidates that they complete the workbook section of "What Color is Your Parachute". Somewhat cheesy, (it's embarrassingly called a Flower Exercise) but it's about $10 and what most career counselors use. My candidates have all found it enormously insightful. Spend a weekend at a cafe with internet access, get that done, and then see if this expensive coach seems like a compelling idea. Also, I don't charge my candidates anything for this advice...

The book did also help me make a radical career change very much for the better. YMMV, but it all depends on how much you invest in the work. No counselor can do that for you.
posted by ohyouknow at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2010

This article by Steve Pavlina may shed some light on what life coaching is all about. Of course, he himself is a life couch (in between bit of everything else) and there is no surprise that he would endorse life coaching. But, I like one suggestion by him - you should always ask for a free session by the prospective life coach and see how you feel, if you don't like you don't have to go forward with paid sessions. You can use this website - (also suggested by Steve Pavlina) to scan through different life coaches and try few of them out before you have to pay money. All the very best!
disclaimer: I don't have any experience with life coaches/coaching.
posted by tvjoshi at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2010

I don't know Jeff Aulenbach or his work, but I have been a life coach. Life coaching, as I see it, is a way to get focus in your life and to get an external push toward doing what you want to do (or finding what that is and *then* go after it). Depending on the person with whom you work, coaching can be very task-oriented with weekly or daily goals that you track and report back, or can be more of a talk-oriented experience where you work toward finding the core issues in your life and coming up with ways to improve your experience with each.

Coaching is not therapy. I am now studying for my MS in counseling, partially because I felt something missing in my coach training (I trained with Martha Beck, also a regular on Oprah). Beck's approach incorporates a lot of psychotherapeutic material, particularly Gestalt and cognitive-behavioral techniques, but coaching is generally focused on people who are mentally healthy - just stuck and needing a push. I believe in this approach; I just want the training to be able to recognize and address mental health problems when they appear, whether my client hired me as a coach or as a counselor.

MeMail me if you want more info.
posted by catlet at 11:48 AM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Think in terms of career counsellors, too. Don't know where you live, but around here there are a lot of employment centres that do this kind of work for free - lots of tools and on-line resources to help you sort out what kinds of work you'd be good at and would enjoy. Check your local library and your local book store, too.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:52 AM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thank You.
I actually have that book. After I was let go, I went through that small 'what am i gonna do now' panic stage and my wife picked up a bunch of different career/self help type books...I just got overwhelmed with the pile, and put them aside...I just broke out the Parachute Book' and will do that test...

I know a majority of this is kicking myself in the *ss and doing the grunt work...I need the kick though...

As for this counselor...I actually did a phone consultation with him several months back. Nice enough guy....Seemed like he knew what he was talking about. I was aware that I was also being sold on his 'concepts'. I'm 38 and know how all this works...But strangely, as more and more time passes, i kind of feel that I need this motivational push & guidance that he offers. I declined at the time cause I couldn't justify the $$. It wasn't outrageous; just more than what I felt it was worth at the time...Perhaps, while what he teaches is available in books and stuff, it is the way he conveys it that makes it all worthwhile? I dunno...

I will do that test first, and kick myself into gear before making this kind of move...
posted by TwilightKid at 11:59 AM on March 22, 2010

FYI it's not really a test. It will take a full weekend to complete, so carve out that time for yourself. I describe it as really efficient, focused soul-searching. When I was in my early 20's I thought joining the Peace Corps would help me find myself. It was the most amazing thing I've ever done, but I was not any clearer about what I wanted to do with myself when I grew up if you know what I mean. So the exercises in the back are a terrific way to efficiently figure all that stuff out. Sure, it will take a whole weekend... but at least it's not 2.5 years in Africa! (But seriously, if you can do that, do it just because you can.)

Good luck!
posted by ohyouknow at 12:09 PM on March 22, 2010

Oh, and I just remembered that you do NOT need internet access while you're doing the exercises. Just bring a notebook and something to write with. I found doing this at a cafe helped me to actually plow through and do it without too many distractions.
posted by ohyouknow at 12:18 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks again...I dusted off the book, and bookmarked the section...Gonna be in NYC tomorrow, so Ill find a quiet place to tackle this.....
posted by TwilightKid at 12:25 PM on March 22, 2010

My parachute book experience at a casual glance and quick selected read through at it (a while back) did not yield much interesting life changing work for me. Nor did it help confirm what I was doing at the time was something that I liked doing, so YMMV.

Your issue at the moment (from what you have said) seems to deal with motivation and getting a kick which is best solved by setting goals.
Since you are taking some time out in the weekend to work on the book, why not take some time out to set some goals and use some online communities for a goal setting buddy?

Btw, are you following a set routine for searching for jobs? Are you making it an 8 hour commitment? Are you actually going out and networking?

If you are having trouble doing that, maybe seeing a therapist would actually help you better understand yourself, your motivations etc?

The advantage of a therapist (usually) is that it'll probably be cheaper, the motivation may be internal as opposed to temporary (i'm not a life coach here so that's a huge generalization).
Plus, the therapist has a schooled qualification, that usually shouldn't hurt but you would be surprised at the number of therapists who I wonder about how they heck did they graduate?

On the other hand, experiment with the life coach idea and at the least find out whether they would be available and if so when at the earliest and the fee structure as well and if there's an unemployed discount?

Remember, at the end of the day you are going to have to do some kind of work on yourself. A good life coach or therapist should provide you the tools to do all what you want to do on your own.

Off-topic, If you're having trouble structuring the job search do a search on askmefi for the same, there's a question posted about structure and strategizing a job search.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 10:04 PM on March 22, 2010

I've got a career coach right now who is spectacular. She helps me focus on my big picture, long-term goals and keep making progress towards those even as my normal life keeps going on. Since I work from home, she also provides some motivation and encouragement I wouldn't get otherwise.

I was skeptical at first, but it's turned out to be worth every (not outrageous) penny. Check out Florence Haridan at
posted by shopefowler at 11:32 PM on March 22, 2010

I got a career coach as part of my package for being laid off. I am not sure how much it would have cost otherwise. As someone who has drifted through a few different careers, I found it really useful. As I wasn't sure what I should be looking for in a career to make me actually enjoy it, he had me do a Birkman assessment, and written exercises to do with what I want out of work and my life. He talked me through all this, giving me a big picture of my strengths and weaknesses, interests and areas where I am more likely to succeed. He then worked backwards from my 'dream life in 15 years' to look at what the practical next step would be now, tracing a few different possible paths. He then helped me rewriting my resume and so on to better appeal to the sort of employers I needed to target.

I am not sure that it necessarily has meant that I have ended up somewhere that I wouldn't have otherwise. But I feel more certain of my choices, that I am more self-aware, that I have more of a path and less of a random wandering. And he gave some advice more related to looking after myself, dealing with the specific kinds of stresses I tend to experience.

I have recommended this process to others. It made me more confident and enthusiastic about work, by giving me some clear direction and focus on how to reposition myself. It isn't rocket science, but it is a bit beyond common sense. This guy also ran group workshops - could be a cheaper option, though less personal, if money is an issue.

PS I am quite a cynic too.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:36 AM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi TwilightKid,

I've both trained as a life coach and worked with a life coach myself. I'll speak from my experience as a coaching client: coaching has been an exceptional place for me to figure out what most matters to me, and to identify the actionable steps to bring my life in line with what matters. It's also really cranked up my motivation to go after what I want out of life and make it happen! (That sounds a bit cheesy to me when I type it - but it's true). I definitely take more risks and put myself out there more now that I'm clearer on what I wan to have happen in my life and how to go after it. If that sounds like something that you're after, then yes, I'd say you might want to give coaching a try.

I also second tvjoshi's comment about making sure you get a free sample session from the coach too. Different coaches have different training and different approaches and different personalities - find one who is credible and who you feel you jive with before you commit.
posted by laurajo at 5:13 AM on March 24, 2010

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