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Last updated on 6/12/19

Establish the basis and define the aims of your first career coaching session

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First Impressions Count

Breaking the ice

When breaking the Ice, it helps to remember that:

This might possibly be their first coaching experience or perhaps they’ve had a previous coach in a different area of specialism such as a relationship coach who didn’t help them in the way they needed. Alternatively, they have had many career coaches in the past and are assessing you based on their prior positive experiences.

You will likely know their position having asked relevant questions about this in the Clarity Session.  However no matter the case it is still important to build rapport and trust and to do that you have to make a good first impression.

Start with small talk. Get them talking about themselves really quickly. Small talk is usually really simple. It can be based on whether or transport.

A good way to start the conversation would be:

How was your journey here?" 
"How have you been getting on since our Clarity Session?"

Okay now, it’s your turn. Help them to be confident about their decision to invest in working with you by letting them know how the next hour will go and what outcomes they can expect.  

"I have been reading over the materials you sent over to me, your CV and your initial thoughts on your next career goal. By the end of this session my intention is that you walk away with a clear career goal. One that we will then work on together to help you achieve in future sessions. Are you ready to get started?"  

If they are tense the whole way through it’s not necessarily your fault. The participant may still be nervous and may need to get to know you better over the next few sessions for them to feel completely at ease.

Aims and objectives

It’s important to begin your session with clear aims and objectives: what specifically is this career coaching session about? Here are 4 common starting points that people who work with career coaches may have:

  • Setting a career goal if they are unclear on what their next move should be, are just starting out in their career, or are looking to transition to a new career entirely.  

  • Assessing and improving their CV or LinkedIn profile so they get more interviews especially if they are not getting many interviews at all or are getting invited to interview for the wrong kinds of roles.  

  • Help with writing an application this might include their cover letter, filling in the form which may ask for examples of competency. 

  • Preparing for an interview they already have lined up especially when they have received several rejections after interviewing in the past.

Expectations

As we mentioned earlier, it is important for them to know this is not a counselling or therapy session. Some people who have been made redundant for example are experiencing a lot of mixed emotions including a sense of grief, especially if they have been working for their company for a long time.  Or they may have deeper issues that are contributing to their lack of ability to decide on one career direction and go for it. 

For career coaching to work, the client must take ownership and take action.  Such as committing to a course of action, taking the time to update their CV / LinkedIn and preparing effectively for interviews.  However, this can be difficult if there are significant emotional blockers in the way.  

Although Coaching, Counseling and Therapy overlap, the proactive actions you take to empower your client, are what differentiates you from the rest.

Coaching Versus Counseling and Therapy

Coaching

Counselling

Therapy

Future focused 

Past and present

Present and Past

Empowering and motivating the client to move from their present situation to their desired future

Encourages the client to express emotions and talk at length about the problem

Identifies the disorder within the patient 

Emphasis on what actions the client can take and self-responsibility 

Helps client resolve complex/conflicting  problems rooted in the past

Treats a disorder in their patient 

Confidentiality and Data

If this isn’t in your coaching agreement, then it should be.

Your client wants to know that they can share private information with you in a safe space meaning protection of what you discuss in the session, their identity, and their private information.

Respect
Protect your client's private information

Make sure to discuss this with a supervisor or a more experienced colleague in the industry (if you are working for yourself).

Coaching agreement

Whether you work for yourself or work for another organisation there should be a coaching agreement in place between every coach and their client. If you have conducted a Clarity Session you will have already sent the client the coaching agreement along with their invoice.

If you are working for another organization you may be asked to go over the coaching agreement with the client during this first session.

It is important that you have read it and understand it thoroughly so that you can explain it to the client in a non-formal way and answer any questions they have. I find it is easier when you and the client read it together. You should also give them a few minutes to go over it themselves a second time.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) has an example coaching agreement that can be found here. 

Coaching tools  

You may be wondering what type of coaching tools I will use during the session:

  1. Your pre-prepared questions to help them navigate from where they are now to achieving their goal for that session. We will go into what questions to prepare in more detail in the next chapter.  

  2. An action plan template which can be completed by you or your client and maybe online or paper-based. Some organizations such as job centres require the coach to keep it and monitor progress against it. Private clients should be trusted to manage their own actions although giving them a template is often appreciated. 

  3. An audio recorder, you can use the one on your phone if you are working face-to-face or via call recording on Skype or similar if over the phone. 

So you’ve finished setting the foundation and are ready to move to the meat of the session and start coaching them!

Let's recap

  • Break the ice with a little small talk. 

  • Help the client gain trust in you by setting out what they can expect to achieve in this first session.  

  • Make sure your client has read, understands, agrees with (and if they haven't already, have them sign) the coaching agreement.

  • Have your coaching tools to hand and explain each one and why it is helpful for the coaching process and ultimately their results.

In the next chapter, we will look at how implement interactive techniques in our career coaching sessions!

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement