Dear Matt: I’m in the midst of a job search, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. Should I consider some other options, such as paying a résumé writer, hiring a career coach or paying a recruiter to find a job for me?

Matt says: When it comes to your job search, develop a plan, put together a list of target companies or positions, update your LinkedIn profile, let everyone in your network know of your search, then update your résumé based on those goals. Do this first before hiring anyone to write your résumé for you — and if you do that, never pay more than $300, says Drew Schmitz, a sales and marketing recruiter and President of Twin Cities-based Blue Octopus LLC (

“There is no ultimate résumé,” says Schmitz, who says the average recruiter or HR professional spends about 30 seconds looking at it. “We read the sentences below your name, your job titles, the dates of employment and your employers’ names. Then we decide to contact you — or put the résumé away never to look at it again.”

As for that recruiter, keep this story in mind: Schmitz had a friend who (against Schmitz’s expert advice) paid a recruiter $2,700 for what turned out to be a résumé, cover letter, interview tips and one interview for a job $25,000 below his expectations. And of course, they never found him a job.

“Recruiters like me make money when we place people,” says Schmitz. And that fee is paid by the employer — not the job seeker. “We shouldn’t be charging job seekers and unemployed candidates who desperately need the money.”

However, you may want to invest in the services of a career coach. Why? Career coaches can help you clarify a career objective, prepare for the job search, help practice for interviews, create an online presence, teach networking skills, overcome barriers encountered in the job search and even help manage the emotional component of job transition.

One career coach I trust is Karen Kodzik, owner of St. Paul-based Cultivating Careers ( In addition to one-time consulting fees, a general guideline is that individuals can expect to pay 1-3 percent of their target salary, says Kodzik. In many cases this is less than the cost of a graduate level class, and is certainly less than the rushed decision many make to return to school just because they are struggling to get a job. The return on investment with a career coach should be measured by increased preparedness and the shortened time to find a job due to increased effectiveness. “It is crazy to think we spend tens of thousands of dollars on college to get a degree to enter a career field, but often don’t invest anything beyond college to manage our careers,” says Kodzik. But if you need to hire someone, “receiving professional help shouldn’t break the bank.”

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