How to prepare for a coaching session

When you seek help with job applications and interviews there are some steps you can take to gain the most value from this support.

Firstly, it is useful to understand what coaching is and is not. In general, a coaching session is aimed at identifying ways to improve what you are already doing. Rather like being upgraded from an economy airline seat to business class, coaching is aimed at enabling you to elevate how well you are presenting your case. To upgrade to a better class of application.

To help you achieve this you will be offered suggestions to consider about how to write, structure your content, and present your case. You may also be asked to consider other perspectives about your career. My assumption is that you already have most if not all the information you need. The coaching session is about considering a wider range of possibilities.

My coaching sessions reflect the following. They are:

  • Confidential: No information is shared with any other person, including managers and HR professionals. Workplace information also remains confidential.
  • Conversational: Coaching is informal, a two way exploration of information and ideas.
  • Inquiring: I work on the basis that how you have approached an application or interview made sense to you at the time. So I will ask lots of questions to understand what you do, how you do it, what choices you have made, where you wish to go with your career. In the process some of these questions will trigger insights, new ideas, revelations that were previously unknown or unclear.
  • Non-judgmental: People may be worried that I will make judgements about their performance. My role as coach is not to judge but to support. Coaching is not about whether a person is ‘doing it properly’. It is about guiding to explore other possibilities.
  • Exploratory: There are few ‘shoulds’ in this process. You will need to decide what is appropriate to your circumstances, and what you feel comfortable with. By exploring options you can decide what path to take.
  • Empowering: I do not do the work for you (such as writing an application). My aim is to give you the tools and knowledge so you can apply for a job fully capable of doing the best job possible.

A coaching session is not therapy, nor is it counselling. Also, it is a time to explore your needs. It is not about other people’s career direction or applications.

Secondly, you need to decide how you wish to use the coaching session, what you wish to gain from it. Broadly, people seek help with the following:

  • Mental preparation
  • Application writing
  • Resume writing
  • Interview self-promotion
  • Interview questions.
  • Being on a selection panel.

Under each of these areas, there are specific needs. For example, with application writing, a person may want to learn how better to provide evidence in support of their application. So when you are asked how you wish to benefit from the coaching session, provide specific information. Saying you wish to write a better application is not specific.

Thirdly, there is some information you need to provide to assist the coaching session. Essential information includes the job description and your application (resume, covering letter, selection criteria statement). Other information that is useful includes past interview questions and interview feedback.

Fourthly, during the coaching session, your mindset will make a difference. If your mindset is defensive, critical, closed, you are likely to gain less value. To gain the maximum value, adopt a mindset characterised by:

  • An intention to tap the help and expertise that is on offer.
  • Give suggestions a go (e.g. how to express interview responses), even if you stumble, so you gain a taste of how you could express yourself differently.
  • Openness. Resist automatically rejecting an idea just because it is different, uncomfortable, you think you have already tried it, someone else suggested a contrary idea, or what you are doing has worked in the past. Ideas offered are not judged according to right/wrong, but what is appropriate, useful, better.

So when you approach a coaching session with clear goals, an open mind and collaborative preparation, you are much more likely to gain useful knowledge, deeper insights and useful tools, all of which will help you manage your career more effectively.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.