How to making the most of career coaching

Whether you're making a big career change, or just want to keep on track, a great coach can really help you focus and take action.

Servane Mouazan, CEO, Ogunte

Servane Mouazan, CEO, Ogunte

Investing in yourself and your career by hiring a coach can seem daunting. To help you make the most of it, we asked Servane Mouazan – experienced coach and CEO of social enterprise support organisation, Ogunte – to share her thoughts and tips, including what to expect from a coaching session, how to tell if a coach is right for you, and how to make the most of the coaching process.

myworkhive: Welcome Servane! Let’s get started…In your view, what are the top benefits of working with a coach?

Servane: I think coaching can help with three key areas. First, you get an overview. You get to step back and look at your way of operating. The coaching relationship gives you a non-judgemental perspective on your strengths, as well as a look at habits that might be slowing you down. It’s like a CT-scan for your work and life.

Second, a coach can help you to overcome barriers. A coach can see your emerging future self. They believe in what you will do. And that helps you to address things that may be holding you back, such as lack of confidence, fear, anxiety or self-limiting beliefs.

Third, you’ll develop a plan of action. A coach is equipped to manage a learning process that will help you achieve your goals. You’ll be helped to think in terms of exploring, deciding on your next challenges, then building a strategy and setting actions to help you get there. The coach acts a bit like a good manager – but without having the pressure to fail or succeed!

myworkhive: For someone who has never had coaching before, can you tell us what happens in a typical coaching session?

Servane: Different coaches have different styles, so what happens with me may differ somewhat to another coach. But for myself, I first have a preliminary session with no obligation, where we would discuss what happens in a session, the client’s expectations, how I work, and discuss coaching boundaries.

After that, sessions often start with a mini goal that we work on achieving by the end of the session. But the client guides the session with her or his thoughts and insights. I respond to those, and depending on what happens and the goal we have set ourselves, I provide tools, questions and challenges. I also make sure that the client reflects on what they’re saying and how they say it. We wrap up by reflecting on the session and together agreeing some actions to be carried out by the next session. These actions are co-designed. That is, the coach doesn’t tell the client what actions to take – if they did, the client would be unlikely to learn from them!

myworkhive: Here at myworkhive we love all things remote. In your view, can remote coaching work as well as face-to-face? Why, or why not?

Servane: Working remotely is different because you haven’t got the same intimacy, but both styles can bring great results. Coaching remotely saves time – you and the coach don’t waste time with travel, and so the session becomes less costly.

There has also been a real improvement in the interactive tools you can use over the internet. You and the coach can make use of video, time management apps like Trello, and whiteboard tools such as And there are some downsides to meeting face to face, especially in someone’s place of work: it can be difficult to find a place where no one can hear you or see you (you need to preserve confidentiality), and surrounding noise and distractions can really reduce your session’s value.

myworkhive: What are your top three tips for someone trying to choose the best coach for them?

Servane: Number one – Ask around. A word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or someone you trust can be helpful. Speak to people you know who might have had coaching and understand the type of support that is delivered. Be cautious though, it is never one size fits all. The way individuals “click” with each other is very subjective.

Number two – Do your research. Once you have the name of some coaches, check them out on Google and Linkedin, and make sure that they focus on the type of coaching you’re interested in*, and have a look for testimonials and for articles they may have written. (* myworkHive: Some coaches specialise in particular topics, such as career change or returning to the workplace after a career break; some work with people from particular sectors or stages of their career, such as social entrepreneurs or people in senior management, for example.)

Number three – Get in touch. At least have a short conversation with them, with no obligation, to assess what your expectations are and to find out about their approach and costs. Some coaches may also offer a longer trial session, which can be free or for a fee. In relation to that – you need to think about this as an investment – of money, and time – that you are making in yourself. The return you get back will be your progress, your knowledge and your strength.

myworkhive: There are sometimes misconceptions about career coaching: could you describe a few things that a career coach doesn’t do?

Servane: A coach is there to guide and prompt, not to tell you the answers or what to do. The coach won’t tell you what you should do with your life, or that you should be more (or less!) ambitious. The coach will give you thinking exercises and challenges, but a career coach will not rewrite your CV or find work for you – they are not a consultant or a head hunter. If your coach does send you job opportunities, that’s a bonus – not part of the coaching process!

myworkhive: How can clients make the most of their time with a career coach?

Servane: Be prepared to put effort in between sessions. There are likely to be activities you’re working on that are helping you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. It’s also really valuable to put some time aside to reflect on the previous session, and to think through what you’d like to discuss at the following session. It can be helpful to think about coaching as a continuous programme that includes the sessions with the coach, but also the time between the sessions – that’s where you’ll be implementing most of the activities, and the more you can get done, the more you can move things on before your next session.

Developing a good coaching relationships also depends on these three essentials:

  1. Your readiness to be coached and to really explore your ways of operating at work and in life.
  2. Your capacity to express your boundaries (even if these shift as you work together.)
  3. Your willingness to explore what you don’t know yet about yourself.

myworkhive: For someone on a tight budget, what sort of career issues can be tackled in just a few coaching sessions?

Servane:  Well, it depends somewhat on the skill of the coach and client’s capacity to get the ball rolling between coaching sessions. But, if you’re looking to save costs, there are lots of self-help tools online that can help you to do a lot of thinking and reflection before you start with the coach, which would save you time. In general, even if you just have a short time, you can still tackle quite big topics with a coach, because the session covers strategies, and avoids getting into details – the client will use his//her own time to put actions in place.

myworkhive: What questions should a potential new client ask a coach?

Servane:  Once you’ve covered the basics, such as the process, how you’ll work together, and fees, here are two more key questions to ask a potential new coach:

  • What kind of results do your clients generally have, thanks to your intervention?
  • What is your expertise, outside of coaching? (It’s not vital to be in the same sector, but for example, if you are a social entrepreneur and the coach has also worked in that area, they might be in position to signpost you to useful resources or networks).

myworkhive: After you’ve done all your research and had your first contact, how can you tell if the two of you are a ‘good match’?

Servane: Basically, it’s gut feeling! But beyond that – in a way, you need to stop and think about what would make sense in your life right now. Maybe you are at a point in your life when you need someone calm who grounds you or helps you to reflect. Or perhaps you need someone who is more upbeat and helps you to be more action oriented. So choosing a coach who behaves exactly like you might not be always bring the best results. During your early contacts with a potential coach, listen carefully to the way the coach engages with you and the words they use. You will know when it clicks!

Servane Mouazan is the CEO of Ogunte, which supports and champions women in social enterprise through training, coaching, networks and more. Servane is a qualified and experienced coach. Find out more about Ogunte here or connect on Twitter @ogunte

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