10/19/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Investing In Yourself: Hot Tips On How To Hire A Career Coach

Does the news on Wall Street give you the shivers? This month's Kiplinger's magazine cover story may have a new strategy for you.

Don't send money to a brokerage house. Invest in yourself.

Instead of sending $1000 to a brokerage house, cover girl Nicole Dunn took $1000 and she invested in a coaching program for herself.

"It's the best $1000 I ever spent," said Dunn.

Within a six month period of working with a career coach, she had tripled her salary. This year the television producer has taken another leap forward and has developed a reality television project with Comedian Christopher Titus at QED International and has an option agreement at a major production company. "The program is still working a year after I completed the course. Group coaching gave me tools to increase my income and get tools to stay motivated during the tough times," said Dunn. I asked her to talk about the program and her experience...

"The Business Coaching program changed my life and my career path. As a struggling Freelance Producer, I constantly worried about when and where my next job and paycheck would be. I knew that I needed a change and had heard about career and business coaching from several other colleagues. Due to my erratic schedule I found it hard to plan to take a class or meet for sessions, but with this program I could literally call in from where ever I was! There are anywhere from 2-8 people on the weekly call, all wanting to learn new strategies for success. I started out with a life script of where I wanted to see myself go. Weekly homework exercises helped me create balance and surefire strategies for my success by visualizing my goals. I knew I had the drive, but the program helped me hone in on that drive to take calculated risks to get ahead in my career. For years I had been pitching my own ideas with little success. Last year I tripled my income. This year I am pitching my ideas and have made more progress in 6 months than in 10 years of my life. Bottom line, invest in yourself hire a coach - because deep down inside you know your worth it!"

It is an honor that Kiplinger's Personal Finance chose this program, because I am the business coach she worked with.

This week I have been getting inundated with folks asking for my advice on a variety of coaching programs. Here are some tips:

1. Experience Not Paper
Hire an expert. If you are looking for a "career coach" look for a coach that has changed careers successfully and helped others to change careers. If you are looking for a coach to help you start a business, make sure that the coach has started and run a successful business. Be wary of a coach that is a 'one stop shop'. Coaching is a field where experience is far more important than a piece of paper. Since there are online coaching certification programs that "certify" coaches in four hours, you need to do your homework when seeking a coach. Nothing tops hands on experience.

2. Talk or Walk
Speak to three of the coaches clients. Be very wary of a coach who doesn't have clients who have achieved very tangible results in their program. Make sure you have a coach with a track record of success and a good relationship with current and former clients. A good coach will have raving fans. If the coach is unwilling or unable to give you phone numbers of clients who were happy with their results - look for another coach.

3. Timing Is Everything
Don't commit to coaching if you are too busy to do the work involved. A good coaching series will have assignments for you to accomplish each week. Have you set aside the time to give your program your quality time each week? Choice + Action = Results. You will need to devote time to take new action steps.

4. To Get the Best - Be the Best
To get the best coach - be the best client. Look for a coach when you are genuinely ready to make a change. Even the best coach won't help you if you aren't willing to alter your behavior and attitudes. Be ready and willing to try new approaches.

5. Be Real
Set realistic expectations of what you want to accomplish. A coach is not a therapist. It is wise to set goals with measurable results. I suggest that coaching clients track their income levels during tracking so that they can measure their progress.

My clients have a specific action plan that they move forward on each week. Make sure that you have set aside the time to execute the action plan to move you into your encore career.

Coaching fees vary dramatically. $1000 could buy one month with a private career coach. It could buy you three months of medium size group coaching. It could also buy you a year of an online program. Do your homework and find a program that best suits your comfort level. Instead of buying that pair of Christian Louboutin pumps you've saved up for, take that money and invest in yourself with career coaching...with the results you can buy two pairs down the road!