Where To Start When Employment Coaching

Today I direct some thoughts to those of us fortunate enough to be in the position of Coaching others, specifically in the area of Employment Coaching, but much of what I’ll share is relevant to coaching any discipline. I want to acknowledge right up front that you the reader might be a seasoned veteran or have come just recently to Coaching, and your experience might find my comments new and refreshing, or reminders of what you already know.

One of the mistakes that many Job and Career Coaches make is starting with the assumption of putting together a plan for the benefit of a client that’s been tried and true with others, or based on the premise that one size fits all. After all, if what we’ve done with others has been successful, surely the same plan will work with this new client. This is actually how most traditional schools work; develop a curriculum that teaches from where a child should be developmentally, and you’ll be accurate most of the time and prepare that individual for the next year of learning.

However, a key starting place in effective Job and Career or Employment Coaching is to sit down with the client and together, explore where the client is actually at in terms of interests, skills, attitude, knowledge, experience, real and perceived barriers or challenges, motivation, distractions and goals. To ignore at least a summary exploration of these key areas is to get a car and head out so you get on the road but not know where you are going and to have not done any packing for the journey.

What you may find in all probability is that you’ve set the client up to fail. They won’t meet your expectations which in retrospect you’ll both find disappointing, and should it really be about YOUR expectations at all? Getting a client to be up front and share some of their personal, ‘here’s what’s going on’ stuff is extremely helpful and beneficial. Without taking time for this, all the great plans and steps for forward action are going to be hit-and-miss and your client could be misinterpreted as not committed to their own job search success.

Consider for example a Literacy Tutor. Most clients I send for literacy assistance first undergo a test of their ability. On the test are things they will succeed in, might succeed in and things they will fail in knowing. Why? The Tutor needs to know what level of literacy the client presents with. So no point starting with Grade 12 English expectations just because ultimately that’s what they’ll need if they are currently reading at a Grade 8 level. You’ve got to start wherever the client presents, and move forward from that point. Then the client can be successful, and success breeds success.

So with a job search, why ram cover letters on a client if they don’t have the linguistic skills to articulate their needs using appropriate grammar? All they may end up doing is sending out poor cover letters that actually turn off employers from even looking at that great resume the two of you crafted together. If you discover the literacy problem six months later and can’t believe what you’ve found, how unfortunate to realize the client has tried as best they could with the abilities they have, but it is all for naught. Far better, maybe….to have taken a step back, and either addressed the literacy issues, by-passed the cover letter altogether, or reviewed it each and every time prior to sending.

And if, as in the case of a group of job seekers before you, you are working with a group of people you’ll need a way to discover from each person exactly what they know, think they know, their issues and distractions etc. Otherwise if you have no mechanism to address each person on an individual level, your presentation is doomed to be less effective than it might be. Is the language you use at a level appropriate to your audience? Is the method of teaching only helpful to one style of learning, or are you using multi-media, group and individual work, assigned reading, visual presentations, guest speakers etc.?

It is not time wasted to quickly get at where people have been and what has been going on in their recent past, discover any physical or mental health issues, family demands, self-esteem issues, stressors, level of personal motivation and their expectations. An effective professional Employment Coach or Job/Career Coach, should in my opinion, not just present a client with a tried and true job search strategy, but get to know the person first. Share at a level of understanding that meets the ability of the client, presenting only as much as they can comprehend without being overwhelmed, and praise effort rather than results in the beginning.

Results are born out of effort in most cases. With a tougher job market, employers are more demanding and discerning when it comes to applicants. These higher expectations present challenges for people looking to succeed in the job application process and as Employment Coaches I’d suggest we have a responsibility to respond in kind by doing so much more than delivering standard content ie. Resume workshops and cover letter material. Stepping back to get to know the client will more often than not, result in quicker progress, heightened self-esteem that will translate to increased motivation, and ultimately success. A key process not to be ignored.


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