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Jenny Dalgleish

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7 Questions to Ask a Career Coach Before You Start Working with Them

There are many reasons why professionals at all levels (from new graduates to senior corporate executives) seek the assistance and benefits of career coaching. 

For some individuals who feel stagnated by their current career, coaching can provide an evaluation of transferrable skills and a plan, that can lead to an exciting new opportunity.  For others who feel that they may not be progressing or advancing in their profession, an experienced career coach can help identify areas of performance, team engagement and communication skills that can be addressed and improved.

While the coach will constantly ask you questions as part of building a new framework and path for your career, there are some important questions you should ask the professional you are working with, to learn more about the methods and the value of the one-on-one mentoring you will receive.

1. What do you think the measurable benefits of career coaching are for your clients?

If you ask a business professional about the benefits of career coaching, they have several goals in mind, but the primary objective is to see what habits, credentials and experience are required to progress to the next career level.  Earning a better job, at a higher remuneration are two of the common and understandable goals; but that result does not occur in a short period of time, particularly if additional learning (in educational or on-the-job settings) is required.  

Ask your career coach about measurable benchmarks and goals that will be set, and how you will be able to keep track of your progress.

2.  How many people have you coached in my industry and role?

This is a very important question that will help you select the right career coach.  You will want to look for a career coach who has experience in your niche.  In fact, many career coaches are specialists in a specific sector, such as IT, or executive leadership.   This question will help identify if they have the experience required, to provide actionable learning and advice.

3. What are your techniques for pushing professionals out of their comfort zones?

Intuitive professionals have already spent some time evaluating their soft skills, including communication style and relationship building, to try to identify what aspects of their workplace persona can be improved, if advancement is a goal.   After some focused time in discussion or completing self-inventory activities, it is generally easy to come up with a list of strengths and weaknesses that can be addressed.  Innately, the professional may already be aware of some or all the obstacles that require attention.

But a career coach does more than help you to identify problem areas.  A good career coach will not accept “I can’t do it that way” or “this is how I work” obstacles meant to stop progress and personal development.  Change only happens when you have a mentor that challenges personal and work habits, inspiring a professional to try new approaches that can feel uncomfortable applying in the workplace; changes that will help the career candidate start to see noticeable changes in their performance.

4. How will we be tracking my progress for the duration of my career coaching?

Having a process in place to provide feedback and benchmarks, is an important part of any learning and coaching plan.  For career coaching, these measurables are defined in four phases:

Participation: The level of engagement that the professional experiences with the career coach.  Are there follow up communications to gain feedback on what worked, and exercises that could be expanded on to achieve goals?

Learning: What new skills are being taught in every coaching session?  What is the purpose or expected result of mastering these new professional skills, as part of an advancement or re-employment strategy?

Implementation of New Skills: How has the professional been able to successfully take the new technical skills, soft skills and growth perspectives into the workplace and apply them?  What were the results?

Business Impact: A long term evaluation of the net impact of a new career strategy, coupled with professional guidance to meet those goals.  Were the results achieved? Is the career professional enjoying greater success while interviewing?  Have their immediate managers or supervisors commented on positive and noticeable changes in the workplace?

While the style and method of career coaches may vary, there are always normative results tracking to help candidates measure their growth and success.  Make sure to define these measurables before you begin with your career coach.

5. Can I trust that you will provide honest feedback about my strengths and weaknesses? How do you provide constructive feedback that is actionable for your clients?

As with any mentor or coach, during the evaluative and learning process it becomes necessary to discuss ideas, habits or patterns in professional behavior that can be uncomfortable for the candidate.  But it is this honesty that helps professionals get the results they want to achieve, by breaking through conscious (and sometimes unconscious) behavioral patterns.   Your career coach should be prepared to navigate these issues in a positive and productive way, to optimize change and learning opportunities.

6. What tools and exercises do you use to explore transferrable skills that I may not have identified as an asset to my career?

The MAPP (motivational appraisal personal potential) career assessment is one tool that is commonly used by career coaches, when the candidate is exploring transferrable skills or building a strategy to adopt a new career path.   Personality tests such as the Myers Briggs and other behavioral and skills-based analyses can also be used at the start of your career support plan, to help gain valuable insights regarding personal (and skills based) strengths.

7. Will you recommend roles or career options that I have not considered?

If you have served in a particular industry or role for a long time, there may be a variety of other positions and opportunities that you have not explored, as a career professional.   Conversations around the feasibility of a career change into a high-growth sector should be part of your career coaching experience, unless you have made it clear that you wish to advance exclusively in your current profession.

The average feedback from career professionals who successfully complete a career coaching program are positive, provided that the individual found a proficient coach who was willing to work at a one-on-one level with them, to help actualize measurable goals.  

If you would like more information on our career coaching services, contact our team at reesmarx.

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