Do you need a career coach?

With the unemployment rate at 9.5 percent and the nation's payrolls shedding 467,000 jobs, according to today's report by the U.S. Labor Department, it's no wonder that panicked job seekers may decide to turn to a career coach. Whether that's a good idea depends on the coach, your wallet and whether you can conduct your job search on your own.

I've been writing about Ford Myers, the local career coach who wrote a book titled Get the Job You Want Even When No One's Hiring. Recently I received an email from Mitch Ehrlich, who hired Myers, but was not satisfied with his work. I'll print the email, provide Myers' response and add my own observation.

Dear Ms. Von Bergen:

 I read your article on Ford Myers today in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  (He was talking about Monday's paper)

 I am a past client of Mr. Myers’ and while I believe his company may serve a valuable service for some, I think most folks can research and obtain the same career information online or in their public library.  I was the victim of a layoff from SmithKline several years ago and felt somewhat directionless after that experience.  I contacted Mr. Myers and listened to his very convincing sales pitch about his services.  While he never promised to find me a job, he did offer that he could help me identify a career objective and provide weekly counseling and support during my search. I paid Mr. Myers more than $4000 for his services which in retrospect included an updated version of my resume (which I wrote) and weekly meetings where he provided vague ideas, comments and critiques of my job search efforts. After 6 months of working his program, completing all of his assignments and holding more than 30 “networking” meetings, I remained unemployed.  Not one hot lead or bonafide opportunity.

I followed his program to the letter and worked it like a pro but with little to show for it.  I am a dual-master degreed individual with more than 25 years experience in my field and now I am also out more than $4000.  I approached Mr. Myers about my dissatisfaction but he basically dismissed me as a disgruntled customer who wasn’t committed to the search process.  He told me to hang in there and keep trying.  I reported him to the Better Business Bureau.

 I try to caution people that with a little organization, self motivation and research they can accomplish the same objectives as they would by hiring someone like Mr. Myers who I found to be more “sizzle” than substance.  I’m sure your article will help him sell a lot of books but if you ever want to interview someone for the other side of the story, please feel free to contact me.


 Mitch Ehrlich 

I called Ford Myers to ask him about this. Myers described Ehrlich as his only unsatisfied customer and said that he extended Ehrlich's contract, offering an additional three months of free service. Myers offered to send me many testimonials from satisfied customers. Myers said the Better Business Bureau investigated and found no basis to Ehrlich's

complaint, however Myers did not have a copy of the letter, he said. Ehrlich is now working, having turned a part time job into a full time job.

My take: I can't personally vouch for any career coach, including Myers, so I'm stepping out of the whole dispute between Myers and Ehrlich.

However, what Myers and Ehrlich both say is that a person who is organized and motivated can conduct his or her own job search. Myers naturally believes that it is useful to have a coach, but during our interview, he made the point that the coach can be a friend or a fellow job seeker, as long as the goals are accountability and encouragement.