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Applying the power of coaching to career development and advancement

Career readiness and career advancement are important aspects of everyone’s goals. InsideTrack Career Coaches are specially trained to work with students who are still in college, as well as all types of workers who either need a job, are looking to advance in their current job, or want to pursue a different career path. In this blog post, we share the stories of five different individuals who worked with two of InsideTrack’s Career Coaches.

The job market of today looks significantly different than that of prior generations. Gone are the days when you entered the workforce and stayed with the same company through retirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in 2021 held an average of 12 jobs from ages 18 to 54. So how can employees balance their personal lives with their desire to grow and develop in their careers? That’s where career coaching comes in.

To demonstrate how career coaching can empower individuals to advance in their careers, we’ve gathered some examples of InsideTrack career coaching in action, showing how students and workers facing different challenges used the power of coaching to navigate their career journey and fuel their success.

Leaning into the power of networking

Bradley was working in quality testing for the pharmaceutical industry, but he wanted to transition to a clinical research role. He described his job search results as “slow.” He was in school to earn his Master of Science in Regulatory Compliance with a goal of completing the program in 2024. During his first meeting with Sarah, his InsideTrack Coach, they decided to focus on networking as a way to break into the field. Bradley shared that he didn’t really know how to network and that he thought of it as “kissing up.” His coach suggested reframing it as relationship building, and discussed some specific ways to approach it. Bradley took notes and came up with next steps and people to reach out to before the next meeting.

At the end of the call, he thanked Sarah for helping him change his perspective on networking. From there, he took what they discussed and set out to try these new networking skills on his own.

And it worked! At their final meeting, Bradley began the call with exciting news: thanks to his successful networking efforts, he was offered a job, which he accepted. He had reached out to a former coworker and that person had a need on one of his teams. For the rest of the session, they worked on resume review in preparation for future roles. To make him a stronger candidate, they focused on tailoring his resume to clinical research roles and highlighting the skills and experience he is currently building. Sarah encouraged him to reach out to the school’s career advancement team for resume review and edits.

At the end of the call, Bradley said the coaching sessions had been instrumental to his success, and that it was “very helpful that much of the advice was specific to my situation, instead of being general — and it helped me get a job!”

Pro Tip: People often don’t view the relationships they already have through a professional networking lens. If you’re working with an individual to build networking skills, encourage them to connect not only with friends and family, but also with professors, former teachers or colleagues to share their professional goals. Teach them to access a “2nd degree network” by asking, “Given my goals, who would you recommend I talk to?” Having a network of contacts provides a solid foundation for any job search.

Looking for untapped opportunities

Nancy had been working for the same garbage processing company, in the same sales role, for 15 years. When she first met with Kristin, her InsideTrack coach, she said her goal was to get a new job in a parallel field. Before diving into a job search, Kristin paused to ask Nancy if she had informed her current manager of her professional goals. They focused on what untapped opportunities she might have at her current company. Her key action step was to talk to her manager about her goals. She also prepared her resume to pass along to a regional manager during an upcoming company meeting. “I may not get a new job out of this,” she shared with her coach, “but I feel like I have movement in my career that I didn’t have before.”

Fast forward to their next meeting. Nancy explained that when she approached her manager to discuss her career goals, he told her he had never had an employee come to him in such a professional manner before. They met and created a plan for Nancy to pursue a promotion in a new role and receive a pay increase. Within a few months, her company expanded her sales region and increased both her base pay and her commission.

Pro Tip: The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Working with learners to “manage up” with the person they report to is a skill they can use throughout their career. Questions like, “What steps can I take now to work toward my longer term goals?,” “What support is in place to help me manage my priorities?” and “What skills do you recommend I develop to be best prepared for my next role?” can help the learner move forward in any role. If they’re open to it, discuss the possibilities of exploring opportunities with their current employer — including additional responsibilities, available training, paid-for college or certification programs or other job satisfiers that can take a current job to the next level.

Turning accountability into action

Ysenia was a year away from finishing her Master of Science in Computer Science program and had been working at the same company for eight years. While she liked her employer, she didn’t feel challenged and wanted to find a role and a company that would allow her to grow. So during her first meeting with an InsideTrack coach Sarah, they focused on what that new job might look like. Near the end of the meeting, they had identified a list of priorities that were important to her in her next position:

  • A culture of inclusivity, autonomy and trust
  • A role she can grow in
  • A company she can see herself staying with for the next 5-10 years
  • A competitive salary

To close the meeting, they identified a list of next steps for Ysenia to take:

  • Write down what a “great” manager means to her, then prioritize those attributes
  • Continue to write out what characteristics she wants in an organization, then prioritize them
  • Note anything she sees happening in her life over the next 5-10 years that might make her prioritize some of the things on her list differently

At the end of the meeting, Ysenia said she felt like she was finally taking the first step toward her job search. She added that she appreciated the conversational tone her coach maintained, which allowed her to open up about ideas and experiences. She also appreciated that Sarah highlighted key words and helped her organize her ideas into manageable categories.

During their final meeting, Ysenia shared that she was motivated to reach out to some contacts and had made it to the interview process for a role at Amazon. She’d made the decision that she really does want to move on from her current role, even though it’s a great place to work. The focus of this meeting was managing the job search and juggling interview prep along with coursework and her job. Working with Sarah, she also identified people who can help her prepare for the technical interview. And her coach suggested reaching out to fellow classmates on their Slack channel.

By the end of the session, Ysenia expressed her gratitude, explaining that being held accountable by her coach made a huge difference in her mindset. “Knowing you would be following up motivated me to reach out and explore this opportunity when I otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Pro Tip: Accountability isn’t judgment, it's an opportunity for assessment. Make it clear that “People don’t fail, plans fail” — and if that happens, it’s time for a new plan. For employees at any level, advancing in their career can sometimes feel like a lonely journey. Having a neutral support person to collaborate with can be invaluable. A coach, for example, gives the learner someone to report back to, as well as someone to safely call out what works ( and what doesn’t work) in order to create next steps.

Doing your homework to weigh the options

Alan sought out coaching to gain clarity on a new career direction. His parents sold the family business he was working at, and as a result, he was now looking for a secure, long-term job. During his time with Kristin, his InsideTrack coach, Alan was working as a teacher’s aide in a special education classroom. Through that job, he had the opportunity to have his teaching credential paid for by the school district, but that would require a four-year commitment to continue working at the school. He was also interested in pursuing a career in technology in an IT support role. He and his coach discussed doing research to learn more about each potential career path. During a meeting with Kristin, they discussed the research and talked through the information and the options. Alan ultimately decided to pursue the teaching credential option. He was so satisfied with his career coaching experience that he encouraged his mother to sign up for the program too – and she did.

Pro Tip: As a support person, we don’t have all the answers. Nor are we in a position to tell a learner what their future should look like. And that’s OK. However, giving the learner the structure to explore their options thoroughly and being a sounding board for their thoughts on what they discovered in that process can provide the clarity they need to be confident in their decision.

Reframing the focus to turn a negative into a positive

Sophia had been actively looking for work for six months and was feeling discouraged. While she was able to clearly express this, her InsideTrack coach, Sarah, could also hear it in her voice and in her overall approach to their first meeting. They discussed her goal of finding a job in an area she was passionate about, like social justice. Sophia believed that being a first-generation college student and living in Alabama was limiting her. So her coach focused on what her ideal job would look like and ways to target her job search. While she seemed engaged and happy to generate some fresh ideas, her coach felt that she still sounded quite discouraged. That’s when Sarah switched gears and reframed the conversation.

Sarah honed in on the fact that Sophia was a first-gen student and how her belief that her lack of contacts, networking know-how and exposure to her chosen career field was a barrier she couldn’t overcome. According to Sarah, “I acknowledged how challenging that can be, and we explored ways that being a first-generation college student has actually made her stronger. We also spent some time unpacking her feelings around networking and reframed it as relationship building.” Even though they had already covered a lot of ground in this meeting, Sarah “pushed her a little harder” to set some next steps around her networking efforts. Sophia committed to coming up with a list of questions for an informational interview, reaching out to one professor in her field, and connecting with one peer who was currently working on a political campaign.

To further support and acknowledge Sophia’s struggles with her job search, Sarah talked about self-care and maintaining a positive mindset. Sophia shared how painting helps her to recharge, so they discussed ways to make time for that in the coming weeks.

At the end of the meeting, Sarah recapped the topics they had covered, and Sophia reaffirmed her commitment to her next steps. Sarah asked Sophia what she was walking away with after their coaching session, Sophia paused for a moment, then replied, “Hope. Hope is what I’m taking away from our meeting. I was feeling so discouraged and have been really struggling. But now I have next steps... and hope.”

Pro Tip: At first, taking a strength-based approach can be difficult to do alone. Providing an outside eye with additional context and experience can reframe a challenge as an asset, empowering the learner to identify their next steps and follow through with a sense of accomplishment. Taking the time to reflect on the wins that follow will help solidify strength-based thinking for the future.

*Disclaimer: Learner names have been changed

Sarah LePage joined InsideTrack in 2007 and is currently a Certified MasterCoach and Coach Trainer. After several years on the job, Sarah returned to school to complete her MBA. Her experience as an adult learner gave her insight into some of the unique challenges our students face. She has worked with a variety of schools and students during her time at InsideTrack, but her favorite is to focus on career coaching work with adult learners.

Kristin Olson-Huddle has been coaching at InsideTrack since 2010. She has worked with learners enrolled at community colleges and others applying to master’s programs. She has supported students at brick and mortar campuses, connected with learners at online schools and helped employees make the most of their education benefits from their employer. Her role is to support people in staying connected to their dreams.

Keeping students on track, by continually connecting them to their career goals, is a crucial part of student success. That’s why it’s important to make career a central focus in the college experience right from the start. But how? Discover three easy-to-implement tactics that help students connect the content from their coursework to a concrete career plan.

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