Ask HR: Can a Career Coach Help Get Your Career Back on Track?

By By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP October 22, 2021
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Ask HR: Can a Career Coach Help Get Your Career Back on Track?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

I feel like my career has plateaued. There seem to be few or no promotional opportunities available to me from my current position. Should I speak with HR about my options? Is hiring a career coach a safe option? If so, what should I look for in one? —Alisa

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: To break through a career plateau, keep an open mind, continually explore your options and be flexible. But before turning to a career coach, speak with HR first. While there may not seem to be promotional opportunities, expressing your readiness to advance in your career provides HR with valuable insight about your interests and goals. Your employer may even offer stretch assignments or job enrichment opportunities outside of your current role. Both can build and broaden your workplace competency and knowledge.

However, if you are focused on ascending the corporate ladder and are strongly considering leaving your job to do so, hiring a career coach may indeed be the logical choice. To best prepare, you should identify your career objectives. Knowing where you want to go in your career, and why, will provide insight as you weigh your options.

There are several aspects to consider before hiring a career coach. Start by researching potential coaches' backgrounds and credentials. Make sure to focus on individuals who are a good fit for your industry and career aspirations. Once you have narrowed down the list, interview them. Inquire about their experience, success rate and certifications.

It is also important to speak to the coaches' former clients. Probe those clients about their involvement with the coach and the impact it had on their career advancement. The right coach not only can assist with developing career strategies and creating a powerful and effective resume, but also will help refine your interviewing and negotiation techniques to help you find the right position.

As you explore your options, make sure they align with your career objectives. This will be invaluable as you plot your career path. Best of luck to you.


I am seeing employers like Amazon and Chick-fil-A offer to pay tuition to recruit workers for low-wage positions. I am concerned about any strings that may be attached or limits that may exist. Are employers' tuition payment programs worth considering? —Traci

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: In today's competitive job market, a tuition payment program is seen as an effective recruitment and retention tool. However, there are some limits to be aware of and may be some strings attached, depending on the company's policy. Some employers will require the employee to stay with the company for a specific period of time after receiving assistance; an employee who leaves before that period of time expires may be required to pay a portion of the benefit back to the employer. Additionally, there is usually a limit on the amount of tuition assistance an employee may be eligible to receive each year.

Offering educational benefits may be attractive to workers who plan on or are currently attending college. For an employer, it acts as a recruitment incentive that could enhance worker retention and engagement as well as drive down turnover and recruitment costs. As companies help employees fulfill their education goals, they are also helping the communities where they do business.

Companies' education assistance programs can either pay for employees' education expenses or offer student loan repayment assistance benefits. If the program meets certain requirements, the amount paid by the employer is tax-deductible for the company and not considered taxable income for the employee. Under the plan, employers can provide up to $5,250 per year in tax-advantaged education expenses; however, the organization is not obligated to offer the full amount. Many companies require employees to first apply for federal financial aid, which potentially reduces some of the financial costs and the employee's financial needs.

For employers, investing in students and communities will ultimately provide a bigger benefit than simply drawing applicants to their door. For employees looking to attend college, this offers an opportunity to reduce their tuition burdens and maximize their employment benefits. So, under the right circumstances, tuition payment programs can be a win-win.

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