Star Ledger Article Features


When to get help - Coaches and consultants can bring out the best in a job-seeker

12 September 2008
The Star-Ledger
(c) 2008 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

When people find out Sheryl Spanier is a career consultant, the first question they ask is, "Can you get me a job?"

It doesn't quite work that way.

Spanier doesn't run an employment agency. And she is not a headhunter. But she is the person executives turn to when they need help in leadership strategy, prioritizing professional goals and, yes, getting a job.

"My preference is to help my clients be independent," said Spanier, who runs a firm that bears her name in New York City. "I help them with self-assessment, developing a plan, networking techniques, self-marketing tools, developing realistic methods of job pursuit," she said. "Yes, I give homework. And when they have offers, I help in making decisions and negotiating."

When someone is faced with a layoff, has hit a wall in a career or is contemplating changing careers, the thing to do these days is to hire help. And there's an entire industry there to assist you, made up of career coaches, consultants and counselors.

But do you really need the help? And if so, how do you go about finding it? Here are some tips to help you navigate your way: SHOULD YOU HIRE HELP? That all depends on the type of person you are. If you know what you want and are incredibly organized, you might do fine on your own. But many people need help. ....

Career coaches and counselors can provide much-needed direction and set deadlines to keep you moving along....

Robinson said it might take a few tries before finding the right person. "It's like shopping for a new car," he said. "You should do it carefully. If you don't click, say, `Thank you very much' and move on."

WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT? Initially, career counselors will ask a lot of questions to get a handle on your needs and the types of issues you are facing. Often, they will give you a test to help determine if you're doing the right kind of work, or show you other careers that could suit your skills. Some will conduct sessions entirely by phone. Others, such as Sheryl Spanier, will insist on meeting you, so they can see how you present yourself. "On the telephone, you can't pick up what might be obstructing someone or help that person be more effective," she said. "Mannerisms matter. Facial expressions matter. You can't see that on the telephone."

Robinson of said after one session, "you should get some very clear direction on the next three or four steps you've got to take. "You should also get and hear some ideas you've never thought of before," he said. "If you're not getting new ideas, you're with the wrong person." ....

Judy DeHaven may be reached at