Does Career Coaching Really Work for Engineers?

Photo of author

( — April 25, 2021) — You know what?  Hiring a coach may not be for you.  You may be happy where you are right now.  It’s possible that therapy is what you need first.  Perhaps you’re just curious, and not committed to the work required.  But if you are considering hiring a coach, you’re probably asking, “Does career coaching really work for engineers?”  I asked the same question before hiring my first coach.


As a former Fortune 500 engineering leader, I walked in your shoes.  Now I’m a coach exclusively for engineers.  Being an engineer myself, I understand skepticism.  The truth is that coaching works.  I have helped hundreds of leaders reach the next level in their career.   

“No matter how successful you are, we all need a coach.”  – Tony Robbins

But, coaching doesn’t work for everyone.  Are you ready for a coach?  Here are the top five problems that will block your coaching results, and how to solve them before you sign up.


“So Zach, what happens if I don’t get the promotion?”  I get this question all the time.  Go ahead and change the word “promotion” to whatever your biggest goal is right now.  

I’m sure you’ve thought the same thing.  Everyone wants a guarantee.  Engineers REALLY want one.  I know because I used to think the same way.

Why do you want a guarantee?  Most people answer because coaching is expensive.  I get it.  You want a great return on investment.  Big money equals big decision.  Guarantees give confidence in that decision.  For example, a lifetime warranty on a product lets you know this baby is gonna last!  And if it doesn’t, you’re safe.  

But there is a deeper reason why when it comes to coaching.  The truth is that to hire a coach also means you have to trust YOURSELF. 

Tell me if any of these questions sound familiar?

  • Am I good enough at my job to reach the next level?  
  • If I were, why did I get passed over for that last promotion?
  • Am I capable of leading at the next level, or will I fail?  
  • Do I have what it takes?  
  • What if the problem isn’t the coaching, but me?

Who is responsible for your career?  

In the end, sorry to burst your bubble… YOU are.

It’s not your company, or your coach.  Career coaching is not even a 50/50 relationship.  You are not “equal partners” with your coach, each bringing half of the energy required.  Say what?!

Career coaching is a 100/100 relationship.  You need a coach who is 100% committed to your transformation, and who will bring 100% of what you need for change.  But YOU must be 100% committed to your own transformation, and bring 100% of yourself to the process!

I’ll guarantee you this.  If you bring anything less, you won’t get the results you really want.  Don’t hire a coach and give them responsibility for your career.

Take responsibility for your career, then hire a coach.


There are two types of people reading this right now.  The first are leaders who know that great coaching is worth every penny you invest.  You worked with a great coach in the past, or someone you trust got amazing results and you want the same.  These engineers are looking for the right coach, and taking action.

The second group is looking for a deal.  You are taking the same approach to coaching as buying a used car.  You care less about what car you end up with, and more about feeling like you got the best price within 100 miles.  Let me encourage you with an even more wallet-friendly strategy.  

Stop looking.  You’re not ready for a coach.

What I’ve found, is that bargain coach shopping leads to poor results for the Client.  I have validated this fact from dozens of other elite coaches across industries.  Why?  Because it comes from a mindset of scarcity, low self-esteem, fear, and uncertainty.  If that statement upsets you, it might be because it’s true.

Stop looking for the best deals, and start looking for the best coaches.  If you don’t know what to expect, here is A Guide to Career Coaching Costs.


First of all, there is immense value in psychotherapy.  I have invested significant time and money with my therapist, and feel no shame for seeing him any time I need it.  So let’s destroy the taboo, and celebrate people who are healing and getting help!

That said, coaching is not therapy.  If you are unsure of the difference, here is the most basic way to think about it.  Therapy is healing and unwinding yesterday, breaking its stranglehold on your today.  It’s focused on your past.  Coaching is taking what is today, and breaking through your barriers moving forward.  It’s focused on your future.

Understand, there are blurred lines between the two.  Many Clients I work with see a therapist at the same time as working with OACO.  It’s not that one must come before the other.  A great coach will let you know if what you need is therapy.  A great therapist will let you know when it’s time to work with a coach.

If you are ready to change and ready to grow, then odds are you’re ready for a coach.


Great coaching has one agenda.  Your agenda.

Your company may provide coaching.  Awesome.  There may be internal coaches, or funding for external programs like ours.  It’s important to seek clarity on the goals.  What do you hope to achieve from the coaching?  How does that align with what your company hopes for you?  It’s a problem if they don’t align.

It’s like when your parents pay for your wedding… and (they think) that means they get to control the guest list.  Get my point?  (I heard an audible “oohhh” just now)

You hope to build your capability and move up the ladder to Engineering Director.  Leadership wants you to grow your technical skills and advance to Principal Engineer.

Maybe you want to explore your passions and find a new career path.  Or even a new company.  Too bad your current company is pushing to expand your current scope and establish you as an SME.  

There are two ways to solve this problem. 

  1. Get aligned with your company.  Your coach can help with this.
  2. Or, hire a coach on your own so there is no conflict around who is floating the bill.


I love engineers.  You are among the hardest working population on the planet in my opinion (okay fine, it’s a biased opinion).  I’m proud of my engineering degrees and the problems I’ve solved over the years.  I imagine you can say the same.

But there is one major problem with engineers.  You are stuck in your head.  You want to figure everything out before you take action.  It keeps you stuck.  This is one of those times where a strength, when overused, becomes a weakness.

I’m writing this to be honest with you about what it takes to get results from coaching.  Will this process work for you?  Here’s the truth.  If you’re only in your head, you’re dead.  Reaching peak performance in your career takes courage.  Discovering your edge takes heart. 

Your transformation begins with desire, not a formula.

If that doesn’t make sense, thanks for being honest with yourself.  You’re not alone.  The best thing to do is to have an open mind.  Nurture a beginner’s mind.  Be curious and ready to explore.  Be coachable.


Absolutely it does.  But first, make sure these five areas are not holding you back. 

  • Take full responsibility for your career and results
  • Focus on finding the best coach for your specific goals
  • Be ready to move forward and grow with your coach
  • Ensure alignment with your company, or go your own way
  • Bring a beginner’s mind and a lion’s heart

“Nothing compares to coaching when it comes to helping people perform at their best and accelerate their careers.” – Gregg Thompson