Job Search

3 Questions a Great Career Coach Will Ask—Plus 3 Questions to Ask Them in Return

career coach helping a business person

According to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, people take on average about 5 months to get a new job after becoming unemployed.

With enough time, most people can find a job on their own—but a career coach can accelerate your transition and help you identify work that’s meaningful to you.

An experienced coach can offer any of the following services:

  • Practical advice for gaining traction with your resume and cover letter
  • Help preparing for an interview
  • Insightful conversations to help you define your career objectives
  • Suggestions for exploring your professional options
  • Practiced methodology for deciding what the next step in your career should be
  • Inside information about the job market and recruitment trends
  • Encouragement and confidence-building
  • Help developing an “elevator pitch” and professional brand
  • Tried-and-true job search strategies with proven results
  • Tips for networking with colleagues
  • Actionable advice for earning a promotion
  • Guidance for recovering after a professional setback
  • Negotiation coaching so you get the best possible terms on your next offer

Career coaching encompasses a broad range of benefits, which is why it can’t be a one-size-fits-all practice.

Some coaches specialize in job search strategies, while others can help you uncover a new understanding about yourself and your aspirations.

Every coach’s approach and focus are unique, which is why you need to review their qualifications and background before enlisting their service.

Styles vary between individuals, but there are a few core concepts you should address with a career coach at the beginning of your session.

3 Questions a Great Career Coach Will Ask

What made you decide to pursue a career in your industry?

Your answer to this question can help a coach understand your motivations and background. As a follow-up, they might also ask you to elaborate on what has changed since you started your last job that prompted you to seek something new.

What aspects of your career do you enjoy, and what do you wish you could change or stop entirely?

This distinction can help your coach identify which of your skills they should focus on in your resume and overall brand.

Clarity on this subject might also help them reveal new insights about choosing a target employer or pursing a new position or vertical.

How do you tailor your application materials and interview strategy to each prospective employer?

A great career coach will help you explain your overall career narrative, demonstrate a linear progression, and make your employee profile compelling to a variety of employer types.

Although you should tailor your resume to every opportunity you apply to, your coach can show you how to frame your experience so that it’s relevant but doesn’t take up all your time.

When you work with a career coach, the conversation should go both ways. Jot down a few questions before your appointment so you’re prepared to cover everything on your agenda. The following suggestions can help you get started.

3 Questions You Should Ask a Career Coach

What can I do to get the greatest benefit out of my coaching session with you?

Your coach knows what works best for their teaching style. Ask them to explain if they have any specific recommendations for preparing for a session and if they have a preferred mode of communication. They might elaborate on other details, like bringing a pen and notepad to appointments or sharing your resume in advance.

Do my resume and employee brand support those ideas?

I think my greatest strengths are X, Y, and Z. What can I do to expand on those qualities and convince an employer to make the offer?

Don’t assume your resume and cover letter make these points clear already. Instead, describe in detail what you think are your top five differentiators in the market and what makes you an asset in business. Discussing these points explicitly ensures that your application materials are consistent and highlight the most imperative information.

What changes should I make to increase my visibility within the industry?

A professional career coach can uncover gaps in your employee branding that you might otherwise overlook. For example, are there opportunities for you to contribute to a trade event or publication? How can you make it easier for recruiters to find information about you online? When you’re competing against hundreds of other applicants, your reputation and visibility are key to landing a position with substantial influence.

Immediate Action Points

Preparing for Your First Meeting With a Career Coach. You don’t have to wait until your appointment to get started. In fact, if you reflect on your career before meeting with a coach, you’re more likely to have a productive exchange.

Here are a few action points you can begin today:

1. Ask your contacts about their career and what led them there.

  • Talking about work can help you discover what’s missing from your professional experience and help you understand your priorities.

2. Be transparent about your ambitions.

  • You’re more likely to find a supportive network if you put yourself out there. Others will admire your tenacity and vision.

3. Take stock of your emotional and mental well-being.

  • A career coach can be an invaluable resource, but if you have underlying symptoms of anxiety or depression, these conditions can impede your ability to secure a job that’s fulfilling and enjoyable. Career coaching and mental health counseling are distinct fields—try to take care of your health and well-being before adding to your current workload.

4. Define what a successful coaching experience will look like for you.

  • Think about your relationship with a coach as a partnership—you need to actively participate in sessions and communicate equally in the conversation. Your coach can also help you set expectations before the session and offer their perspective on what’s realistic for short- and long-term objectives.

5. Think of your career advancement as a sprint.

  • To make changes, you need to commit extra time for your professional development. Attach specific metrics to your performance and monitor your progress. For example, commit to spending two hours a week in a workshop, attend at least one networking event a month, or devote more time to reading about industry trends and developments. Block these activities off on your calendar and hold yourself accountable to your goals.

Are you ready to make an appointment with a career coach? Ivy Exec’s advisors can pair you with the perfect match. Click here to schedule a free consultation today!


About the Author

Rachel Lake is a writer and editor in New York City. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. To get in touch with Rachel, contact her on LinkedIn.