There are times when workers find themselves walking in a dark cloud of anxiety or even depression after being fired or laid off. They look for slivers of daylight but find nothing but more darkness. The universe seems unresponsive. They do not want much, maybe just someone who says, “I understand where you are. Just take my hand and I’ll help you out of this mess.” That person may be a career coach, career counselor, or an outplacement service, all career care providers.
Reaching out to a career care provider takes courage, understanding, and a good deal of common sense. Where do you find them? What do their services cost? What are their qualifications? And what do these outplacement services really do? All are valid questions. Let’s deal with career coaches and counselors first.
CAREER COACHES AND CAREER COUNSELORS
Go online and enter “career coach and career counselor,” and you will find an array of hits naming specific individuals, with or without titles. Some are named Joe Smith, Life Coach, or Mary Jones, Executive Career Counselor, or Robert Brown, PhD. Who are the successful ones? Who are the pretenders? Let’s look for answers to help you see daylight, to find a break in the dark cloud.
Career coaches are providers who are solution oriented. They focus on helping clients define career objectives, like finding an industry that includes nonprofit companies where passion for the mission is as important as bottom line. They exude a spirit of optimism, educate you about the job market, and show you how to navigate your way through the world of work. Most will help you craft a resume and provide job-hunting rubrics. Some are former human resources directors or executive recruiters. Almost all have experience working in the corporate world.
Career counselors perform many of the same services as career coaches but extend their efforts to uncovering any emotional, behavioral, or psychological barriers that might impede your search for the meaning of work and a new career. Some are certified psychologists or former human resources directors or both. Many hold a master’s degree in counseling and are certified by the National Board of Certified Counselors. They can help you work through complex issues, like why it is that you always have problems with authority figures like your former boss.
All career coaches and career counselors charge a fee for their services, which are delivered by phone, Skype, email, or in face-to-face meetings. The fees can range from $75 to $500 for a forty-five- or sixty-minute session. Some career coaches and counselors offer package deals that contain a certain number of sessions spread out over a certain amount of time. Others offer their services on an as-needed basis. Personal sessions will cost more than phone sessions. Specialized sessions will cost more than general sessions. For example, some providers work only with executive-level clients, like former presidents, CIOs, CFOs, or CEOs, whose career searches target positions of like kind. Fees for such clients will be considerably higher.
Few coaches and counselors will advertise their fees online, which means that everything is negotiable. Do not hesitate to negotiate a mutually acceptable fee with a provider. Do not be intimidated by a fancy shingle like “Dr. Aldus Geronimo, Certified Career Counselor.” Everyone is open to negotiating fees . . . even PhDs.
Career counseling services provided by a certified psychologist or psychiatrist may be covered by your medical insurance. Check with your career care provider and insurance company.
Assessing Provider Credentials
The background and experience of coaches and counselors vary widely. Some have no formal training while others have had training at bricks-and-mortar institutions. Many have completed online certification programs. The most reputable coaches and counselors have written certifications for successfully completing coaching and counseling programs. Here are some of the more reputable training organizations for career coaches and counselors. All award written certifications for successful completion of training courses. Use the information provided by these resources to assess the credentials of career coaches and counselors.
International Coach Federation (ICF), www.coachfederation.org . This is a highly regarded coaching organization that provides online certification courses for coaches. Access this site for information about the coaching business generally and about suggestions for finding the right coach or counselor that will suit your needs.
National Career Development Association, www.NCDA.org . This respected organization dates back to 1913 and provides not only credentialed programs for coaches, but also assistance for those seeking help in a particular location. For example, go to the website and enter your home zip code in the box beneath the section titled “Need Career Help?” and you will find the names and contact information for coaches and counselors within a fifty-mile radius of your home.
Those who successfully complete the NCDA career coaching program receive the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) certificate. When you are interviewing prospective coaches, always ask if they have this certification.
Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW C/C), www.parw.com . This organization provides intensive career coaching training and awards those who successfully complete the course with the Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) credential. In addition, PARW C/C offers credentials to coaches who complete training for interviewing techniques and for resume writing, and it offers help for those starting their own businesses.
The Academies, www.theacademies.com . The founder and CEO of this organization is Susan Whitcomb, an author and expert trainer for career coaches. Her work is frequently quoted in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Coaches who are trained at the Academies are well versed in all facets of career building. Earmark coaches with the Academies certifications.
AARP, www.aarp.org . For a low membership fee of $16 per year, workers age fifty and over can access their many benefits. One of them is career counseling for unemployed workers or for workers making a career change.
HOW TO SELECT A CAREER COACH OR COUNSELOR.
Select a career coach using the same common-sense rules that you would apply in making any serious business decision. They are:
- Make a plan that defines your needs and expectations from a coach or counselor.
- Contact your network for referrals to professionals specializing in your field of interest and expertise.
- Go online to find providers in your local area.
- Interview each person on your list, personally or by phone.
- Learn the coach’s fee structure and how payments are structured.
- Ask for referrals to their previous or present clients.
- Ask for a written statement describing their experience in coaching including how many assignments they have completed.
- Learn their education background including career coaching certification.
- Learn if they provide a trial counseling session.
- Review the extent of their business experience.
Coach Selection Resources
There are online resources that provide information about career coaching generally and about criteria for selecting the right person. Here are three reliable sources.
International Coach Federation (ICF), www.coachfederation.org , is the premier global organization for training life and career coaches
NOOMII. The Professional Coach Directory, www.NOOMII.com . This online service recommends coaches based on your stated goals.
Kathy Caprino, Women’s Career Coach and Leadership Trainer, http://kathycaprino.com .
Kathy is one of the most celebrated career coaches in the world. She was laid off in mid-career and after much soul searching started her own business focusing on career training and coaching. She offers a free subscription to her weekly newsletter and valuable rubrics for moving forward in your career. Be sure to read her article “The Top Five Regrets of Midlife Professionals.”
Career coaches and counselors are typically caring individuals who are passionate about lending support and direction to laid-off or fired workers. Many have had that experience and understand your predicament. When it seems that you are nearing the end of your own self-help resources, reaching out to a coach or counselor is a wise decision.
Outplacement is not a mom-and-pop business; rather, it is a large industry with national or multinational companies in its fold. Employers frequently provide bricks-and-mortar or virtual outplacement services for mid-level and above workers they let go. This service is expensive and costs the employer upwards of $5,000 per each let-go employee. For high-level executives, outplacement services could cost the employer as much as $25,000 per executive. If your employer did not include outplacement in your severance package, you can purchase it as an individual.
The traditional outplacement service consists of group sessions in an office setting. Weekly or semi-monthly group sessions held at an office location and spearheaded by an experienced leader/teacher, offer much-needed support for laid-off or fired workers. A spirit of mutual support and assistance are invaluable aids to the let-go person still working through the grieving period or in job hunting mode. It is reassuring to know that you are not alone in this battle. I myself can attest to the effectiveness of this model, having attended group outplacement on-location in Philadelphia after having been laid off from a technology consulting firm that was purchased by a competitor. For example, when I reported to the group leader, he took me into his office for a private counseling session. That was followed by a half-day group meeting with other laid-off workers where we exchanged experiences and offered each other support and direction. Six weekly meetings followed. Our leader provided excellent rubrics for crafting a resume  and tips for interviewing. We devoted part of our weekly meetings to reviewing a wide array of companies in the area who were potential employers. Also, we had access to computers and could immediately go to the Internet to access potential employers using the rules we had just learned in class. Most helpful in my experience was the group interaction. I learned that I was not the only one in a tough spot. The entire experience hastened my trip through the grieving process. Try to find an outplacement service that still offers that kind of personal service.
Today some outplacement services are rendered online, by email, phone, Skype, or a combination of these options. Individual attention is what the current model advertises. Services included in most packages are general career counseling, resume preparation, interviewing techniques, industry and company evaluations, cover and follow-up letter writing, and referrals to recruiters or human resources directors. Most outplacement companies advertise one-on-one sessions focused on the items you select.
To find an outplacement provider, use the same techniques suggested for finding a career coach. When you go online, make sure to localize your search. If you live in New York, try to find a service in the NY Metro area, not in San Diego. Here are several references to get you started:
- Top Outplacement Firm Sites, top20sites.com/top-outplacement-firms-sites . This service ranks outplacement firms located in a specified geographical location, a valuable feature because working with a company close to home renders effective outcomes.
- Quest Outplacement, questoutplacement.com . Quest offers a variety of one-on-one outplacement packages to individual let-go workers. The cost varies between $850 and $2,950, depending on the length of time and the support items offered. Their support is through phone and online tools. They do not provide an office location.
- Lee Hecht Harrison, lhh.com . LHH is a multinational recruiting and outplacement firm with three hundred offices scattered throughout the United States and abroad. Home offices are in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The company has been in business for fifty years and has a sterling reputation for quality service.
Always review the reputation of any outplacement firm using the following two sources, which provide references, recommendations, and evaluations that will help you make the right decision:
FAITH BASED CAREER CARE PROVIDERS
Employing a career coach/counselor or an outplacement firm is a serious business decision. Finding the right provider, one with whom you connect personally and professionally, is key to a successful outcome. However, help does not stop here. There are additional services providers that tackle the career rebuilding process from a different perspective. These are faith based organizations, which are located in every community.
Being fired or laid off, especially when in mid-career, can be one’s worst nightmare. Political correctness refers to being let go as a challenge, but a fired or laid-off worker realistically calls it a problem, a huge problem, one that needs multiple resources to resolve. When the paycheck stops and you have bills to pay, like a home mortgage or apartment rent, property taxes, car payments, utility bills, insurance premiums, childcare, school or college tuition for the kids, and the unforeseen mega-bill for replacement of a heating system that quits in the middle of the winter, you have more than a “challenge.” You have a very serious problem.
Added to the monetary problem is the angst that accompanies being fired or laid off and the tension generated in the job-hunting process. What’s left is a worker who needs a comforting hand and down-to-earth friendship in order to move forward and out of the cloud of uncertainty. Finding your way to a new career that offers a paycheck to keep the wolf from the door, plus job satisfaction, plus a sense of purpose, is a multifaceted problem requiring help from multiple sources. Career coaches, counselors, and outplacement services can help fix the multiple problems, but there are other resources as well.
So where does one find support, the kind of support that not only offers practical solutions, but also addresses the various stages of the grieving process? Many work through it on their own. Others reach out to friends and family. And some workers, who can’t find their way out of the cloud on their own or with help from friends, turn to faith based resources such as:
- Career workshops offered by a local church or place of worship of any denomination.
- Discussion groups led by a staff member of the theology department of a college or university.
- Counseling sessions with members of the clergy.
Each option has merit. Knowing which to use will save time and result in a better outcome. Here’s a succinct review of each.
Local Church Counseling Services
Places of worship are noted for providing courses of every kind after Saturday or Sunday services and throughout the week. One does not have to be a member of a particular church to attend, but using the services of your own faith can be reassuring. All are welcome at all churches, at any time.
To learn what is being offered at a local church simply Google its name and look at the website. For example, I entered “Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.” What I found was an impressive list of services provided by the church staff, including personal counseling from a parish member whose credentials included an MBA from Northwestern and a master’s degree in counseling.
Workers living in medium and large cities throughout the country will find a host of career-related services provided by Jewish career services. For example, in Louisville, Kentucky, you will find a very active center, The Jewish Family and Career Services (JFCS). Its services include career counseling, job-hunting advice and leads for jobs in the local area and nationwide as well.
College and University Spiritual Resources
Some colleges and universities throughout the country have departments of divinity whose reach goes beyond academics. Staff members not only work with students in a traditional academic environment, but also reach out to the community. Outreach includes workshops on traditional theological topics and secular issues such as career planning and counseling for workers seeking support while unemployed.
Everyone who lives within reach of a college or university will find career-related initiatives that come in different flavors. Some are informal discussion groups; others are formal classes held on a regular schedule. For example, one such group is the Princeton Faith and Work Initiative, www.princeton.edu/faithandwork . It meets monthly on a pre-announced Saturday morning at Nassau Presbyterian Church, located on the Princeton New Jersey campus of Princeton University. It is led by Dr. David Miller, who earned his PhD in social ethics from Yale University after working in the private sector for sixteen years in business and finance with multinational companies in the UK and the US.
The group accomplishes its mission through a mixture of teaching, lectures, conferences, discussion groups, and research. Attendees include workers of all rank from companies representing multiple industries.
This is just one example of a spiritual resource from a college that sheds light on the relationship between work and faith, and offers support for workers seeking a new beginning in the workplace. Check online for a college or university near you that offers career related discussion groups or workshops.
Counseling from a Clergy Member
Advice and guidance are always available from clergy members of your local place of worship. Some clerics will hold one-on-one sessions for general counseling regarding the problems related to your unemployment status. Others will lead group discussions on career-related topics. These are caring, compassionate, and resourceful women and men whose mission is helping people connect faith, work, and family on life’s journey.
Some clergy members have broad and deep experience in the secular workplace acquired before they entered the ministry. Many have had teaching and counseling experience. Their networks include hiring managers from companies representing diverse industries. All are sympathetic listeners who offer not only sound advice, but also the hand of friendship to those in need.
MOVING BEYOND THE TEMPORAL
When all else seems to have failed, laid off workers have another option, seeking help from the God of their faith.
Throughout my career in the staffing business, I have witnessed events that have no logical explanation. After applying the rules for solving problems and coming up dry, I believe there must be something else working behind the scene that goes beyond the temporal into a realm that includes the supernatural, like a God, a Force, or the Universe. For our purposes let’s call that Supreme Being, God.
There Are No Atheists in Foxholes
So what does all of this have to do with job hunting? You may have heard the proverb “There are no atheists in foxholes.” The origin of this proverb is attributed to a World War II correspondent, Ernie Pyle, who reported what was happening on the front line of battle, a very unfriendly place.
For those not familiar with war jargon, here is what it means. When soldiers are on the battlefield and see bombs dropping and bullets flying, and witness their buddies to the left and right being blown to smithereens, these soldiers instinctively call on God to save their lives. Their prayers to God are ones of supplication: “God, please spare my life!”
Job hunting is much like fighting in the trenches as you may have experienced. Following that traumatic experience, being let go from your job in the middle of a career that you thought was forever, life has not been easy, especially the job-hunting part. If you have been fighting on the battlefield of the workplace for six months or more with no success, you will get the analogy. Job hunting is not easy. It is not for the timid. It is not for the faint of heart. The competition is fierce. You never know when and where the next defeat will occur.
The proverb “There are no atheists in foxholes,” could easily read, “There are no atheists among job hunters fighting in the workplace for a few bucks to buy food, shelter, and clothing.”
God at Work
My experience as an executive recruiter is replete with examples that point to a Force working with workers who have made every conceivable effort on their own and with help from career counselors to find solutions to their unemployment challenges. I have named that Force working in the background The Job God.
Some might say “Oh my Lord, this is nuts, plain nuts, to posit that God has any interest in how we find work to provide food, shelter and clothing for our existence here on Earth.” Well, everyone has a theory about why things happen as they do, and our theory seems to be as plausible as those of counselors, economists, and others like Malcolm Gladwell.
How do you reach out to your God? What do you say? How do you petition God for a favor such as success in finding a job? You might recall prayers learned in childhood religious training; you memorized them and recited them back to your parents or teacher. They meant little because they did not come from you. Even today, prayers we hear during religious services may sound contrived and hold little meaning. A meaningful prayer must come from you, from your inner core.
So how do you begin the prayer journey? By hastily fabricating one on your smart phone or iPad? Handwriting it on a sheet of paper in flowery prose? Anything will work, but we suggest composing your prayer in the vernacular of your faith. It does not have to be eloquent or put in writing. Make it conversational. Ask God’s help in the same way you would ask one of your friends for a favor. For example, immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Towers on 9/11, two Air Force fighter jets hurriedly took off from their base in Arizona and headed toward New York City and New Jersey to intercept any other attacks. The importance of getting there quickly was more important than fully arming the planes, so they took off semi-prepared. It was a dangerous mission. In a CNN interview with the pilots after the mission was completed, one of them told the interviewer they realized the extreme danger heading into combat without being fully armed, and as they were flying toward the action they prayed the pilot’s prayer, “God, don’t let me screw this up.” A prayer does not have to be eloquent, only sincere.
If you need examples that go beyond your own prayer, we offer these resources:
- Tevye’s Sabbath Prayer from the play Fiddler on the Roof.
- The Lord’s Prayer, available online or from the Bible.
- Sample Prayers. Thoughts about God. thoughts-about-god.com/reflecting/sample-prayers.htm .
This article is an excerpt from my book, Moving Forward in Mid-Career. A Guide to Rebuilding Your Career after Being Fired or Laid Off . It will be available January 9, 2018, in paperback or eBook from Skyhorse Publishing Inc., Amazon, Barnes & Noble and independent book stores.
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