“I’m doing fine at work. Everything is going okay!” – but is it? 

You wonder why you’d need a career coach. The fact that you are reading this, you must be interested to know more about it. Perhaps, you’ve already decided to embark on the journey!

Many of us have been mentored or have mentored someone in the past (whether we’re aware of it or not). But let’s face it, not many of us, especially those working in the social impact sector, always get the luxury of being coached. Coaching can seem far-fetched, sometimes inaccessible, and oftentimes misguided. 

This practical blog aims to guide you on what you should know about when it comes to career coaching so that you can make sure to reap the full benefit when you’re coached.

But before we get there, here’s the first thing you need to be mindful of!

Coaching’ is NOT ‘mentoring’! 

While they both aim to help individuals acquire certain skills and grow personally and professionally, mentoring is built on a familiar and longer-term relationship in which a mentor (typically someone from the same social circles) may give direct advice to the mentee. Coaching, on the other hand, is an established professional practice with accepted structures and techniques recognized across industries. 

Most coaches have gone through hundreds of hours before becoming qualified. They employ a transformative and tailored approach to address a defined need and work with you to help you achieve a concrete result and  lasting impact. 

1. Define an area you need a resolution on 

The impact of your career coaching session can depend on how clear your intention is from the get go. Will your career coach make your land the job of your dream? Probably not, but you will most likely get useful insights or strategies to help you get there.

Knowing what you want to get out of the career coaching is a great first step in helping your career coach navigate his or her way in working with you. Fret not because not everyone and not every time will you have that clarity (that is what the coach is there for to begin with). The session is formalized after the “diagnosis” part of the session (usually in the first 10 mins) with the right objective then being set out for the rest of the conversation.

2. Ask some questions (and take some notes)

Don’t be afraid to ask! Like a good student would – no matter how big or small, asking questions and follow-up questions can help make sure that both of you are on the same wavelength. Being coached is being in a safe space, and you should never be afraid of being judged. As long as you exercise respect, the job of your career coach is really to help bring the best in you and help you clarify your goal and achieve your objective. 

Another advisable thing to do during your session is take some key notes. Even if you will unlikely forget the conversation (especially if it’s a life-changing one), documenting key insights and takeaways can be powerful in the long run. Put them in your diary or your reflection board (if you have one) and revisit them in the next 3 and 6 months. 

See if you have made any progress then. This is also a good way to reality-check and hold yourself accountable to the goal you’ve set for yourself. You may find a particular goal irrelevant in the future, but at least you will understand why. 

3. Be open!

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt

If you are a first-time coachee, this is a great place for you to start delving into one of the key areas in your life – the profession one. An opportunity to start an important conversation. But coming armed with doubts and set expectations may not help you get the most out of the experience.

Being transparent and honest with yourself can help you achieve more than you could ever imagine. We all have our own preconceived notions of how things should work along with our own doubts. But one of the best tools to bring with you into a career coaching session is your positive attitude and open mind.

What was discussed stayed there between the two of you. Also know that good coaches will never directly impose specific ideas or beliefs on the coachee. So let your guards down and be open to discovering yourself with the professional help. 

So make sure you come prepared to share your story, ask and answer questions honestly.

4. Get your setup right! 

Your career coaching session isn’t your typical work meeting, so never rush the process, but treat it as you would on a date. An effective career coaching session requires your full attention as well as the right setting.

Do make sure you are in your right headspace at least an hour before the session. Take some efforts in setting up a quiet space for yourself with no interruptions and a good Internet connection (for online sessions) can hugely enhance your overall coaching experience. 

Remember to be there on time! And if you must know, your coach also has to go through the same preparation. And should you need to cancel your scheduled session, make sure you do so at least 24 hours beforehand.

5. Keep tabs on your goals 

Now you have completed your session with some key takeaways and better clarity on how you will tackle your career-related challenges. You may have just realized something you didn’t before or have a renewed commitment for your career path going forward. You may well have a new set of questions you may want to explore further. 

No two career coaching sessions will ever be the same. It is useful to keep a record of each one of them. Jot down your emotions (what inspired you, what resonated with you, even what you didn’t like about yourself). Draw your own milestones and don’t forget to pause and reflect and continue to seek clarity for your professional life as it comes.

Regardless of where you are in your career, now you’ve become more informed of career coaching, how it can help you better navigate your professional life, and what to prepare for what’s to come. Now, go ahead and make the most out of this unique experience!

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