Looking for some career guidance? The right leadership or business coach can turn your professional aspirations into reality.

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I recently wrote about turning your expertise into a coaching career. But what if it’s you who could benefit from coaching? Are you looking to take your business to the next level? Switch careers? Get back to the office after being a stay-at-home parent?

Hiring a leadership or business coach might just be the ticket. And with IBISWorld reporting more than 98,000 business coaches in the U.S. alone, finding one can be a daunting prospect. Here’s how to search for the right coach for you.

Clarify your goals. What do you hope to accomplish by working with a coach? Is it for a short-term issue or would you like to develop an ongoing relationship? What do you need most: workplace strategies, business development expertise or encouragement? Are you someone who thrives with accountability and concrete “homework,” or needs to talk through big-picture issues? Write down your answers.

Gather recommendations. I worked with a leadership coach for a decade. She initially came recommended by several trusted friends. That seal of approval proved invaluable, and I was able to get serious intel about the benefits of working with her. So don’t be shy. Reach out to your inner circle, explain your goals and ask for recommendations.

 Jennifer Worick, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Jennifer Worick, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Do your research. When you’ve compiled a short list of coaches, review their professional websites and LinkedIn profiles. Verify their credentials. Do they have blogs, published articles or public Facebook pages that can give you a good sense of their philosophies and personalities? Are they traditional and old-school, or progressive and unconventional?

Schedule an informational interview. Armed with your goals and research, set up an introductory call. Ask questions. How do they work: Is there a format to each session? Inquire about areas of expertise. Do they have clients who work in your industry? Tell them about your goals and what kind of coaching you need. Do you want tough love, someone to hold you accountable or a cheerleader? Can they give you this?

Commit to a trial period. One session usually isn’t enough to get a sense of your coaching dynamic and see any payoff. Agree to several sessions, and outline what you’d like to accomplish during this time. After the last scheduled session, assess your progress and decide whether you want to continue working with this coach. With all the groundwork you laid, however, chances are good that this will be a successful coaching relationship.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at jen@jenniferworick.com.