The Value of Career Coaching: Supporting Clients Beyond Choosing a Career
By Dora Grote
The fact is, most people need career guidance at some point in their lives; but far too often, they are not aware that career services are available, nor are they typically aware of the benefits of career services, until they experience them firsthand.
This presents challenges for those of us working to develop, implement and market a program of career counseling or coaching services. It can even be a “tough sell.” There is perhaps no better way of demonstrating your value to prospective clients than by measuring the results of your program of services – and having quantitative and qualitative data to back it up.
In addition to directing a professional development program and managing a team of career coaches at Kuder, Inc., I serve as a career coach myself and have had experience with a wide range of clients. Our program is often called upon to support existing secondary school counseling staff or postsecondary school career centers so they can better leverage their often limited internal resources.
We use formal career assessments to:
- support clients in understanding their interests, skills, and values;
- build a relevant electronic portfolio and personal graduation plan; and
- define and further their goals and objectives.
Our greatest source of pride is the success of our clients and the impact we have made on their lives. But in order to make an impact, we must first reach out to those in need of our services – and by reaching out I mean not only establishing a human connection and building strong relationships with them, but market ourselves. It starts with an introduction – making them aware that we are here to help, and that our services are easily accessible.
Thanks in part to two formal research studies, we can share evidence of the positive impact of our work.
Application of Results
In 2014, Kuder conducted two formal research studies in Indiana to investigate the effectiveness of individualized and personalized career coaching sessions. The first was with a sample group of postsecondary secondary students and adults who were randomly selected for in-depth interviews and pre- and post-surveys on their experience with career coaching as well as their use of an online career planning system and its assessments. The second was with a sample group of at-risk secondary students.
We noted the following themes in the responses we received from our clients:.
- A career coach is a partner
- Working with a career coach provides concrete direction.
- Career coaching provides focus, encouragement, and the means to take action.
The Coach as Partner
Some clients said that they began to think about their careers from a new perspective when they partnered with a coach. For example, a female high school client said, “It’s like having someone there by your side, step-by-step…”
For prospective clients who are apprehensive at the thought of working with a career counselor or coach to plan for their future (at-risk youth in particular), it is imperative to begin your relationship by meeting them where they are. Assure them that you are their partner in what will be a collaborative process. At the beginning of the intake interview, immediately set the stage for effective guidance by applying appropriate helping and facilitation skills.
For example, in the Kuder career coaching program, we ask clients the tough questions early on, but we are careful to do so without intimidating them. We build a rapport, establish trust and encourage clients to open up quickly – not only by asking the right questions but by drawing on their assessments.
A Career Coach Provides Direction
Sometimes clients need a little nudge to take action, which can come in the form of helping them make short-term “bite-sized” plans. An adult male client said, “I've started being more involved in job searching. Even if it's just an online application, I plan on reworking my resume for the position...”
As you present your services to prospective clients, emphasize that what is likely one of their greatest needs – to be pointed in the right direction – will be your utmost priority. Put simply, you will provide them with concrete guidance in their career planning; in turn, they will be empowered by the course of action you jointly develop over the course of your sessions.
Let them know that in order to get the most out of each session, they will need to be actively engaged in the process. Historically, Kuder clients (including those who participated in the studies) are highly engaged in the process, which is vital to achieving positive outcomes.
Focus, Encouragement, Action
A female high school client said she had had trouble focusing and felt like giving up until her coach helped her with focus and action: “I actually try harder, I don't just give up,” she said. “Keeping me updated on everything really helped me stay on track. She had me write down a bucket list ...”
Prospective clients will be pleased to know that as part of your commitment to them, you will be a source of focus, encouragement and action. After all, at the end of the day, the successful career counselor or coach not only helps clients prioritize and motivate them to take action in their career planning, but provides lifelong tools on which they can draw at every future life stage.
Better Late than Never
A male high school client said he would have benefited from an earlier career planning intervention: “I think it is valuable information that I wish I had sooner...”
This is a common refrain, not only from students saying they wish they had received such services earlier, but from adults lamenting the lack of career planning services available to them in their youth.
But perhaps even more common is the sentiment that seeking professional support for career planning isn’t necessary; that it is not a “must have” but rather a “luxury.” Therefore, it is essential to get the word out to potential clients in a strategic manner, including data, of the value of your work.
I encourage you to base your promotion and outreach communications on the premise that no matter when it takes place in an individual’s life, career counseling or coaching can improve self-awareness and confidence and increase hope for the future. To paraphrase one of my young clients, just as a superstar athlete needs a coach to continually improve methods and skills, so does the individual seeking career planning support.
Read the full studies referenced in this article at the links below:
Grote, D., Trusty, J. and Chae, M. (2014). Career Coaching Influences on College & Career Readiness & Confidence: A Focus on JAG Secondary Students. Retrieved from http://www.kuder.com/our-unique-approach/research-studies/
Grote, D., Trusty, J., Chae, M., & Bakley, A. (2014). Career Coaching Effects on Hope, Confidence, and Maturity. Retrieved from http://www.kuder.com/our-unique-approach/research-studies/
Dora Grote, GCDF-I, is the director of training and professional services for Kuder, Inc. She oversees the company’s delivery of real-time career and education planning support for students and adults through the Kuder® Coach™ program and works with client organizations to develop and implement customized coaching programs. Dora also develops Kuder’s professional development courses, for which she serves as lead instructor, and manages a team of international field trainers. Dora is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator-Instructor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management, a master’s degree in business, and is completing a doctorate in general psychology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and https://www.linkedin.com/in/grotedora