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How to Pick a Winner


Be careful before you hook up with a career coach. An abundance of certification programs and the absence of licensing requirements have led to a glut of practitioners. The quality of counsel varies greatly, and choosing the wrong coach can be an expensive mistake. Apart from typical fees of $90 to $125 an hour, there's the cost of your time spent on coaching assignments--time that might be better applied to researching employers and networking.

When vetting coaches, insist on a onetime consultation, preferably at no charge. Ask about the coach's business experience and credentials. Speak with a client who has navigated a change with the coach's help, and don't sign a long-term contract that may lock you into services you don't need. Finally, find out whether the coach favors practical assignments such as writing a personal business plan or flakier exercises like drafting a screenplay of your life.

As the saying goes, you get only one chance to make a first impression. For the career changer, if the first impression comes via a r?sum?, it must emphasize how accomplishments in unrelated realms can make a difference in a new field. Here are some tips for constructing an effective career changer's r?sum?:

-- Share successes, not daily tasks. No one cares what you did every day at 9 a.m. and 3p.m. on your old job.

-- Emphasize transferable skills, such as managing people and translating highly technical information for nontechnical audiences.

-- Include an objectives statement that explains your goals in switching disciplines.

-- Avoid jargon from your old career, and don't play up affiliations associated with it.

If you're over 50, also consider these pointers:

-- Delete the earliest years of your job history. Recruiters recommend detailing only the past 10 to 20 years. This shortens your r?sum? and dampens the "vintage effect." But do mention any early jobs that tie to your career-change aspirations.

-- To allay health concerns about older employees, include a leisure activities category that shows your physical prowess. If you run marathons, say so.


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