7 Tips for Success When Working With a Career Coach

Working with a Career Coach is a terrific investment in your career and your life. You’d expect me to say that, of course, but I think you’d be convinced too, if you have seen as many transformations as I have. My colleagues and I are committed to making professional life better, and we get excited about every opportunity to do so. You’re probably excited too – excited to make a change in your life. Here’s a look at the best mindset preparation practices that help my clients achieve their coaching goals.

I have honed my Top 7 Guidelines for Coaching Success for maximum productivity with my clients. I am happy to share them with you here so you and your coach can really dig in and forge ahead from Day One of your time together.

1) It’s all about you. I always tell my clients that our time together is really their time. What we focus on and discuss is up to them. I am prepared to assess, advise and coach on a variety of subjects so I encourage clients to come with problems, questions, a list of stressors, a wish list of things to change…really, anything they’d like to improve in their professional life. I have no agenda, aside from helping them see all the options.

So take a few minutes before each meeting to decide where you want to focus. What do you need to get clarity on this week? How can you remove roadblocks? What situations in your professional life are unsatisfying and need to change? Where do you feel stuck? Questions like these will help you discover the important issues. Your coach will help you achieve your goals, so come ready to dig right in. And if you ever have questions or concerns, or feel the need to talk about something that wasn’t in your original plan, that’s okay too. The meetings are for you, so bring up topics that are important to you.

2) You have all the answers you need. You may be looking for some simple career course-correction, or practical guidance in an area in which you have little or no experience (such as interview skills, task delegation, or how to transition from peer to boss). It is not uncommon that the issues are much deeper. You may feel very lost and can’t see your way out of a particular situation. Or there may be some toxic, long-running office politics that make you feel locked-in or trapped, you may have a deep, secret longing for a different career and have no idea how to make a significant career change. No matter the situation, you have all the answers. Yes, you! It’s your coach’s job to help you see the options, evaluate them, and decide on the direction you’d like to go.

As a coach, I help you explore what you want your future to be and I know what you need to do to put yourself in that place. The open secret here is that a good coach doesn’t go in with an agenda or the answers. There is no way we can because each individual and each situation is unique. The client sets the agenda and the coach uses his/her questioning and listening skills to have the client choose the outcome for themselves. Your goals, skills, motivations, preferences and habits are all considerations in choosing the right next step for you. I don’t choose, but I shed light on the important considerations for making the best decision possible.

3) Have courage. Bravery invokes change. You must be prepared to be honest about how you think and feel, what you want to achieve, what scares you, etc. Fearless sharing of your true feelings, thoughts and desires will fuel the change you create. Be bold when discussing what’s affecting your thoughts, and you will gain the best insight into what you want and need.

4) Have a beginner’s mind. You will always learn something when working with a coach. Any type of coach (sports coach, relationship coach, public speaking coach, etc.) will show you new skills, give you new information or feedback, or teach you a new way to get a better/faster/different outcome. This valuable input can be revolutionary…unless it falls on deaf ears. Many people, understandably, have a hard time welcoming new information. It’s difficult to give up our old thoughts, habits, and patterns (hint: being compassionate with yourself helps to ease the process). However, remember those thoughts and habits are what’s blocking your progress. So promise yourself you will maintain a beginner’s mind: drop the preconceived notions and be open to new information. Have an open mind to discuss, explore, and look at things differently. Trying new things will help you let go of what isn’t working and make progress faster.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali

5) Be committed to your progress. Before each session, reaffirm your commitment to stay focused during the time you work with your coach. Outside of your time together, continue to keep that dedication to your goals by completing any homework and staying positive about your future.

  • Share with confidence. You and your coach may share personal information during your time working together. The confidentiality and trust you build is important and must honored. It will help you work together in a safe environment that can accelerate learning in your sessions.

7) Trust the process. Some things will happen quickly. Others will take time. This work is not always linear or predictable. There certainly are “Aha!” moments, and in my experience, they often happen outside the coaching sessions. Science has found that when you are working on a big problem (like you, finding a way to achieve your professional goal), performing a simple task, unrelated to your problem, will egg on a breakthrough. It’s a well-known fact that famous scientists had eureka moments when doing tasks unrelated to their research (this is called the eureka effect). Trust the process; show up, ready to work, do your homework, follow the guidelines listed here, and also let your mind meander a bit. It’s all a part of the journey. Trust that you are on your way to success.

Get excited about the change you are about to make in your life. Using these guidelines, you and your career coach will help you move forward with confidence and great success.


Julia is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach, and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com,   www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolianhttps://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian(@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian

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