Coaching is an awesome tool for creating real change in your life and work. Have you ever called a close friend to brainstorm possible responses to a big decision or to bounce around ideas on a new project? Truth be told, my first call in these situations is usually to my mom or to one of my besties, because I trust them and their judgment. Still, there are times when their expertise (and patience) reaches its limits and it’s time to call in someone with dedicated time and expertise.

Coaching provides a safe, confidential space with an expert in their field to provide you with the space to unpack the personal and professional challenge you are facing, then hold a mirror to any assumptions and ways of being that may be blocking your progress. As a career coach, I take my work a step further to provide strategy and action steps to assist you in addressing areas of challenge and setting in motion the change you want to see. In other words, my style is more directive and instructive. The way I see it, my clients come to me to tap into my years of experience working in the nonprofit sector and in management consulting as well as in employer relations and career advising. While I follow my client’s lead to understand their job search, career change or career advancement challenge, I take an extra step to identify your blind spots, challenge assumptions, and offer results-driven actions steps that you can easily implement between sessions.


What to look for in a career coach?

Experience in career advising and/or in industry – It’s not imperative that your coach have an educational background or personal experience in your specific industry, however they should have experience with the coaching and career advising practice. For example, I am coach to women faculty in science through the NIH-funded OASIS program. Most of them are clinical faculty or teaching faculty in pharmacy and medicine, while my doctoral training is in the social sciences. My experience in university career advising and in developing and evaluating leadership development training programs for organizations provide me with professional experience to effectively advise these clients.

Some coaches may have certifications in life coaching or career counseling. A life coach may not be best suited to assist you with career advancement and workplace challenges.

Client outcomes – Client outcomes can be measured in many ways, including client satisfaction, information learned, confidence gained, strategy acquired, interviews offer, increased recognition in their field, promotion, additional responsibilities in their current role, and job offers received. Many of my clients join Options for Success course to learn how to transition to nonacademic careers, though their goal may not be to immediately secure a nonacademic job. The coaching helps the course members to prepare for the nonacademic workplace, reframe their professional identity beyond the academy, and identify their transferrable skills, in preparation for the career transition and job application process.

Here are a few questions you may ask a coach during your initial consultation:

  • What are your top client success stories?
  • What will I be able to do after our session, as a result of our work together?
  • How would you describe your coaching style?
  • What do I need to do to prepare for coaching and to get the most out of coaching?
  • How long have you been a coach? How many clients have you coached?
  • Do you specialize in a particular area? For example, Beyond the Tenure Track primarily provides career coaching to academics. Our services range from helping academics transition out of the academy to leveraging their skills and talents for higher performance and goal achievement within the academy.

A general career coach may not be well suited to helping an academic with their transition from academia to a new career. I’ve had clients come to me after having visited career coaches who have little experience working with doctoral degree holders. These coaches were unaware of the nuances of academic training, the relationship between that training and your identity, and the academic skill set, and they may hold common misconceptions about academics that prevent them from understanding and evaluating your experience and readiness for professional careers.

Do your homework on a coach that you’re interested in working with. Who else have they worked with? What are their client testimonials? What companies or organizations do they maintain contact with? Google, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and LinkedIn are great places to do background research.


How is coaching delivered?

I’m super excited for virtual technologies that allow my team and I to meet with coaching clients around the globe. We do this via email, phone and Skype. Coaching may happen in a group or individual, and can be delivered via online courses, email courses, seminars, and private sessions.

I developed Options for Success to address the recurring questions that PhD career changers and job seekers encountered when considering non-faculty careers. The multi-media course format allows time-strapped job seekers to get the information they need in privacy, on demand, and from an expert that they may not have the budget to hire for several one-on-one coaching sessions.


What happens during my coaching session?

Typically you would have the opportunity to gauge the coach’s approach and your fit together through a complimentary consultation; podcasts, videos and interviews; or published literature written by the coach on blogs, industry articles, or a book.

Prior to your initial coaching session, your coach will most likely ask you to complete an application form that allows them to gather background information about you and your career and job search questions. This information provides them with information to gauge if and how they can help you. It also streamlines the first session, so time is not spent asking lots of background questions, instead on delving into strategy and action steps.

Your questions and areas of concern set the agenda for your coaching session. During which time, your coach will provide objective feedback and strategy in addition to providing time for you to ask clarifying and follow up questions.


How much can I expect to invest on coaching?

Coaching is highly customized to the individual or group, and can run you anywhere between $75-400+/hr, depending on the coach’s professional experience, not limited to coaching, and the client’s career level (i.e., entry level job seeker, mid career, career changer and C-suite). It’s no wonder coaching has traditionally been a resource mostly used by C-suite executives. Now, online technologies in conferencing and course delivery make coaching more accessible to broader audiences that can benefit from expert support to navigate significant life and career moments.

Coaching is a very time intensive activity for the coach. Before meeting with a client, I conduct a bit of background research on my client to prepare for our session. This may include reviewing your academic CV, industry resume, LinkedIn profile, and website. In addition, I come to sessions prepared with an outline of action steps based on the questions you provided in your coaching application form.

During a coaching session, I am engaged in active listening to identify places where we need to address limited thinking and where I can provide new approaches to your vision setting, job search, promotion, and work related challenges.

The coaching client also has responsibilities when entering a coaching relationship. You must commit to being open to new ideas, challenging yourself, and doing the work. Coaching is not a magic formula that will immediately result in a new job – though you are more likely to see quicker results if you do the work in a timely fashion. Coaching helps you get unstuck, provides you with thought partnering and strategy, and gives you accountability on the road to achieving your goals.

Have you considered working with a career coach? If you’ve worked with a coach, what’s been your best experience? What recommendations do you have for others who are interested in working with a coach? Tell us below, we’d love to hear from you.

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