Career Coaches

Yesterday I went to a cheese party (they had wine too, but its not a wine and cheese party to a guy who doesn’t drink) at the home a successful photographer for a few hours. Him being a photographer, this being Los Angeles, it was an eclectic crowd. Everything from button down manager types to folks with so many tattoos they could probably not wear shirts and get away with it.

It seemed to me that the fraction of the people who have lost their job, are looking for another job, or are hurting for work among the free-lance types (and to some extent, I’m in that boat myself – work has been slow for a couple of months though I’m confident its about to pick up) is much higher than you’d expect with a 4.x% unemployment rate. But then, I’ve made this observation before so I’m not going to belabor the point.

Which led to this… last night there was some discussion about “career coaches” and whether or not they actually help a person get a job. Opinions ranged. So I was wondering:

1. Do career coaches actually help a person get a job. (And since apparently they charge unemployed people thousands of dollars, that’s the only relevant question?)
2. How does one test that proposition?
3. If career coaches can actually be useful, what are the objective ways to tell the difference between the useful ones and the useless ones? (It strikes me that asymmetric might be a problem, except that the information might not be so asymmetric – perhaps professional career coaches might not have any idea about whether they’re helpful or not.)