“Free” Career Services Cost Me a Bundle

It’s tempting to take something when it’s free—or you can buy it for practically nothing. This is especially true when you’re out of work. Many organizations offer free or low-cost career services, including churches and community groups. Colleges and universities often offer services for their grads and alma mater. But be careful. We’ve heard from a lot of people that free and cheap can be quite expensive. [To be fair, some services are very good; others are not. We usually get an earful from those who have had negative experiences].

You can’t count on keeping your job. That said, there certainly are things you can do to solidify your hold on your position. Here are ten of them.

Maria’s Campaign Goes Nowhere

A Winnetka woman we’ll call Maria scheduled a meeting with a career coach, but cancelled

at the last minute. A colleague told her about a nonprofit that offered several months of

career services for around $100. Her brother advised her not to hire a professional coach

because “you can figure it out yourself.”

The nonprofit had a number of volunteer coaches to choose from, so she picked one and set up a meeting. This coach suggested some minor tweaks to her resume and told her about the organization’s workshop offerings: LinkedIn profiles, resumes, job interviewing, and more. It sounded great.

Soon Maria started networking, but something was wrong. Repeatedly, networking contacts

gave her no referrals. “What do you think I’m doing wrong?” she asked her coach. Her coach had no idea. She said, “Do you think I’m trying to take my career in the wrong direction?” Her coach shrugged. Finally, she did get a job offer. Unfortunately, her coach urged her to push for a lot more money because “they’re always trying to underpay women.” When Maria clumsily followed that advice, the employer offered the job to another candidate.

NOTE: If your job search is going nowhere fast, we’re happy to have a no-obligation conversation:  here’s a link to our calendar: https://calendly.com/lucrative-careers

Ron and the church-based career ministry

I met “Ron” from Glenview at a networking meeting for executives. He advised everyone who could afford it to hire a coach. He raved about his coach and said it was worth every dime he’d paid.

I asked about his experience, and he said he’d gone to a career ministry at a church that was near his home. It was free! He could meet with a coach for an hour every week. So he signed up and made an appointment.

He struck gold on his first appointment. The man he met with (Coach #1) was astute and

the two of them clicked. Of course, they didn’t get a whole lot done in that first hour, but Ron knew this was the coach for him. But his jaw dropped when the coach told him that he couldn’t meet again for four weeks. He explained that he’s a popular coach and only volunteers a few hours a week. That didn’t sit well with Ron, but who was he to complain? He wasn’t paying anything.

Ron Gets Passed Around—and His Job Search Stalls

In the meantime, Ron made an appointment and met with coach #2. That meeting was disappointing. They got almost nothing done other than repeating what he’d told the coach the previous week. He wasn’t impressed with this coach’s rather formulaic advice, and so sought out a third coach.

Most of the meeting with Coach #3 covered the same ground as his first and second meetings. Ron thought this coach was all right so he scheduled a second meeting with her. Unfortunately, he was 35 minutes late for his meeting due to an accident that caused a major traffic jam on the freeway. He only had 25 minutes with Coach #3. That was disappointing, but Ron knew the following week he’d get to meet with Coach #1 again.

Second meeting with Coach #1

That meeting didn’t disappoint. It was extremely helpful. But at the end of the meeting,

Coach #1 informed him that he was going on vacation, he had tough projects coming up at

his paid job, and yada yada yada. The end result: he couldn’t meet again for six weeks!

Bad enough! But then, when Ron checked with the scheduler, he found there were no coaches available to meet with him the following week.

Ron Did Some Figuring

Ron sat down to think things over. Yes, he had indeed saved a bunch of money by getting

free coaching. But his time was valuable. He’d been earning $150K plus bonus before his

layoff. So each week he wasn’t working cost him over $3,000.

It was a no-brainer, Ron said. He said thank you very much to the good folks at the church

and hired a career coach.

Why Ron Advises people to Hire a Coach

Ron explained to the others at the group why he thought hiring a coach was a great


Access. His personal coach made himself available to meet regularly, and didn’t limit him to

an hour a week. They could really dig in and get things done. His campaign quickly started


Customized advice. He wasn’t getting formulaic advice, but advice that was

relevant to him and his situation.

Continuity. No more getting passed from coach to coach. Now, he met with the same

coach who knew him and what he was doing.

Expertise. While he appreciated the volunteers at the church and knows they meant well,

he was glad to work with a professional who knew his craft and could help when things got


Poorly-run job campaigns can be brutal on your self-esteem and your credibility as a

professional. It can cost you a lot of frustration—and cost you a lot of dollars.

Want to get your job campaign moving? Let’s talk.  here’s a link to the calendar: https://calendly.com/lucrative-careers

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