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The only guide you need to prepare for your career coaching session

August 5, 2022 - 17 min read
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    “Passions are developed, not just discovered.”

     Adam Grant, BetterUp Science Board Advisor, organizational psychologist 

    If you’re like me, you’ve been at a crossroads in your career before. 

    I hit my first career roadblock just a couple of years after graduating college. My carefully thought out and intricately planned career had completely turned itself upside down.

    After trying out teaching English, I decided I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to go back to graduate school to get my Master’s degree in education. I didn’t want to teach higher education anymore — because I simply didn’t want to teach. 

    So, now what? 

    I felt lost, confused, and defeated. I wasn’t sure what direction to take my career. I didn’t know if I could still even have a career. I could have used a career coaching session (or several) back then.

    Eventually, I pivoted. I found my way into the marketing world and loved creating content. But even along my marketing career, I’ve hit more crossroads, as well as roadblocks.

    It’s inevitable. In any growth journey, you’re faced with making choices about your career. But especially when change accelerates, so do career choices (both big and small). 

    For organizations, this means your employees face more frequent decisions about their careers. Things are changing faster than ever, with companies quickly adapting and staying agile to keep aligned on top priorities. For your people, it means that the ambiguity gap can widen. That can be stressful and ripe for misunderstandings.

    We know from research that people want meaningful work and that meaningful work can help guard against burnout. One aspect of what makes daily work meaningful is that the employee is able to learn, grow, and stay relevant.

    With employee coaching, they can make progress toward their career aspirations and goals. This is hard for employees to feel when they don’t have any sense of where they want to go or the many ways to get there.  That means that now, more than ever, career coaching sessions are critical to keeping your workforce aligned with its purpose.  

    Professional coaching has been proven to mitigate the effects of languishing by 38%. Coaching has also been proven to reduce burnout by 52%, build resilience, and improve organizational performance. And amid rapid change and uncertainty, companies recognize that coaching isn’t a “nice-to-have.” It’s a must. 

    But what exactly are career coaching sessions? And how can you ensure your people are well-equipped to reap the benefits of a career coach? Let’s dive in. 

    What is the purpose of a career coaching session?

    Investing in career development can help increase retention, productivity, and employee engagement. But beyond the high-level benefits of career coaching services, what’s the purpose of a career coaching session? 

    No matter your career goals or your career path, everyone can benefit from a career coaching session. Here’s what you can expect from a career coaching session. 

    • Career advice on how to best navigate certain challenges 
    • Guidance around how to make a career change 
    • Ways to formalize some of your career planning goals 
    • Identifying career objectives 
    • Creating a plan to help land your dream job 
    • Interview and job search strategies 
    • How to develop interview skills (and ways to sharpen interview preparation) 
    • A career assessment (or Whole Person Assessment) 

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    How to prepare for a career coaching session

    When it comes to preparing for your career coaching session, it’s important to show up with the right mindset. Here are six steps to help you feel prepared and confident going into your coaching session. 

    1. Pause and reflect 

    You can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you’re starting from. 

    Especially if you’re comfortable in your comfort zone, take a minute to reflect. What about your current job do you want to change? What have you learned so far in your career? What things would you have done differently? How have your career goals changed? How have you invested in upskilling

    If you’re not sure where to start, do some Inner Work®. By looking inward, you can think about how your values align with your company’s values. While you don’t need every value to run parallel, it’s important to make sure your core values line up. If your values have shifted over the years, it might be why you’re looking for something more fulfilling. 

    These are all good questions to ask yourself before heading into the career coaching session. Be honest with yourself and your career journey so far. 


    2. Consider taking a career assessment 

    At BetterUp, our Members take what we call a Whole Person Assessment (WPA). The WPA is a measurable intake assessment that helps gauge your capabilities, skills, strengths, and opportunities. 

    Our Whole Person Model (WPM) measures mindsets and behaviors that research shows lead to peak performance, enhanced well-being, and strong company culture. The WPM helps track employee growth over time and better understand ways to drive lasting change for your entire organization.  

    But it looks beyond just career skills. For example, some of my Whole Person strengths include physical activity and empathy. However, some of my opportunities include rest, self-compassion, and strategic planning. 

    We know that especially now more than ever, people bring their whole selves to work. Personal and career lives bleed together more than ever. It’s a comprehensive approach that looks at the human side of our development. After all, employees are human beings. To change behaviors, mindsets, and skills, we need to look at the whole person to do so. 

    3. Adopt a growth mindset 

    If you’re thinking about a career coaching session, chances are you want to grow. You want to develop both personally and professionally. You want to get outside of your comfort zone and take your career to the next level. 

    But part of this growth journey means that you need to put yourself in a growth mindset. You might want to find a new job but need to build new skills before doing so. Or, you might want to become a hiring manager but need a career advisor to help guide you along the way. 

    It’s OK to not know everything. Nobody does. At BetterUp, we believe to truly reach your full potential, you need to be upfront with yourself about your areas of growth. 

    4. Think about what you’d like to get out of the coaching experience 

    While you might not know what to expect from a career coaching session, you may have an idea of what you hope to gain. 

    “I typically begin every session by asking a client/member what they'd like to focus on that would bring them the most value. As they're exploring what's next in their career steps - this gives them a moment to unpack what's most important in this particular journey.”

     Lois Melkonian, MCC, Premier Fellow Coach 

    In my very first career coaching session with my coach, I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of the conversation. I had just accepted a job offer but I hadn’t yet worked long enough in the role to understand what I wanted out of the role. 

    As my conversation progressed, I realized that I needed guidance on career transitions. I needed help overcoming imposter syndrome, making new connections, and making a good first impression

    With some reflection, I realized I could’ve identified these needs before my conversation with my coach. Think about what you’d like help with. Your coach is there for you, no matter what those needs may be. 


    5. Identify what you like (and what you don’t) about your current job 

    If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a handful of past experiences. Those experiences have gotten you to where you are today. 

    But through those experiences, you’ve been able to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. You might gravitate toward a certain aspect of your job over others. If you’re not sure of where you’re going with your career, a good place to start is to examine what you already know. 

    6. Root down in your purpose 

    Your purpose is like your North Star. It helps to guide you in the direction, even if you’re not sure where that path might lead. 

    By rooting down your purpose, you can better trust the coaching process. Think about what’s most important to you, what you value, and what motivates you. 

    “Members find that by speaking into what's most important, lining up with their values and committing to working on a next step gives them the freedom to pursue what they really want.”

     Lois Melkonian, MCC, Premier BetterUp Fellow Coach 

    7 tips to get the most out of your career coaching session

    In order to make the most of your career coaching session, keep these seven tips in mind. 

    • Have an open mind and be open to new perspectives 
    • Challenge your traditional way of thinking 
    • Be vulnerable and honest with your coach 
    • Follow-up on any actions outlined in your career coaching session 
    • Have your resume (and potentially cover letter) updated for your coach 
    • Identify your core values and what’s most important to you 
    • Prepare good questions 

    Aleshia Felder-McMath, VP, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Compass Group, talks about how career coaching sessions have helped her show up as her whole self at work.  BetterUp has partnered with Compass Group to help build a coaching culture. 

    FAQs to review before your career coaching session

    What does a career coaching session include? 

    At BetterUp, every career coaching session is catered to the individual. If you’re trying out BetterUp for the first time, it’s likely your coach might review your results from your Whole Person Assessment with you. 

    It’s also likely that your first career coaching session will be an introduction to what to expect out of the coaching experience. 

    But over time, you and your coach will work together to identify areas to talk about in your sessions. For example, you can practice your communication and public speaking skills with your coach. You can run through scenarios to help better your conflict resolution skills. You can tackle any real-world challenges that may have arisen recently. You can practice giving (and receiving) feedback

    In my career coaching sessions, I’ve talked about many things with my coach. She helps me tame my inner critic and manage my imposter syndrome. She’s also helped me build confidence and guide me toward upskilling opportunities to better develop my career path.

    But she’s also told me when I need to rest and take a pause. She’s helped me set boundaries and continues to challenge me to prioritize effectively. 

    How many sessions do I need with a career coach? 

    At BetterUp, we take a science-based approach to coaching. Rooted in positive psychology, our methodology is rooted in data. Our researchers have studied the effectiveness and benefits of coaching

    Of our Members who start out with low well-being, 77% will significantly improve their well-being state by 3-4 months with personalized support

    What can career coaches help with? 

    At BetterUp, our coaches have a wide range of expertise. From life coaching to career coaching to even sleep coaching, BetterUp can help. Here are just some of the things our BetterUp coaches can help with: 

    • Improve productivity and focus 
    • Improve overall work performance 
    • Improve time management, stress management, prioritization 
    • Improve self-confidence, self-compassion, and self-esteem 
    • Improve collaboration and teamwork skills 
    • Improve communication skills 
    • Better harmony of work and personal life 
    • Better balance of physical health and emotional health 
    • Better mental fitness 
    • Better engagement 
    • Better leadership and management skills 
    • Improve decision-making skills 
    • Ways to manage caregiver fatigue 
    • Managing burnout 
    • Improve resiliency and grit 
    • Help people find their purpose, meaning, and passions in life  
    • Inclusive leadership, especially around fostering belonging in the workplace
    • Navigating grief and coping with grief 
    • Improve sleep and sleep hygiene 
    • Help find a better sense of belonging and ways to take action to further diversity, inclusive, equity, and belonging 
    • Improve presentation skills
    • Navigating change, uncertainty, and the unknown 

    What questions should I ask a career coach? 

    If you’re not sure where to start with your coach, try these four questions to get the conversation started

    •  In what ways can I make progress on my opportunities? 
    •  How can I build on my strengths and continue to learn? 
    •  How will you help me reach my goals (and redefine what success looks like for me)? 
    •  What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? 

    Try a career coaching session today 

    No matter where you are in your career, a coach can help. 

    And for any organization looking to optimize their workforce’s potential, BetterUp can help. Invest in your people through coaching. With access to personalized guidance, your workforce will be better equipped to navigate the waters ahead.

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    Published August 5, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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